“I always knew I wanted to make a documentary of my own so I guess I was in the zone where everything I read was a potential story,” says Katie Dellamaggiore, director of Brooklyn Castle. The film follows Brooklyn school children who are the nation’s highest ranked in chess, displaying the importance of maintaining extracurricular activities, which support and cross over in principle, allowing for a child’s academic career and personal growth to succeed to full potential.
The filming process took about five years, beginning in 2007. Chess provided these kids with an outlet and opportunity to motivate themselves, focus and triumph. “In 2008 we decided we were going to do it for real... we planned around going to this tournament as a way to research and develop, and see what they were like, capture the essence of this world and maybe find the kids we could focus on.” Dellamaggiore, being humble as ever, describes the process as, “one of those moments, when the stars align – we found this perfect story, loved it and decided to dive in.”
“I always intended for it to influence the way people saw afterschool programs or how people viewed investments in education.” Katie Dellamaggiore
The story unraveled genuine, honest reactions to real circumstances being faced throughout the one year of filming in 318 Junior School. “We didn’t know about the budget cuts until we started shooting... it wasn’t until then, we were like, oh wow,” explains Dellamaggiore. “I always intended for it to influence the way people saw afterschool programs or how people viewed investments in education,” says the talented director. “My goal is for it to reach the department of education – screenings for the new mayor, there is tons more for the film to do – I can’t do it full time forever, but I think that our partners will always be able to continue to use the film..”
Brooklyn Castle, Dellamaggiore’s feature directorial debut, is co-produced by her company, Rescued Media, alongside Indelible Marks and Chicken and Egg Pictures. She and her husband Nelson Dellamaggiore founded Rescued in 2010, continuously working as a team to build their dreams and share stories of interest.
“Castle has a lot of different meanings, the idea of the school being the castle and kids are kings and queens and there are no castles in Brooklyn – and it is also a piece and strategic move, protecting the king.” – Katie Dellamaggiore
“I really like asking people questions and getting to travel to places and being let into worlds that you would otherwise never have access too,” she says. “Step into another world, hang out, and then share that with people. That is what I love about making documentaries, the personal experience and making it more universal.”
Dellamaggiore established herself as a feature director, paving her own path, driven by situations, circumstances and experience. She had a goal, no real outlined process and followed her heart to make it happen. Her artistic intuition is clear when she explains the, “funny story” behind the title, being a play on words from a line in the Beastie Boys song “Brass Monkey”. She and a best friend, Katherine Kennedy, who also created the movie poster for the production, thought, “I have a castle in Brooklyn and that’s where I dwell,” and decided, “castle has a lot of different meanings, the idea of the school being the castle and kids are kings and queens and there are no castles in Brooklyn – and it is also a piece and strategic move, protecting the king.”
With such an open mind and artistic vision, there is no telling what she will do next.
Brooklyn Castle aired October 7 on PBS as part of the Point of View Indie Showcase. It will also be available online via www.pbs.org/brooklyncastle October 8 to November 6.
Words By. Dinusha Wijemanne
Please Note: This was originally published via Urbanology Magazine.