9-11: Fifteen Years Later
by Gina Capristo-Gajdosik
I can still remember the details of that morning, ironically a perfectly clear fall day in early September. What looked like a tragic error made by a very inexperienced pilot, soon became a symbol of our nation’s vulnerability, and then a testament to the bravery and valor of the people of New York City.
In 2001, I was prepping for my very first film production, “LOVED, ALONE” a twisted love story scheduled to shoot the following year in Edinburgh, Scotland. I nicked the title out of a line from a W. H. Auden poem and named my lead character after him. I had worked on a few local film crews, fell in love with screenwriting and through a large inheritance, had the funds to shoot on 35 mm, something I would most likely never have the chance to do again. I considered it my film school education and I was excited to have the opportunity.
And then, on that fateful day in September, I suddenly had no idea what the future would hold, for me or for anyone. In that one day, over three-thousand children lost a parent: so many bright futures, snuffed-out by box-cutters and mace. Our nation was vulnerable and instantly it was no longer a free society; ”security measures” would be put in place, travel would be restricted. No one could predict the immediate future, although looking back, we all know what happened in the aftermath of 9-11-2001; the Dow fell 14.3%, its largest one-week point drop in history. United States stocks lost $1.4 trillion in valuation for the week, and then came the Patriot Act and War in the Middle East, but against the wrong target. We are still fighting an unknown enemy; an ideology that cannot be defeated with bombs. The attack on New York City obviously made an impression on me, even though I was safely living in the suburbs of Connecticut. The sadness lingered and worse, I was making discoveries about my sexuality that I then found, unsettling and I was consumed with fear.
After shooting LOVED, ALONE in Scotland, I set my next script in New York City, just a few years after the horrible event. There was just something I needed to explore. I titled my new script, (MAKE ME) BLUSH, an exploration into the psyche of a group of New Yorkers; individuals in a kind of post 9-11 malaise, rethinking their lives and all the issues of life’s milestone moments: the birth of a child, a successful career and creative expression. My lead characters were drawn as artists, just like me. In fact, they are me to a certain degree; the fears and triumphs of living the life of an artist, or at least attempting it. What I didn’t realize or take into consideration was the enormous effort it would take to get my film to camera, Herculean and costly.
It’s not as if I didn’t have successes. A mini studio that had moved into Connecticut to take advantage of a new film tax credit worked with me for two years trying to get a director attached, and we did. Unfortunately, it was 2008 and we all know what happened that year. Our partners were not truthful with us and before I realized it, it was too late. I was forced to take a step back, re-examined and recommit. It took a long time and I felt enormously guilty for the money we lost on the project and depression set in, hard. Yet, each time there was a new draft, I was becoming more proficient. I examined every note. I hired a coach, formed a new team and experienced another event that would rock me; my biggest champion and friend Robert Fingerman, the glue that held our project together, was struck with a sudden heart-attack and passed away. Robert was my “go-to-guy” and he was gone in the blink of an eye. Yet, the greatest tragedy is that his two lovely daughters were left without their father.
By this point, I was now revising and writing in secret, too afraid to admit I could not quit my (MAKE ME) BLUSH habit. I stopped mentioning it to family, most especially. They never cared and I’m sure they thought I was insane to even think it would result in anything useful. And I have to admit, I was beginning to agree with them. Was God against me? I was sure of it, I just couldn’t figure out why.
Recently, I arrived at yet another “final draft” spawned by coverage from two directors and a producer. This new draft of (MAKE ME) BLUSH turns a musical exploration of sexual identity into a psychological thriller. Yeah, I know, it was hard-fought and I won. This new draft is THE DRAFT. It has been thirteen years since I first wrote, “FADE IN” to begin this story of an American woman, still traumatized by the events of September 11, 2001. And I realize now that I haven’t just been writing the “(MAKE ME) BLUSH” story, but also my own. My story is one of perseverance and becoming a writer regardless of the obstacles, regardless of my doubts and fears. Regardless of world events or personal set-backs, a writer needs to write.