Thursday, January 8, 2015

Food Warriors

Talking to filmmaker Casimir Nozkowski about his new web series, The Food Warriors.

What's the series all about?

The Food Warriors is a web series by the Internets Celebrities (Dallas Penn, Rafi Kam, Casimir Nozkowski) where we travel an entire subway line--in this incarnation, the A--get off at key stops and seek the hungry traveler’s holy grail: where the people who live or work near that stop, eat.

The series in general is really an excuse for us to examine neighborhoods and talk to people on the street about their habits and tastes and see just how many things change over the course of one subway line. We've made a lot of movies about New York institutions (the bodega, the check-cashing place, the pizza spot, street vendors, Yankee stadium, the Coney Island polar bear swim, to name just a few of our past subjects) and it felt natural to track the city through the subway.

Why the A-train?

We chose the A train because of its historic importance and because it winds through three boroughs in what felt like dramatic fashion. The longest one-seat NYC train ride, at over 31 miles, the A starts at 207th street, slices down the west side of Manhattan, under the river into Brooklyn and out to Queens, and we're going to ride and eat all the way to JFK and the Rockaways.

We're all native New Yorkers who have ridden the subway all our lives (Dallas grew up on the 7, Rafi the L and I took the 6 to high school) so it's exciting to capture the city from this vantage point. Above and below ground. The 7 was our runner up and it feels like if we finish the A train, that'd be the next one we'd choose.

Is the New vs. Old debate going to be a theme throughout?

In many of the videos we've put out so far, there is a theme that keeps coming up: Old New York vs. New New York. Especially in the Harlem vids (145th Street and 125th Street). In those episodes, we found that some people we talked to were drawn to the classic restaurants (Famous Fish Market at 145th and Manna's at 125th) and some people celebrated the newer establishments that were now staking their claim to the neighborhood (Harlem Public at 145th and Dinosaur BBQ at 125th). Ultimately we leave it up to the people to tell us where to go and no spoilers, but Old New York does okay.

I would say the themes vary by neighborhood though. We really try to take what the people give us and in places like midtown on the A train, the old vs. new new york falls by the wayside because we run into way more tourists and people who just work in the neighborhood.

What's coming up next?

In the spring we are heading out to the Rockaways with stops at Broadway Junction, Ozone Park/Lefferts Blvd, Howard Beach JFK on the way. Like I mention above, the Midtown ones dwell more on just how hard it is to find a great place to eat there--even though it FEELS like you're surrounded by places.

Another recurring theme in the whole series is how much New Yorkers prize convenience over just about anything else sometimes in New York City--even pleasure.

See all the Food Warriors videos here

Check out more videos from Internets Celebrities:

Bodega: a celebration, indictment, and tour of a typical Bronx bodega
A Fare Slice: an examination of the correlation between subway fare and pizza slice prices
Stadium Status: about old stadiums being knocked down and new ones built up at the expense of the taxpayer
The Vend Diagram: about the struggle of the everyday NYC street vendor

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