Tag Archive | "Southampton"

Bracing for Railroad Strike

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With just a few days left before a potentially crippling strike, East End officials are calling on Long Island Rail Road unions and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to reach an agreement.

LIRR unions have been working without a contract since 2010.

Representatives Steve Israel, Pete King and Tim Bishop released a joint statement on Tuesday, June 15, pleading with the parties to avoid a strike.

In 2013, President Barack Obama appointed two mediation boards to assess the situation—both of which recommended the 17-percent raises over six years that the unions are asking for. MTA has offered a 17-percent raise over seven years, but would require railroad workers to contribute at least 2 percent of their salaries to their own health care costs.

East Hampton and Southampton Town Supervisors, Larry Cantwell and Anna Throne-Holst issued a joint statement on Monday, urging the LIRR and the public to make contingency plans.

“July is the height of the summer season and a crucial time for the area’s economy.  Local businesses cannot afford the loss of thousands of patrons – which is what a LIRR strike would mean.  The Towns of Southampton and East Hampton are taking the steps necessary to suspend certain municipal parking restrictions in order to allow motor coach companies to utilize LIRR parking lots as pick-up and drop-off locations,” the statement read.

An estimated 10,000 to 12,000 people travel to the East End by train during weekends in the summer season. If the two parties cannot come to an agreement the strike can begin as early as 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, July 20.

Major Delays Expected on County Road 39 Tuesday

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By Tessa Raebeck

County Road 39 was closed by Southampton Town Police on Tuesday at 4:26 a.m. due to a telephone pole and wires on the roadway. The road is closed in both directions between North Sea Road and Dale Road. Major delays should be expected. For more information, call the Southampton Town Police Department at (631) 728-5000.

East End Weekend: What to Do July 11 – 13

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Malin Abrahamsson, "Winter Lot," mixed media on canvas. Image courtesy Sara Nightingale Gallery.

Malin Abrahamsson, “Winter Lot,” mixed media on canvas. Image courtesy Sara Nightingale Gallery.

By Tessa Raebeck

From shark hunting to art grazing, a carefully-curated selection of top picks to do on the East End this weekend:

Art Market Hamptons brings booths from selected modern and contemporary galleries to Bridgehampton, returning for its fourth season from Friday, July 10 through Sunday, July 13.

Scott Bluedorn of Neoteric Fine Art.

Scott Bluedorn of Neoteric Fine Art.

With 40 participating galleries, Art Market is more exclusive than other art fairs. Local galleries like Neoteric Fine Art, Sara Nightingale Gallery and Grenning Gallery will feature their artists in booths.

The fair is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, July 11, and Saturday, July 12, and from 12 to 6 p.m. Sunday, July 13, at the Bridgehampton Historical Society, located at 2368 Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton.

 

The Silas Marder Gallery in Bridgehampton shows East Hampton artist Richmond Burton in an exhibition running July 12 through August 11.

“Known for his dazzling kaleidoscopic abstractions, Richmond Burton melds geometry and naturalism to usher the pictorial language of his predecessors into a contemporary context,” the gallery said in a press release. “With swift, vibrantly hued marks, Burton creates densely gridded compositions that morph into expansive waves of pattern, their overlapping rhythms at once steady and unstable.”

The exhibition will feature Mr. Burton’s last large-scale paintings created in his East Hampton studio, as well as his more recent works. An opening reception is Saturday, July 12, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Silas Marder Gallery, located at 120 Snake Hollow Road in Bridgehampton.

 

The Shark’s Eye All-Release Tournament & Festival returns to Montauk Friday, July 11 through Sunday, July 13.

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A little girl watches a shark being tagged at the Shark’s Eye Festival and Tournament in 2012. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

The weekend-long event is “Montauk’s only satellite tag, catch-and-release, high stakes, big game sport fishing competition combined with cutting-edge science, conservation and informative entertainment focused on saving sharks,” according to a press release.

The tournament, held in the Montauk Marine Basin, offers prize money of $10,000. In 2013, participating teams tagged and released 64 sharks, including 33 mako and 31 blue sharks. Four sharks were tagged with satellite tracking devices.

Although it may sound scary, the event offers fun for the whole family, as kids can see sharks up-close-and-personal and learn about conservation and marine wildlife. The festival is free to the public on Saturday, July 12, from 3 to 7 p.m. and on Sunday, July 13, from 2 to 6 p.m. A dock part Saturday night runs until 10 p.m.

The tournament and festival are supported by marine artist and conservationist Guy Harvey of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation.

“There is no other fishing tournament like Shark’s Eye,” Mr. Harvey said in the press release. “This tournament combines the thrill of shark fishing, practical conservation measures, and meaningful fisheries research and community involvement into a single event. It is truly the future of shark fishing tournaments.

The Montauk Marine Basin is located at 426 West Lake Drive in Montauk. For more information, call (631) 668-5900.

 

In its annual Sag Harbor house tour, the John Jermain Memorial Library presents five homes–one in North Haven and four in Sag Harbor Village–to the public. The houses were specially picked for their unique and personalized interior decorating and for the feeling of “home” each conveyed. For more information on the house tour: read the Express’ full article here.

