Imagine, if you will, walking into 5th Avenue's Kos Kaffe and spotting forty or so writers hunched over laptops and intently working away on what they think is the next stroke of literary genius. Not so much of a stretch in these parts, right? But what if I told you that said writers were hard at work at 6AM... something would seem a little off, right? Most coffee shop writers I know don't start working until 9 or 10AM. But wait -- what if when you wiped the gook out of your early-morning eyes and looked around, you noticed that these coffee shop patrons were actually NYC's literary finest, like Kurt Anderson, Michael Cunningham, Darin Strauss, Jennifer Egan and John Burnham Schwartz? Then you'd probably vow never to smoke up on a Tuesday night again, right?
According to Vulture, that's exactly what happened during the filming of Michael Maren's new film A Short History of Decay. The low-budget indie is about a struggling Brooklyn writer in his mid-30's who ends up having to care for his ailing mother and father. In one scene, his girlfriend kicks him out of their house and he wanders into a nearby cafe to grab a post break-up latte. What he finds is a dream-like java joint overrun with literary superstars. Maren describes it as “a little bit of a dream sequence. He literally can’t find a seat at the table.” Nudge, nudge.
I want to point out a few heartwarming and amazing things that went on behind-the-scenes here. First, the shot featuring all of the writers was literally the last shot of the entire film, and since Maren had completely run out of money, all 43 writers volunteered their time. Most woke at 4AM to make the 6AM call time, and Maren asked the writers to bring real work with them to boost authenticity. To that end, this excerpt tickled the writing nerd in me:
“'I don’t think we’re writing today. I think we’re typing.'” “'Isn’t that something Truman Capote said?'” asks John Burnham Schwartz (Northwest Corner; Reservation Road). Open on Schwartz’s laptop is a blank document — notes for an unwritten article."
Kurt Anderson went on to explain why he no problem showing up gratis for the scene: “Our vanity is being indulged — that’s the payment.”
You may be bummed to find that the guy with the shortest commute, Park Slope's own literary heavy-weight, Paul Auster was a no-show. Apparently he feels "filmically overexposed."