KIND’s recent partnership with the 13th Annual Bicycle Film Festival gave us the opportunity to work with some of our favorite young filmmakers to produce a special short film series celebrating bicycle culture from around the world.
The first in the series comes from Brooklyn-based Jay Giampietro of Magic Square Films. For KIND, Jay wrote and directed a beautiful 6-minute film that explores love, bicycles and lemonade. On the first day of summer, a man risks his new bicycle in order to help a woman in distress.
We had an opportunity to chat with Jay about “Lemonade,” which debuted at the New York Bicycle Film Festival.
KIND: What was the inspiration for Lemonade?
Jay Giampietro: Whenever I ride over the Williamsburg Bridge on the weekends, I have seen a man stationed at the top landing with a hand-painted sign on a white sheet hanging from the guard rail that says “Bike Mechanic.” I’m always on the lookout for compelling and mysterious images while riding, so I filed that one away in the back of my mind. Jason Grisell, who plays the bicycle repairman in “Lemonade,” is such a wonderful, talented person to collaborate with and in our recent films we have been experimenting with a silent film style, finding non-verbal situations for him to be in so his amazing physical expressiveness can take over. So blending these two ideas together along with a romantic narrative where he helps a woman fix her flat tire came very organically. I had actually thought of the title “Lemonade” first, before the story, because it evokes sweetness, summer and a happy time overall. There is also a favorite movie of mine from the ’70s—the main character has a line where he says, “you never hear anyone ordering a lemonade anymore.” I always wanted to find a way to reference that line. From the title we came up with the courtship sequence, which lent itself very well to physical comedy without relying on dialogue and tied up the story nicely—the moment two people start to really fall for each other.
How did you first get involved with the Bicycle Film Festival?
My friend Sean Price Williams (the cinematographer on “Candy Rides”) and I went to a diner on 14th Street late one night in January. Brendt Barbur, founder of the Bicycle Film Festival, was there and he wound up joining us and encouraged me to make a film for the festival. Every so often, I will ride past someone who is riding while pulling along another bike by their side—riding two bikes simultaneously essentially. It looks so strange and it also impresses me because I don’t have the guts or dexterity to do that. From that image sprang another love story, once again starring Jason Grisell, who among his myriad capabilities had no trouble pulling off the two-bike trick on camera, about a painter who inspires a woman to start riding. Bikes are just inherently cinematic to me—between the elegant movement, the aesthetics of their design and the possibilities involved in going on a journey. One of the most exciting things about filmmaking for me is the idea that this personal little experience that we filmed could be shared by people from all over the world. The Bicycle Film Festival, with their direct connection to the bike communities all over the world, succeeds in doing that so well.
What makes biking in New York City so special?
Magic hour on the bridge, drifting through different parts of the city and seeing characters that have made New York such a creative center for so many generations makes New York City special. There’s a freedom amid all the day to day chaos, you’re not constrained by traffic jams or service disruptions. When you’re on a bike, the city becomes smaller and bigger at the same time. Distances can be covered so easily and there’s so much energy to absorb as you glide and glide and glide.