A Different Kind of Home on Show in Sag Harbor

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“House of The Whale,” by Scott Bluedorn.

By Mara Certic

A house is a walled structure with a roof and a floor and a number of other features. A home, however, is typically defined in a more abstract manner: where the heart is, where one starts from or, according to Emily Dickinson, where thou art. This ambiguity and flexibility is mirrored in “A Different Kind of Home/ Show” on view at Dodds & Eder in Sag Harbor.

Curator Kathy Zeiger, who is also the founder and director of ArtWalk Hamptons, was inspired to put on the exhibition after seeing “House of the Whale,” an ink drawing by local artist Scott Bluedorn.

“I just thought that’s so interesting,” she said of the drawing. “There are a lot of home shows that go on in the Hamptons. I’m going to do a different kind of home show.” And so the project was born.

“I have always been inspired by nautical things,” Mr. Bluedorn said in an interview on Monday. “The initial inspiration for the entire series was photographs that I took on a trip to Nova Scotia last year, and a lot of the old fishing houses, which are similar to the ones we have,” said the artist, who grew up in East Hampton.

His intricate drawings show a hybridization of nature and architecture. “I’ve always been very involved with detail in my drawings; I’ve always used texture,” he said. “That’s why shingles are such a big part of the series.”

Ms. Zeiger was determined to make this “not just your typical kind of home show,” but still wanted a homey and cozy element, which is why she chose to include textiles artist Casey Dalene. Ms. Dalene, a native of North Carolina who has lived full-time in East Hampton for the past decade, has decorated “the front nook” of the Dodds & Eder showroom for the exhibition. “I thought she would be great as ‘home sweet home,’” Ms. Zeiger said.

“I want this space to feel really warm and inviting and that’s why I chose to use drapery frames,” said Ms. Dalene who also has decorated the area with hand-painted pillows and six acrylic paintings on paper. Ms. Dalene “loves showing the artist’s hand in the work,” she said, explaining her use of obvious paintbrush strokes.

Through working with John Cino, a sculptor and the president of the Patchogue Arts Council , Ms. Zeiger met Paul Farinacci, an artist and sculptor based on the North Shore of Nassau County.

Assisted Living(composite exterior and interior views)

Exterior and interior views of Paul Farinacci’s multi-media sculpture, “Assisted Living”

“He’s fantastic,” she said. “I was floored.”

For the past few years, Mr. Farinacci has been creating multi-media architectural pieces that are “kind of a response to how our private and public lives are getting blended together,” he said.

At first glance, Mr. Farinacci’s structures look like miniature papier-mâché buildings. “If they’re not in a room that’s totally dark [viewrs] don’t know to look inside,” the artist said of his sculptures.  But when spectators peek inside the handcrafted buildings, they catch a glimpse of the “dirty little secrets hidden within.” Mr. Farinacci at first used nightlights to illuminate interiors, but has since started wiring his own lights to brighten up the interiors.

Much of his artwork touches on controversial issues ranging from body image to big business. One structure, a small house within a cage, reveals on closer examination a slightly bewildered elderly woman inside, sitting alone with a cat.  Described by the artist as a commentary on the elderly, that piece is called “Assisted Living.”

Mr. Farinacci builds his sculptures entirely from recyclable paper and other materials related to the subject at hand. “I save everything you can think of,” he said.

“I get excited about artwork, I get excited about artists and I get excited about the process,” Ms. Zeiger said.

“Alexis Duque is a wonderful artist,” she said of the Colombian-born painter who now calls New York City home.

Mr. Duque creates highly detailed, whimsical acrylic paintings of cityscapes on canvas for his series “Metropolis,” which will be on view as part of the show. “I like the possibility of imagining and recreating my experience in the big city,” he wrote.

Ms. Zeiger noted similarities between the intricacies of the works of Mr. Duque and Mr. Bluedorn.

“How am I going to do something that breaks up the eye?” Ms. Zeiger asked herself. The curator always tries to include paintings, sculptures and photography, she said. Esperanza Leon recommended the mixed media artworks of Long Island artist Darlene Charneco, which “explore ways of seeing our human settlements, communication networks and communities as part of a larger organism’s growth stage,” the artist wrote.

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“Pondview Estates” by Darlene Charneco

“Pondview Estates” is made from resin and mixed media on wood; it is a commentary on “suburban developments encroaching,” Ms. Charneco said. “Humanity only partially aware of the land it is a part of.”

Ms. Charneco’s “dreamscapes and storage memories” got Ms. Zeiger thinking about “how we contain our own memories, and how we, as individuals, are our own personal homes,” she said.

The idea of each of us as our own home, she said, inspired her to exhibit portraits by Brooklyn-based Israeli photographer Rafael Fuchs. Mr. Fuchs moved to New York from Tel Aviv in the 1980s. He is a well-known commercial and entertainment photographer, and has done portraits of a diverse group including Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Regis Philban and David Blaine.

“Art doesn’t necessarily have to be new to be found,” Ms. Zeiger said: A portrait of Michael McKean of “Spinal Tap” fame taken in the late ’90s is included in the show at Dodds & Eder.

Rafael Fuchs is “like the mayor of Bushwick,” Ms. Zeiger said. Several years ago he did a series of portraits of artists from his neighborhood that included Mr. Bluedorn, who was living there at the time.

