A small downtown theatre festival struggles to find its voice in the NYC arts world and ends up giving voice to thousands of artists worldwide.
The NY International Fringe Festival founded in1997 by four lower east side artists. the festival quickly took root in the LES each year in the dog days of August by presenting 200 shows in 20 venues over 16 days. With an average of 7 performances each, that’s over 1400 performances in 16 days.
Heading into year 20, the festival has gone from “those crazy kids downtown presenting avant garde theatre” to an institution of NYC’s cultural scene. Began by artists, driven by a dedicated leader—Elena K. Holy—and fueled by a die-hard corps of volunteers, the festival has overcome the obstacles of art in the big city, the frenzy of over a thousand artists participating each year, and natural disasters.
The film tells the story of creating something whose scale encompasses so much more than yourself. It is a balance between documenting the personal journey of the festival staff and participants as they sacrifice for something they believe in, and putting the festival’s 17-year history into the perspective of NYC and world events as they unfold.
We’ve been following the festival for 11 years, and have shot hundreds of hours of footage including performances, behind-the-scenes action, and interviews. We have tens of thousands of photos as well as archived video from 1997 through 2001. We have media clips and newspaper clippings. The list of assets goes on and on.
The film’s subjects are the festival and New York City. Perhaps not surprisingly, the two have become inextricably entwined, growing and changing together. We have watched the festival battle with NYC politics, money and natural disasters. Most of all, we have watched the festival change as NYC and the world have changed over the last 17 years. This film will show how a simple idea, galvanized by the passion, dedication and sacrifice of individuals working as a team, will overcome all types of obstacles and become larger than one person or group of people.
Overall, I see the film as a balance between documenting the history of the festival, the journey of the participants/staff for a personal story element, and putting it all into perspective using NYC theatre and the changes that have come about because of the festival in the last fifteen years.
The story behind this festival is unique and powerful. It speaks to an international audience on a human level. It is one that deserves the greatest benefits to get into the world.