Habit / notes

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Shot with a crew of seven over the course of three months in Manhattan's East Village, the Upper West Side, Harlem, Central Park, Little Italy, Battery Park and long Island, HABIT is a love song to the city and the lives of quiet desperation that play out underneath its grand architecture.

The festival print of HABIT was completed two days before its world premiere at the Chicago International Film Festival in October 1995. Since then the film has been screened at New York's Walter Reade Theater Independents Night; and U.S. festivals including L.A., Long Island, (winner, best of the festival), Ft. Lauderdale, and Slumdance at Park City. International screenings include Berlin Market and festivals in Oldenburg, Troia, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Latvia, Sarejevo, Cairo, Thessaloniki in Greece, and Fant-Asia 98 in Montreal and Toronto.

The film was released in theaters nationwide in a joint venture between Glass Eye PIx and Passport Cinemas, and is currently booked through Planet Pictures.

press release, March 1998
Bridgehampton bathroom


Habit is an allegorical tale about loneliness and the subjectivity of life's experience. The movie is constructed to support various interpretations of what happens to the character Sam, because you can never know the truth about someone else's demons, and the interpretation you come up with says something about you yourself. I wanted this lack of resolve to exist for the film, to draw attention to the metaphors intrinsic to the horror genre.

I approached Dayton Taylor to produce because he had worked hard as production manager on my movie NO TELLING and I knew he'd gained a lot of experience since then. I told him I wanted to put the script in the can for under $100,000. I put up the initial money and the crew put up their time and their connections, and we shot for 45 days over a period of three months.

Our cast and locations we drew from resources and acquaintances in the downtown art community as well as film people with whom Dayton and I had worked before--except Meredith the lead, who we found through an open casting call.

For night shoots in the city streets, we used a low-light film stock (500 ASA) and chose locations that had preexisting light sources. Or we powered D.P. Frank DeMarco's strange array of light fixtures with a car battery. We used extra crew on big shoots, which at times involved city permits and police escorts. For certain surrealistic sequences, we devised in-camera special effects: double exposure and speed changes, and various custom lenses and hand-rigged cranes invited a little of the unexpected into our dailies.

I try to set a mood of collaboration on the set, blending solid preparation with a come-what-may attitude. Frank DeMarco had worked on documentaries before HABIT, so he was used to working spontaneously and with limited resources. And Dayton had internalized a lot of my ideas during pre-production, so the three of us were able to riff on the opportunities presented by fate while maintaining a single vision for the film. I am most able to open up to collaboration during production when I know I'm going to edit the movie, because accident on Central Park West I know I'll have the last word. HABIT was edited on an Avid in about five months, and mixed in Protools at GLC, a post production house in New York.

I wanted to build a musical soundtrack with source music from different genres, but music licensing is prohibitively expensive, so I ended up assigning genres to different musicians with whom I'd played music before. In designing the sound, I was going for a rhythm of sounds that might be rich enough to listen to without the picture. When I was young, before video, I would record movies on audio-cassette and listen to them over and over. I gained an appreciation for sound design and sound's effect on perception.

Ultimately, the experience of making the film was about getting something grandiose through very limited means, mirroring my theme of finding the mythic in the everyday: the struggle of the common man over fear, loneliness and desire is everyone's mythic journey.

Habit | cast | crew | notes | press | photos | storyboard | interview | map