“There’s a connection all the time between artists,” said Ms. Zeiger. “It’s just like what happened with Pollack and deKooning, and it’s happening again. There’s a whole new generation of artists who are coming through. It’s simmering, it’s getting ready to go pop!”

 An opening reception for “A Different Kind of Home/ Show will be held at Dodds & Eder, 11 Bridge Street, Sag Harbor from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 12.

Live Jazz at Plaza Café

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Plaza Café in Southampton will be hosting live jazz every Friday from 8 to 11 p.m. throughout the summer season.

The restaurant hosts different artists every week and there is no cover charge. In the past, musicians such as Mike Gari and Richie Scollo have performed.

Located on Hill Street in Southampton village, the Plaza Café is open for dinner at 5:30 p.m. and the menu offers everything from Plaza Café Lobster-Shrimp Shepherd’s Pie to Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with starters and deserts that include oysters, prosciutto wrapped shrimp and chocolate mousse cake. A prixe fixe menu is also available for $34.

For more information or to make a reservation, call (631) 283-9323 or visit http://www.plazacafe.us.

Taps Offers Two for One Deals

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Taps in Southampton will be offering deals or live music every night throughout the summer.

On Monday nights, the restaurant is having Burger Nights, when a burger and your choice of a domestic tap beer are $8. On Tuesday nights, the restaurant hosts Chicken & Ribs BBQ Night, when customers can get chicken and ribs with a pint for $18. It also has a special two-for-one Lobster Deal on Tuesday and Saturdays, when customers can receive two lobsters and a pint of beer for $29. Friday night is two-for-one Steak Night for $25.

On Friday and Sundays, the restaurant offers live music nights. On Friday, July 11, Dune Local and Morning Fatty will play at 10 p.m. On Sundays, there will be live reggae music at 7 p.m. On Saturdays, the restaurant has a DJ and recently added Thursday night acoustic performances to the roster.

For more information, visit nstaps.com or call (631) 259-2998.

East End Weekend: Highlights of July Fourth Weekend

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Casey Evans in a San Lorenzo bikini.

Casey Evans in a San Lorenzo bikini on the beach in East Hampton.

By Tessa Raebeck

Norma Jean Pilates and San Lorenzo Bikinis are hosting a party in Sag Harbor tonight, Thursday, July 3, from 6 to 8 p.m. The event is celebrating the East Coast launch of San Lorenzo Bikinis. Guests can shop for bikinis, enjoy “bikini-friendly bites” and enter contests for “amazing” giveaways from local businesses like Happy Bowls, Flying Point and Wampum. Norma Jean Pilates is located at 52 Main Street in Sag Harbor.

To RSVP to the private party, email Abigail Gawronski at argawronski@gmail.com.

 

Mark Borghi Fine Art in Bridgehampton will showcase Bob Dylan’s work July 4 to July 18. “The Drawn Blank Series” showcases the musician’s colorful paintings and will be celebrated with an opening reception Thursday, July 3, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Mark Borghi Fine Art, 2426 Main Street in Bridgehampton. For more information or to RSVP, call (631) 537-7245 or visit borghi.org.

 

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“Art on the Edge” opens at Vered Contemporary in East Hampton SaturdayJuly 5, with an opening reception from 9 to 11 p.m. The expanded exhibition, an annual survey of the contemporary art of new and provocative painters, sculptors and photographers, will be on view July 5 to August 4. Nineteen modern artists will be featured.

The gallery is located at 68 Park Place in East Hampton.For more information, call (631) 324-3303 or visit veredcontemporary.com.

 

“Positivilly Marvillainous” opens at the Eric Firestone Gallery with an opening reception Saturday, July 5, from 6 to 9 p.m.

“Expanding on tradition doesn’t necessarily demand the push towards perfection or a high polish,” the gallery said in a press release. “Rather, it can entail building on established conventions in a particular artist’s unique voice. Today, contemporary artists, knowingly or unknowingly, reference George Herriman’s historically overlooked, unpretentious and universally accessible fantasy, Krazy Kat, a comic strip that ran in American newspapers from 1913 until 1944. The artists in Positivilly Marvillainous embrace tensions, arising from Herriman’s formal qualities in character portrayal, including those between line and shade, humor and drama, human and animal, collage and décollage, marvelous and villainous.”

The Eric Firestone Gallery is located at 4 Newtown Lane in East Hampton. For more information, call (631) 604-2386 or visit ericfirestonegallery.com.

Arlene Schroeder’s Inn Makes it Easier

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Arlene Schroeder in front of her house, the Edgemere Inn. Photo by Mara Certic.

By Mara Certic

Tucked away on a quiet private drive off of Noyac Road in North Sea, Arlene Schroeder and her West Highland terrier, Hazel, prepare to welcome guests to their home, The Edgemere Inn—a bed and breakfast for the physically challenged.

Ms. Schroeder had worked for the state as a service coordinator for the developmentally disabled for the majority of her professional life when, at the age of 45, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“Until you’re disabled, or in a wheelchair, you have no idea,” she said on Monday, 19 years since her diagnosis. Many hotels, she explained, are not easily navigated by wheelchair-bound patrons. Even restaurants that advertise themselves as being wheelchair-accessible frequently have one step between the entrance and the dining room, which Ms. Schroeder said, “can be like a mountain.”

