A Sense of Anonymity Exists on Trains

January 9, 2024
Down in Shadowland is the most personal film I’ve made. Everything in it; every shot, every cut, every dissolve, every sequence, every piece of music is there because it was something I wanted to do.
I make that distinction because, with my other films, where outside money was involved, that wasn't always the case.
I shot the film on a small Sony Handycam about as big as a pack of Marlboros. I didn't intentionally try to hide the camera, but its small size definitely made it very inconspicuous. I also shot everything without holding the camera at eye level, especially when shooting people on the trains. Usually, I would keep the camera in my lap and use the zoom to finesse the framing.
It took great attention and concentration. You never know when something unexpected will happen. I developed an intuitive sense in watching people, which helped me to start filming them just before they revealed something strange or beautiful. But, much of what I shot was sheer luck.
I had no structure in mind. Every shot was treated as a completely separate entity. I just kept shooting moments that caught my eye. After several years, I began to think about how I would put it all together. Finding the central theme took quite a while, although it was inherent in almost every shot.
I found that the shots all contemplated an aspect of humanity, something intimate and personal in this underground world of strangers. The shots also have a surreal quality which nudges the film slightly away from being a strict documentary. It carries an emotional weight that shifts it into an entirely different realm.
I discovered that a sense of anonymity exists on trains. The mass of humanity people are immersed in gives them the feeling they’re wearing a cloak of invisibility, that no one can see them. And it is precisely because of this that people sometimes allow themselves to be completely open and visible. Thinking they were alone, their guards came down, and they revealed things to me without even knowing it.
You can rent or purchase the digital film here.

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Independent Filmmaker & Musician