By Lisa Marie Meija
Artists find their inspirations in a variety of different ways. A lot of the time they start with “write what you know” and find themselves diving into the depths of complexity. For Jeremy Carr, the writer/director of the new film Other Madnesses, inspiration was found just outside of his window.
Other Madnesses takes an unconventional look at New York City. From the start, this wildly diverse city shows its true colors; the bright fantastic of day with a sordid underbelly of night. During the day, Ed (James Moles) is a tour guide highlighting the elaborate elements that define the city to visiting tourists, yet at night, he returns to his life in a dark apartment in a dangerous area of town. When he starts having dreams of a young kidnapped girl, he decides to become the hero he thinks the city needs.
Carr lived in New York City for 16 years, and during that time saw the multiple faces the city is known for. He was unequivocally influenced by his experiences in NYC and created a story that represented his emotional rollercoaster.
“It was fear and paranoia and loneliness, and all these strange feelings you get while living in NYC that inspired the story,” Carr explains. “New York is a moody city; it’s different every season, it’s different depending on your state of mind.”
If you chat with anyone who has spent significant time in NYC, you’ll come to understand that most people see it in one of two ways: love or hate. It’s the idea that something can be meaningful to you personally, yet rip your heart out at every chance it gets. This attitude can be exciting for some, but a nightmare for others. This idea of two divergent emotions also played heavily into Carr’s writing.
“The movie is all about dualities: night versus day, tourist attractions versus sketchy seedy neighborhoods of NY, dreams versus nightmares. Everything is a mirror of its opposite,” Carr says. “Ed’s reality is very different then the one he’s showing to tourists.”
The city itself almost becomes a character of its own, lying just below the surface waiting to pounce. This haunting jaguar wasn’t just stalking its prey over time, it was evolving. Carr and his production team took 6 years to produce this film. This was due to necessity, funding the project themselves and finding time to film during their own varied schedule. However, the film is kept together in a way that it’s as if no time has lapsed between the start or end of filming. It’s an impressive feat, and one that had unexpected impact on the film as a whole.
“So much of the film was about location scouting and I was rewriting the scenes based on what we were finding. Over the course of filming, a lot of places were disappearing before our eyes. We were trying to capture all these strange locations while we could,” Carr says. “The tricky part of that from the production standpoint is how do you keep the continuity on track? James did an amazing job, he was very quick to figure out within a scene where he should be emotionally, where his character arc was.”
The character of Ed is an interesting examination on duality as a whole. The audience is engrossed in the duality of his existence, but there is something fascinating about him just below the surface we can’t figure out. He’s charming, an amiable welcoming committee for tourists, but he also has a dark streak in him that allows him to dive full force into the role of a masked hero.
Carr met Moles during the initial stages of the writing process, when he was adapting his idea from a monologue to a feature length script. Their partnership, and eventual friendship, lent itself in magnificent ways to the development of the story. Moles’ involvement opened incredible doors for the progression of the project and the depth of the character.
“It was a real balancing act for James. He responded to the material early on, and as I was writing the feature length script, I had him in mind to play the role,” Carr adds. “What I knew about his strengths as an actor worked themselves into the storyline with the character.”
The inspiration of the duality we experience in life was not only sought out regarding the city and the character, but also in the elements of dreams. Dreams play an important role within the story, as it is the catalyst for Ed’s spiral into the supposed madness. Carr began researching the multiple interpretations of dreams after his own nightmares sprung up during his time in an unforgiving part of NYC. Not only did he find a wealth of knowledge in the psychological realm of dreams, but in the philosophical one as well.
“One thing that really stuck out to me was this philosophy of thinking of dreams as this other state of mind. Tibetan Buddhist believe that life and dreams are equally important and we should strive to live in both the waking life and the dream life harmoniously.” Carr says. “I loved that idea, and thought what would it be like if you were actually living in a state of your dreams?”
With that philosophy at his fingertips, Ed embraces his disturbing dreams. Instead of living in their darkness, he opts to create an opportunity for light to overtake them. The love of superheroes and heroism bleeds over and he takes up the task of a vigilante. The trait of Ed’s fascination with comic books developed out of Carr’s love for them, out of this desire to mimic the hero you connect with in those books.
“It also plays into this whole dream logic, is this dream fancy he’s having that he’s a superhero or is it that he’s gone down this dark path towards vigilantism,” Carr adds. “He’s not even aware of what he’s doing and how it plays into his psychology.”
As the story develops, the inspiration of the city, of the philosophy of dreams, and the duality of human existence all amalgamate to create an intriguing observation of the life we choose to have. Movies sometimes teach us unknown aspects of the world, and sometimes they are truths about ourselves.
Other Madnesses is now available on VOD (Gravitas) platforms.