A native of Hicksville, Ms. Schroeder spent childhood summers at her aunt and uncle’s beachfront house on Edgemere Drive in Southampton.  Her aunt and uncle would sail their boat to Mystic, she said, while she and her grandmother would escape to the house overlooking Little Peconic Bay. Her grandmother, not a fan of the sand or sun, would stay inside while a 10-year-old Ms. Schroeder would explore the surrounding beaches and wilderness.

Ms. Schroeder was “very close” to her aunt and uncle, who left her the house in their will some 10 years ago. After working for the state for 27 years, Ms. Schroeder retired.

“I retired because I felt I wasn’t giving my consumers, the taxpayers enough,” she said. “And I felt it wasn’t fair to the consumers I was working with.

So Ms. Schroeder moved into the house she had summered in as a girl and began to make changes to it. Doors were widened, floors leveled and ramps installed in order to make the rooms of the house wheelchair accessible.

Ms. Schroeder did some of the work for preparing for progression of multiple sclerosis. The disease, the cause of which is still unknown, attacks the nervous system, progressively disrupting the communication between the brain and body.  Two weeks ago Ms. Schroeder got a new motorized wheelchair that she now has started using around the house, “I don’t like being in a wheelchair,” she said. “But I like the ease with which I can get around now.”

The real driving force behind the remodeling, though, was to open up a bed and breakfast on the water for the physically challenged. Four years ago, Ms. Schroeder got her 501c4, status as a not-for-profit. She is now applying for her 501c3, which would change her status to a nonprofit. If accepted, that would mean that she would not have to pay any taxes if she were to turn a profit. “I haven’t made a profit yet,” she added.

But making money is by no means her goal, anyway. Ms. Schroeder strives to create a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere for those who have difficulty getting away. “I tried to make it like a bed and breakfast, not like a hospital room,” she said in one of the four bedrooms in her house (one is her own room, one is not quite ready for paying guests, she said.)

The rooms are large, airy and have the desired feel of a small bed and breakfast. Only small details distinguish them from those in any other inn. But those small details, Ms. Schroeder said, are all crucial.

Her hallways and doorways all had to be widened from 24 inches to 36 inches to enable wheelchairs to pass through. Her showers have been redone to allow them to fit wheelchairs—one bathroom has a seat in it to allow guests to move themselves from their chairs into the shower.

“I made some mistakes,” said Ms. Schroeder, pointing up at the bathroom mirrors from her wheelchair. She explained that she needed to have them tilted down, to allow her guests to see themselves while seated.

But those mistakes are not stopping her. Ms. Schroeder continues to expand and improve the Edgemere Inn. At a fundraising event at the Southampton Social Club on Saturday, June 28, the not-for-profit received donations that will go toward funding new projects.

Among these are an outdoor shower, a ramp down to the beach and an elevated garden. “What I would like to do, is to have raised gardens so that people can pick flowers, if they want to, or strawberries, or tomatoes,” she said pointing to part of her 1.2-acre property.

But the most valuable donation she received on Saturday, she said, was a woman’s offer to volunteer at the inn for 20 hours a week. “That really meant the most to me,” she said.

Her customers are not just the physically challenged in need of respite, she explained, but can be those who come to visit family who do not have wheelchair-friendly homes.

Last summer, Ms. Schroeder had a guest who had not been able to visit her sister in Sag Harbor because her son’s cerebral palsy had drastically limited the number of places they could stay.

“People can have their families come meet them here too,” she said.

Old Whalers’ Restoration Complete

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The finished trompe l’oeil at the Old Whalers’ Church. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Annette Hinkle

The Old Whalers’ Church, which dates back to 1844, is a Sag Harbor icon. Even without its massive steeple (lost in the 1938 hurricane) architect Minard Lafever’s imposing edifice still has the power to inspire awe, especially among visitors who glimpse it for the first time.

A rare example of Egyptian revival architecture, in recent years, a number of repairs and restorations have been made inside the building to insure its historic integrity and beauty as well.

Last Sunday at morning service, the Old Whalers’ Church officially unveiled what some consider to be the highlight of those recent restorations­—the recreation of the original trompe l’oeil mural which Mr. Lafever designed to grace the massive south wall of the sanctuary. A concert held at 5 p.m. that evening to celebrate the event brought in more than 200 people.

Gone is the cracked, light blue mural which for decades graced the space behind the pulpit. In its place is a professionally rendered scheme completed over the course of the last month by a staff of restoration experts from International Fine Arts Conservation Studios, based in Atlanta, Ga.

Rendered in muted tones of gray and white with subtle shading, the 35-foot-by-25-foot mural implies the presence of a curved apse and Corinthian columns supporting a cofferdam ceiling—a space that doesn’t actually exist, but rather is a “trick of the eye” (or “trompe l’oeil” in French).

With only two black and white photographs to go on—one from 1899 and one that was taken pre-1890, Geoffrey Steward and his associates from IFACS visited Sag Harbor last November to scrape through up to 14 layers of paint and discern the history of the design and color palette of at least six full murals which have graced the wall since the mid-1840s.

