There have been dozens of movies with protagonists struggling on the streets of New York, but none of them tell the story of homelessness quite like Landing Up.
Starring Stacey Maltin, Ben Rappaport and E’Dena Hines, the film tells the story of Chrissie, a transplant who winds up homeless on the streets of New York. She and her best friend Cece, played by Hines, have a dream of saving up enough money to rent an apartment in Manhattan and are willing to use all of their meager resources to make that a reality. The Shadow League recently spoke with the cast and director to get an idea of how this film came to be.
“I was working with Stacey from beginning on the story,” said director Daniel Tenebaum. “We did a lot of research. We spent a lot of nights and days in the homeless shelter trying to understand homelessness as much as we could.”
“We really tried to create two worlds where Chrissi lives. One of them is the street world where she’s homeless, this is the one where she has interactions with Cece and with James and all those characters.”
When a young woman finds herself living on the streets, she learns the art of manipulating strangers to put a roof over her head. But when she meets the guy of her dreams, her secret threatens to ruin their perfect relationship.
“That part we really tried to show it in a different way. This whole sequence where we show New York as very gritty and very dark.”
“Then there’s the fancy world one that kind of starts when she meets Ben and David. That world is a bit more saturated, it’s nicer, it’s more stable. We really tried to show two different parts of New York City and life that Chrissi is having.”
As mentioned previously, the lead role in this film is played by Maltin, who also wrote the script. I asked what were some of the quintessential qualities of this character that allow her to move in a dualistic manner.
“I wanted to tell the story about a girl who could flow seamlessly in and out of both of those New Yorks,” she explained. “Maybe her financial situations and circumstances kept her in this gritty underground. Maybe the way she looks and the way she manipulates people makes it easier to go in and out of these two worlds.”
“She can slide into David’s world, can slide into this whole world that she is dreaming to occupy. I think it was that and finding the balance in playing her as well.”
A first look at the Behind the Scenes of the making of Landing Up film! The film stars Ben Rappaport, Stacey Maltin, E’dena Hines, Dov Tiefenbach, Theodora Woolley, and Jay DeYonker. A film by Dani Tenenbaum and Stacey Maltin
TSL: Although she is the heroine of the film, she does some pretty awful things to get what she wants.
SM: “Even though she may be a manipulator, and you may not always like the things that she does because she lives in this moral gray area, but to have the audience still sympathize with her and want her to succeed even after she does some pretty bad things.”
“That’s the definitely the challenge in playing a character like that. Also, we wanted to expose that it can be easier for someone like her, as you see in the film, to be able to rise and live in two worlds.”
Ben Rappaport, who plays David with a Paul Rudd-ish quality, tells The Shadow League that it would be difficult for him to judge the deeds of these characters in a vacuum.
“When I first got the script I was immediately drawn to it because Stacy, who wrote it and stars in it as well, wrote such complex people. Every one of these characters is sort of morally ambiguous in a way that I find very real and raw. So, I immediately took to the role, especially his cheesy sense of humor and his kindness. But, even within that, there are moments. There are a lot of questions in the film that aren’t really answered but we like it that way. We want the audience to come away with a lot of questions. There’s a lot of conversation to be had. It’s the kind of film that stays with you.”
The film co-stars E’Dena Hines, the slain step-granddaughter of actor Morgan Freeman. This would have been her first feature role. I asked Matlin what it was like working with her.
“E’Dena was absolutely magnetic. Her energy was contagious and it was a blessing to have her as a scene partner. Somebody great to experience these roles of two women living on the streets trying to find their dream apartment. She and I worked with Donny a lot ahead of time in rehearsals fine-tuning these characters. She and I would also go out together to build up our friendship leading up to that. Everything felt really organic. The energy she came to set with every day was so positive. She always had a smile on her face and was always dancing. That made the working environment that much easier. It was just a joy to have her there.”
TSL: What would you like viewers to get out of this film?
“Especially in the polarized climate that we’re in right now, I think this movie can help viewers remember that people aren’t all good or all bad. And that life isn’t a good thing or a bad thing, but a series of choices that we make. I think a hundred percent of us live in these gray areas. We don’t want to talk about it or admit it, but we could all be pressed to make choices and do things that people may not find morally acceptable. But that’s what helps us survive.”