I’m Mike Pacyna and not only do I co-run this website and Youtube Channel but I worked on a film as the gaffer that had it’s World Premiere at SXSW this year called The Garden Left Behind. UPDATE: It also won the Audience Award!
This was the first narrative film I worked as the gaffer on and it was through responding to a random ad so for this film to have had its world premiere at SXSW I couldn't be happier. It's also amazing considering the fact that the production wasn’t the smoothest it could have been. Between dealing with extremely hot tight Harlem apartments, smelly New York city streets, and getting my girlfriend's car towed in the Bronx, it was one of the more strenuous films I’ve been on. But at the same time, whatever trails helped forge the bonds of friendship that last between the crew today. OK, all that said here’s my totally biased review: The film was pretty great!
The Garden Left Behind is about a transgender woman named Tina played by Carlie Guevara living in New York City with her grandmother played by Miriam Cruz who was super charismatic and natural. She navigates relationships, and the process of becoming a woman meeting Ed Asner and Michael Madsen along the way. The b-story is about a bodega worker played by Anthony Abdo who sees Tina from a distance and shows the audience a slice of trans-phobic toxic-male life. The story culminates in a moment that left the theater silent, though, and it might have just been because i missed the first few scenes, I found the motivation for the ending unclear. Thank you to our Producer Roy for getting my friends and I into the film after it started. The ticket-taker was very strict, and it really looked like I was going to miss the movie for a second time.
The film stars mostly trans actors and Flavio Alves the director mentions during the Q&A afterward that it’s difficult to find trans actors given that there are so little roles for them in the industry and the roles they do get aren’t the most flattering. This film I hope will open the door for more trans actors to start cutting their teeth in roles that aren’t caricatures and films that tell important stories from a community without a large voice and show that there is an audience for such films
The Director of Photography Koshi Kiyokawa was a joy to work with and his cinematography truly captures the feel of New York City. We used real locations in NYC obviously. I saw a lot of rats on set. And with lots of hand held shots, you feel right there with the characters in the scene. Given that we shot in some very tight places the lighting is okay ya know its aight. My friend Adam Chinoy started the project as the gaffer, and everything he did is splendid.
The sound mix and editing were a highlight of the film too. They really nailed the variety of sounds in NYC at night, and how you hear those sounds inside an apartment through the window, versus on the street, versus a restaurant, or bar. It really added to the feeling of being there. Michael Madsen plays a small role in the film, and on set he was nothing but cool.
I recommend The Garden Left Behind. It's a story about people who you don’t hear from in media, and challenges you to think differently which is refreshing no matter what. See it in a festival if you can. It’s making the rounds.