When they returned in late May to do the work, the artisans cleaned and primed the plaster wall, affixed a canvas support to it and laid out the trompe l’oeil design using stencils. Finally, they painted the image in its original color washes and applied shading to complete the trompe l’oeil effect.

The new scheme portrays the illusion of depth in a way the well meaning, but inexpertly rendered, earlier mural never did. For church member Nancy Cory, the finished product represents the realization of a long time dream.

“I’m delighted, it’s more beautiful than I ever could have anticipated,” said Mrs. Cory. “It’s much more three dimensional and effective in shading and perspective.”

“It’s so different than what we had,” she added. “I think that’s why the moment to make the change came. People were tired of looking at the mural and noticing the perspective was off. We have such a beautiful building to worship in, why not complete the restoration? It’s more fitting and classier. The whole sanctuary is built for the glory of God. It seemed right to do it.”

In fact, it was Mrs. Cory and her late husband, David, who spearheaded the idea of the mural restoration. Mr. Cory was an avid historian who probably knew more about the Old Whalers’ Church than anyone. In the fall of 2007, the Corys vacationed in Provincetown, Mass. where they visited a church filled with fine examples of trompe l’oeil imagery.

Inspired, they brought the idea—and the name of Mr. Steward’s restoration firm—back to the congregation in Sag Harbor for consideration. Then, the economic downturn of 2008 hit, and the church had to put the project on hold.

But in 2013, the Reverend Mark Phillips and Mrs. Cory revisited the idea of the mural restoration. When Mr. Steward said the price would be $50,000—about the same as it had been in 2008—Rev. Phillips reached out to parishioners for financial support. Within a very short time, church members had pledged the entire amount.

“We have no debt for this project due to 12 anonymous donors,” said Rev. Phillips. “We’ve been very careful not to reveal their names, but the gifts range from very small amounts up to $20,000.”

When asked on Monday what he thinks of the new mural, Rev. Phillips responded, “I think its a great addition and a far improvement over what was there. Even though it’s detailed, I don’t think it’s overdone.”

“I was so impressed by the professionalism of the team here, not only were they greatly skilled at what they did, but they always took time, even if 50 people came in during the day, to come down off the scaffolding and explain what they were doing,” he added. “I felt bad Friday when we said goodbye to them.”

Though David Cory didn’t live to see his dream realized—he died in late 2010—Mrs. Cory is certain he would have approved of the new trompe l’oeil.

“David would have loved it,” said Mrs. Cory. “He would’ve been thrilled to have this project completed.”

“I wish he could have been here,” added Rev. Phillips. “But I like to think yesterday he was smiling down and was happy.”

In addition to the completion of the much anticipated mural restoration, on May 16 the congregation celebrated another major milestone—the building’s 170th anniversary, which, as it turns out, was David Cory’s birthday.

After Once, It’s Time to Begin Again

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By Danny Peary

The cast and director. Danny Peary photo.

The cast and director. Danny Peary photo.

Begin Again fits my category Movies That Should Play in Sag Harbor. John Carney’s extremely engaging follow-up to the 2006 international sensation Once opened last Friday in New York City and this Wednesday begins its national release. I anticipate that it will soon play in the East End because who isn’t curious about seeing Keira Knightley sing and Adam Levine act?  They, surprisingly, come off with flying colors doing both.  They play a song-writing couple, Gretta and Dave, who split when he becomes a huge recording star and is unfaithful. In New York, she stays with her busker friend, Steve (James Corden, who won the Tony as the lead in Broadway’s One Man, Two Guvnors) and is about to go back to London when she is “discovered” singing at a club by a heavy-drinking, formerly successful A&R man, Dan (Mark Ruffalo).  Dan is estranged from his wife (Catherine Keener) and teenage daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) and is on his last legs, thinking he’d never find a raw talent again.  Hoping that starting her career with a hit album can rescue his career, the re-energized Dan records the semi-reluctant Gretta singing at outdoor locations around the city with a makeshift band of his musician friends.  The movie comes off as a fantasy set in an alternate New York but like Once it effectively brings real emotions and issues to the surface and you’re happy to go along for the ride.  And then there’s the music.  In the New York Times, A.O. Scott was really unkind to the songs.  Pay no attention. It’s a fabulous soundtrack and the way both Knightley and Levine perform the catchy, well-written songs in the movie is exciting. Begin Again is more flawed than Once, but it too is the rare movie you can recommend to almost anyone.  I attended the following press conference held last Thursday in SoHo.  In attendance were (R-L in the picture) Carney, Knightley, Levine, Ruffalo, and Corden.

Kiera Knightly and Adam Levine.

Keira Knightly and Adam Levine.

Moderator: John, there was this movie that came out, Once, that was a global phenomenon.  We talked a few weeks ago, when you were in Dublin, where you live, and you told me that you had the idea for Begin Again back when you were wrapping Once, but that you wanted to wait before you started working on it.  Is that right?

John Carney: I did want to wait so that the two films weren’t following each other directly. I feared I’d just become the ‘music guy,’ which is what has happened anyway. So waiting did nothing for that. But I did want to wait until the story was ready.  I’ve been watching the music industry change so much even since then, so I’ve developed the story on those terms. I think the print industry is the only industry that has changed to the same degree that the music industry has changed.

