A good day at the beach turned into a great day at the beach when Long Island City- based filmmaker, Charlotte Purser met two friendly, local Rockawayites at Bungalow Bar one summer afternoon, five years ago.
As the day turned into evening and the trio talked and talked, Purser saw something she hadn’t found anywhere else in the city. “I was amazed at the local culture. It’s such a tightknit community where it seemed everyone knows everyone else,” Purser said.
She didn’t know it at the time, but striking up a conversation with the two women would change the trajectory of her career, spurring her directorial debut with the creation of a short film titled, “Rockaway Moon.”
More than the beach, it was the strong sense of community that moved her. “I’ve been living in LIC for 17 years and I never knew this (Rockaway) existed,” Purser said. “I was blown away. It’s hard to believe this is a part of New York.”
Beneath the backdrop of the ocean and sand, she knew there was a story somewhere to be told, illustrating the bond the people here have. She calls it “something special,” not found anywhere else she’s been and said as the sun set behind the bridge that evening, she knew she had to find a way to bring a story to life.
“I knew that day that I wanted to write a play or a story or something about this incredible place,” Purser said. That bit of inspiration which was Rockaway, gnawed at her for weeks, refusing to leave. But back then, she had no idea what form it might take.
Several months later, tragedy struck. Purser’s brother-in-law died suddenly, leaving her sister widowed with two small children. As Purser puts it, she watched her sister face a whole new world with new challenges.
“The process of creating a new life and recognizing a new normal became paramount to me as far as an exploration of a story,” Purser said, and it was then that “Rockaway Moon” was born.
“Rockaway Moon” follows two fictional sisters who grew up in Rockaway. When one loses her husband, she’s haunted by him, seeing him everywhere. She sees him in the park. Under the train trestle. On the beach. Ultimately, only through the help and love of her sister, she realizes she must find a way to release him.
Weaving together elements of grief, loss and unconditional love, Purser says, “The only place I could possibly set a story like this, is in a place like Rockaway.”
The 12-minute short film was anything but brief in the making, spanning a total of 24 months. “Rockaway Moon” was shot in the summer of 2015 in various locales around town, at the beach, under the A train and on the streets. Purser spent all of 2016 editing it and finished the piece in 2017.
Now that it’s done, she begins the next steps of submitting it to film festivals in the hopes it gets chosen.
In the meantime, she reminds us of what we sometimes forget: How fortunate we are to live in this community and what a special place Rockaway is.
The filmmaker is young, but not exactly a novice. She is a writer, producer and editor who received her master’s degree in acting from the Royal Conservatory in Scotland.
Before “Rockaway Moon,” her directorial debut, she produced four films with her production company, This Thistle Media, and a stage reading of her play, “The War Letters,” which was recently accepted to a year-long residency at the Town Stages theater in Tribeca.
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