Filmmaker based dark comedy on ‘Twilight Zone’ episode
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Neighbors living on a quiet Brooklyn street wake up one morning to find a mysterious box sitting on their block. How did it get there? What does it mean? That’s the premise of independent filmmaker Jason Cusato’s dark new comedy, “A Box Came To Brooklyn,” which will have its world premiere June 13 at the Manhattan Film Festival.
The 26-minute short film, which was filmed entirely in black and white on Madeline Court in Bay Ridge, is an updated spin on “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street,” a classic episode of “The Twilight Zone” that depicted the dangers of paranoia during the Cold War era of the early 1960s.
“A Box Came To Brooklyn” will be presented on June 13 at the Players Theatre at 115 MacDougal St., between West Third Street and Bleecker Street, at 6 p.m.
Cusato, a native of Park Slope, is the co-writer, editor, producer and director of “A Box Came To Brooklyn.”
The film explores the themes of gentrification and paranoia with all of the action centered on a Brooklyn street. The plot revolves around a mysterious box that suddenly pops up on Schenectady Street (Cusato changed the name of Madeline Court for the film) and causes all of the neighbors on the quiet block to wonder and worry how it got there. The neighbors start to turn against one another.
“I got the inspiration from watching ‘The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street,’ an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone.’ It was filmed during the Cold War. It takes place in rural Kansas on Main Street, USA. A flash of light comes across the sky and then slowly, the power goes out in people’s homes. One by one, houses start to get their power back and the neighbors start blaming each other for what is happening,” Cusato told the Brooklyn Eagle.
The episode, which Cusato viewed a few years ago, fired up his imagination.
“I started thinking about what was happening in a lot of neighborhoods, particularly in Brooklyn, where people who have lived there all of their lives are seeing other people move in. The people moving in aren’t doing anything to make the long time residents feel unwelcome, but they feel unwelcome. All of the changes make people feel like they’re being forced out,” Cusato said. “I saw it happen in my neighborhood of Park Slope. When I was a kid, it was not a trendy neighborhood. People didn’t come from all over the city to go to the bars here. Now they do.”
“A Box Came To Brooklyn” uses a diverse cast and dark humor to show how fragile the peace is between residents and how easy it can be disrupted.
At 26 minutes, the movie is the same length as an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” The movie took two weeks to film. Cusato said the residents of Madeline Court, a small, dead-end street in Bay Ridge, were warm and friendly toward him and his film crew. One resident even allowed the crew to store equipment in her basement.
“It was the perfect setting for the film. We knew we wanted a dead end street. And the neighbors couldn’t have been nicer,” Cusato said.
Cusato, who was born Brooklyn in 1975, said growing up in the borough has been a major influence on his work.
He attended The School of Visual Arts from 2000 to 2002 and has over 40 film projects to his credit, ranging from features, short films and documentaries. He has also worked on music videos.
His directorial debut, “The Out of Work Mime,” premiered at the Angel City Film Festival in Los Angeles in 2000. A decade later, his feature film, "Apostles of Park Slope," which was released in 2010, was the headlining film at the Manhattan Film Festival and won Best Comedy Feature.
Cusato is also the festival director of the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, an international film festival that presents films and filmmakers that have a meaningful connection to Brooklyn.