Moderator: And the inspiration was that when you were in high school you were touring with a band. And you thought it would be interesting to tell the story…

JCa: Well, actually I was in a band after I left high school. I had a bunch of A&R men angling for the next U2, which we weren’t, unfortunately, but Dublin was the city that everybody came to.  I guess they went a lot to London as well. These A&R men were really 25-year-old guys, with coke habits and credit cards without limits. And they were sort of swarming around, bringing these band kids out to clubs and wining and dining them, just in hopes of finding the next big band. The stories they were telling us! And I just look back over my life and I wonder where those guys are now, and I wonder whether they’ve adapted to the massive changes in the industry.  Still got the coke habit? Are they still trying to discover music?  Is that desire still there? Even though the Internet has changed the industry, are there still music-loving A&R men on the hunt for that new magical thing? Is that magical thing still out there?

Moderator: And the first person you cast was Mark Ruffalo as a heavy-drinking, washed-up former A&R man.

JCa: Yeah, Mark was the dream guy for this role.

Moderator: Mark, do you sing at all in real life?

Mark Ruffalo: No. Well, I did sing for the movie and it was cut out. I was singing in the shower.  It was supposed to be a lyric poem song.  But we couldn’t get the rights to that song.

JCa (joking): That’s what I said to Mark.

Moderator: And Keira, have you sung in public before?

Keira Knightley: Yes and no!  I did a film years ago called The Edge of Love and I sang a bit in that. A very 1940s kind of theatrical thing. So yes, I have sung before but it was very different.

Q: Did you take lessons?

KK: They very kindly got me some lessons with a very lovely man called Roger Love. For a lot of those songs, the lyrics weren’t written until a couple of days before we got into the studio so we didn’t have the songs to try to figure it out before we got there.  So it was just about trying to figure out what my voice was, because I didn’t know.  He tried to figure that out.

JCa: It was fun actually. We had this really new song and she went in and sang the first few lines and we all gave a sigh of relief.  We knew we can make this work!

KK (laughing): I wasn’t exactly relaxed when I was doing it.

Moderator: Adam, you did this before appearing in American Horror Story. You hadn’t done any acting before. Did you take acting classes?

AL: No. I tried to take one and it didn’t go well. It was bizarre. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like what I was being told, because it wasn’t making me happy, but that’s a whole other conversation I don’t want to have. So I just thought that I would pretend that I knew what I was doing and hope and pray that it worked, because these people on stage with me are all very, very talented. Mark’s shaking his head because he’s angry with me. But yeah, no lessons, actually.

MR: I’m shaking my head because for some people acting is so easy.  And acting isn’t easy.

Moderator: And James, you’re now in Into the Woods. And you’ve been a singer for quite some time.

James Corden: Yeah, I’m a professional singer. It’s my trade. I’m joking – not at all. But I have a theory that all rock starts want to be actors and all actors want to be rock stars, so I spent my whole school life forming boy bands.  I was in a boy band called Insatiable. We were quite big in the Buckinghamshire area, you might know.  We had a song that I wrote, called “Girl Are You Ready?”  We thought it was amazing, but in hindsight I think it sounds a bit rapey.   It didn’t work out for us. But since Adam’s heard some of Insatiable’s stuff, I think we’re going to hook up for some tracks. I think we’ll most definitely go forward.

Adam Levine (straight-faced): I look forward to that.

JCo: It’s a big surprise but I can share it with you guys. We’re going to be called Maroon 6.

MR: And Satiated.

Question from Journalist: Now that you’re all wonderfully successful, was it easy or hard to go back to that experience of being a struggling artist?

MR: It wasn’t my favorite place to be, so it’s not easy to go back there.

JCo: Mark really committed to the alcoholism aspect of the film. Because at the time I was on Broadway, I would shoot in the afternoon and get in a car and whisk across town to do the play and then quite often go back afterward and shoot quite a lot of the montage stuff.  And it was a great time when we were on the subway shooting this montage scene, and Mark said, “You must be exhausted from just doing the play, you must really need a drink,” and he was holding a Starbucks cup, and I said, yeah, I could really use one, and he passed me this Starbucks cup and it contained a vodka tonic. I really thought, well, this is the greatest moment of my life. I’m drinking booze with Mark Ruffalo while watching him film on the subway.

JCa: A little anecdote to that: the first AD comes up to me on the film set and says, Mark and James are both drinking alcohol–they think we don’t know, but we do know!

Q: Can Adam and Keira answer that question too about whether it’s hard to go back to play a struggling artist.

KK: I’m an actress, so yeah.

AL: You know, my character is kind of in the midst of becoming successful, and it was a very specific time when it happened to me. I was probably tempted by some of the same things that Dave is.  My story’s very different than his, but it was very easy to tap into what it was like to experience all these things that we never expect to experience. When you’re a musician, I don’t know if you’re ever very sure of anything.  You never know what’ll pay the bills–you don’t care about that as much as you care about playing music.  So this guy is just overwhelmed, and so was I, so that was pretty easy to play, actually. I believe that had something to do with why John called me.  Very few people get to experience those things and I think he thought I’d be able to articulate it for the camera. It was all John telling me what to do the entire time.

