We’ve asked the filmmakers for the 11th annual Oxford Film Festival the same five questions. Meet Amy Nicholson, producer/director of “Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride.” This film will be screening Friday, Feb.7 at 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 8 at 12:30 p.m.
#1: In 140 characters or less, describe your movie and why someone should see it.
A small-time ride operator and his beloved carnival contraption become casualties in the battle over the future of Coney Island.
(Carnival culture meets politics.)
#2: Biggest lesson learned in getting the film made? Best part in getting the film made?
he biggest lesson I learned in getting this film made is that land use issues are boring and complicated and really, really hard to make into an entertaining film. We didn’t even know what we had until we sat down to edit the material and realized that a lot of things just weren’t adding up. But rather that refute statements with boring supers, we opted to let all three factions - the carnies, the politicians and the real estate mogul - meet on screen, and used funny graphics to point out what’s not always obvious. The result is very entertaining.
The best part was hanging with the carnies. Salt of the earth and some of the nicest, funniest guys I’ve ever met.
#3: Tell us about you. What is your movie making background?
Zipper is my third documentary. The first film I made was a short titled Beauty School - a portrait of the New York School of Dog Grooming. It’s 10 minutes long and a very dry kind of funny. Then my dad invited me to a muskrat skinning competition (the world championships!) and I found out that they held a beauty pageant. I made a feature-length film titled MUSKRAT LOVELY that followed the 50th year of the pageant. Both films screened at lots of festivals and the muskrat queens ended up on Independent Lens.
#4 What do you want the Oxford Film Festival audience to know about your film that isn’t obvious from its title or description?
Zipper is a doc that captures a huge turning point in history. 40% of New York was rezoned during the Bloomberg years and the result has been the loss of a great deal of the character and authenticity that made the city unique. Coney Island is one of those places that, although run down and definitely having had seen better days, still had a lot of magic. You could go down there and people watch for hours. It was its own little world. And perhaps the one thing that made it really special was the living history in the guys that worked there. Many of them got pushed out in the name of progress. It’s a maddening film that (I hope) perfectly illustrates how capitalism and greed ruined the delicate fabric of Coney Island’s culture.
#5: What does the future hold in store for your film and for you?
Zipper had a big year. We actually got on the Oscar list which was a big deal for us. Now we are hoping for a broadcast on PBS. Crossing fingers!