Q: Did you say yes right away when John called you?

AL: Yes.  Fuck yes, I believe..

Q: Adam, now that you’ve gotten a taste of acting, where do you want to take it?

AL: I have no idea. All I know is it was really fun. It was a dream experience.  I don’t think I could have done it [without these people up here.] This sounds really kiss-assy, though it’s really not meant to be, but I love these guys–all of them. They were so nice. I had no scenes with Mark, and the first day I got there and was trying on my clothes for the film, and he was so welcoming and warm and sweet. He and John and Keira and everybody made it easy. It was just one of those things, I don’t think it can get better than this, so I might not ever make another movie!  There’s no way it can surpass this as far as how much fun I had, it was a blast.

JCo: It stops being fun after the first movie!

Q: And, Adam, how did you tap into and relate to your character?

AL: I wanted to treat this guy, Dave, like a totally different person from me, even though it was impossible, because I literally don’t know how to act. So I was like, okay, some of me is coming out here, it’s not fucking possible that’s not going to happen. Referring to my character, like I said, there was a very specific point in my life, where I thought, “Oh my God, you know, I’ve made it!” There were fifty of those moments, I’ve been so fortunate in my career. There was a time probably in the early 2000s when our album went platinum, when I said, “What, are you kidding me?”  That was when I partied too hard and did a lot of stupid things and that is part of who Dave is. I was that guy.

Q: Keira, did you draw on anyone for inspiration for Gretta.

KK: I didn’t, no.  The part wasn’t based on anything for me, we just sort of worked on it from the character’s point of view, like “Okay, this is somebody who doesn’t like fawning, she’s just somebody who really likes being in the background.” It was just about finding what would work for me.

Q: What about the inspiration for Dan?

JCa: I had a really good conversation early on, years ago, with Mark.  Mark, you were shooting somewhere in Ireland, and I couldn’t believe that I’d gotten your phone number and I rang you up and we had a discussion about this character. And we ended up talking a lot about 1970s movies that we loved, like The French Connection with Gene Hackman.  We we were trying to find what the vibe might be like with this guy, and a bunch of late ‘60s, early ‘70s films were references.

MR: Well, I did want him to feel a little bit like a throwback.  And I liked the kind of A Star Is Born relationship that Dan has with Gretta. It’s warm, it’s not sexualized. He’s someone who really sees a talent and wants to develop it. I do a fair amount of daydreaming about these people, and I somehow came to this idea that any music person I played would be like Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips.

AL: It’s so fucking funny you just said that because the second I saw you, you just exuded that guy.  That’s Wayne Coyne! You looked like him, your hair looked like his hair. Wow!  I’m so glad you said that.

MR: I really love him, he feels like the real deal as far as music goes. I hope he doesn’t take offense to my homage to him. But I’m a big fan of his. So he was probably the only music person I drew from, although with Dan’s glasses, there was probably a little weird Dylan type gene. But that was pretty much it.

JCa; You use one thing as an actor, and that alone gives you the character. I thought the glasses were that for you, Mark.

MR: That and Dan smokes. I knew an old Jewish songwriter who was a manager in the ‘70s, and he was on the music scene and so a lot of my character’s qualities, especially the Nat Sherman cigarettes and that gruff quality, that throwback quality, were his. He was a really interesting character.

Q: Keira, In regard to clothes, was there anything about [your previous characters] Anna Karenina or Sabina Spielrein that you found in Gretta, and if either of them were to give advice to Gretta, should she take it?

KK: No on the advice.  The clothes–we actually had discussions with the costume designer.  I wanted Gretta to dress for women, not for men.  I wanted her clothes to be something that women would like and get for themselves, and men wouldn’t necessarily get it for them. So we worked quite hard on that kind of idea. So that slightly tomboy, slightly Annie Hall, completely non-sexualized thing is what were going for. The men’s trousers was a big thing.

Q: This movie is an attack on selling out in the music industry, but all of you have to confront that daily, whether you’re in the film industry or the music industry. For instance, you make small films but after a few small films, you have to make a big film. So when that happens, do each of you say, “Well, I have to sell out a little today?”

KK: Do I have to go first?  Well, I like differences, and I think that’s what’s been really nice about being Gretta.  I don’t dislike big blockbusters, in fact I like them very much and sometimes that’s exactly what’s called for on a day when it’s raining and I want to sit and have popcorn and just kind of get lost in a movie. I think about that as far as making them, as well. I did Jack Ryan because I wanted to do a pure piece of popcorn. And it exactly fit coming after I did Anna Karenina, this incredibly stylized movie that was—we were sort of trying something in a new way—very, very dark. What I really wanted after that experience was to make something absolutely different. And it was the same with Begin Again.. I wanted it to be really low-budget and hit the ground running and keep going as fast as possible, all that. I wanted that kind of speed. So I feel incredibly privileged that I get the opportunity to do both types of films. I certainly don’t sneer at big-budget things, and I don’t sneer at small-budget things, I think it’s about the opportunity for me to do all different styles of movies.

JCo: Most things aren’t very good, but that’s nothing to do with scale or size or any of those things. Most things, 90%, just aren’t that great. No one sets out to make something bad, sometimes they just are. And the trick is to operate in that 10%, whether it be something with a huge budget or a small budget, and that goes for music, television, theater, art, everything. You want to operate in the 10% but acknowledge that sometimes you’ll miss the mark with that, and sometimes you’ll make mistakes.  But those are the only things that teach you to go on and try and operate in that place where you can make something that’s really good. I love watching films that some people would say are trash, and I love  watching things in a different style. I don’t think it’s a question of selling out or not selling out, I think it’s just trying at the core to make something that’s good. And there’s no better representative of that than this film, where a group of actors get on board with a director they love because they’d seen something of his that they loved. We all went, “Yeah I’m in on this journey with you, John, whatever it is and wherever we go. And I’ll absolutely do my best to make sure it sits within that 10%.”

AL: I really want to answer this question. There’s a great scene in the movie with you guys [Mark and Keira] when Dan and Gretta talk about how people spend a lot of time figuring out who they are and presenting that to the world and then re-calculating.   I think in order to understanding selling out, you first have to define what it means to sell out. To do something you don’t want to do because you might be able to gain something financially, or to not be behind something that you wind up doing for some other reason–that’s probably what I’d call selling out. Not feeling good about doing something that might help you get ahead. But doing something that you love regardless of whether it’s making a blockbuster movie or writing a pop song or trying shamelessly to succeed at something–that’s not selling out, I think that’s actually fine and I would encourage that all the time. Selling out really comes at a point when you sacrifice your own personal credibility in order to have success on a larger scale.  Doing something that makes you feel gross and benefitting from it. That’s what that is to me. And it’s very clear-cut. But people do have a hard time defining it, and they kind of throw a lot of things out there and say it about giant movies or a huge record that’s very popular and a lot of people like…and people then say they don’t like them anymore [because they had commercial success]. I always hated that growing up and if my favorite bands became successful I thought, “Good for you, that is fucking amazing, congratulations, I still love you!”  I didn’t get a selfish, possessive, bullshit attitude and think “Oh, they were mine and now they’re everyone else’s and I don’t like them anymore.” That’s a horrible way to operate. God, they get to pay the bills and have amazing lives, that’s great. And they’re a great band, fuck yeah.  So that’s how I feel.

MR: I got into acting because I wanted to act, and I love acting. And so that’s my true north, to be creative and to be challenged in what I love to do. And sometimes that takes me into a big-budget movie, sometimes that takes me to a small-budget movie, but I’m doing essentially the same thing in each one of those, which is stretching in a way that I hadn’t. That’s my aim. I come from the theater, and in the theater you’re never pegged for one thing. You can be in a comedy in one season and you can be the romantic lead the next season, and you can do a period piece the following season and do something modern the season after that. No one ever says to you, “This is what you have to do! This is what we expect of you!” So that work ethic is what I know to bring to my film work as well. It just takes you on this wild ride.  And, cynically, the day that I decide to do something just purely for monetary gain or because it is going to get me to the next thing  will, I think, only lead to my downfall somewhere. It hurts your creative self. And so I think the idea of selling out is a lot of times a projection that people create about artists that is more a reflection of who they are than what is actually happening in front of them with the artist.

JCo: I slept with John to get in the film, and it didn’t feel like I was selling out at the time. I’d do it again.

Q: Keira, how did you relate to the romantic and the heartbreak aspect of the movie?

KK: I think it’s what I liked about the film. You can kind of take it out of the music industry story, and essentially what it’s about is people falling down in life and trying to pick themselves back up, and whether that has to do with a relationship or a career or wherever. I think you can’t be adult and not have felt that in whatever extreme way. So obviously yeah, I completely understood where Gretta was coming from and the feeling that you know exactly what’s going on and who you are and where you’re going and suddenly finding that you have no idea who you are, where you’re going, or what’s going on. All adults have experienced that.

Moderator: Finally, John, can you talk about the scene in which Gretta and Dan walk around Times Square. Was it at three o’clock in the morning and you had a handheld camera?

JCa: Yeah, we did actually. That was the one true maverick moment working on this movie, when we did not get permits and it was Mark, Keira, me, an AD, and a focus puller. There was supposedly no way we were doing to get that scene I had written in Ireland of walking around in Times Square.  Those three words—“in Times Square”—terrorized the producers.  People would get the script and go, “Ha, that’s not going to happen!”  It can happen as long as you don’t tell anybody or try to close it down, because that would have looked ridiculous.  We didn’t want extras pretending that they’re looking up at signs going, “Wow, Times Square!” So they’re real tourists walking around in the movie.  If I extended any shot in that sequence by two frames, there’d be someone going, “It’s Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo!”

AL: There’s a scene Keira and I shot in which our characters are walking into an apartment building together and someone recognizes Dave and comes up to him–and only thirty seconds earlier two girls had come up to me on the street. So literally it was happening and then we shot the scene where it was happening and there was just no difference between reality and what we shot.  There was zero projection of anybody and it was great because we were immersed in all of it the whole time. It felt real because it was. Shooting on the street was amazing.

JCo: I’m still surprised that we got away with it in New York. Sorry man, but the paparazzi just follow me wherever I go.

JCa: We had to take James’s name off the call sheets to try to get them off his scent.