PSIFF: Grand Street

By Heidi Simmons

Part of the Palm Spring International Film Festival’s mission is discovering, showing and aiding new talent. The New Voices/New Visions program debuted 10 films from first-time feature length filmmakers whose movie are without U.S. distributors.

One of the films was from writer/ director Lex Sidón whose Grand Street is the story of an unlikely couple, Amory and Camilla, who find solace in the strange dark streets of late-night Manhattan. Filled with beautiful images and provocative music, Grand Street’s gritty landscape impacts the couples’ night and changes their lives.

“I liked the idea of a love story that wasn’t a romance,” said Sidon. “I wanted to make a period piece — the nostalgic feel of New York in the 80s. But the movie is set today. I think the more things change, the more they the same.”

Born in Los Angeles and raised on the East Coast and Europe, Sidón started his career as a New York investment banker. But he soon returned to California to pursue screenwriting. He also directed music videos and made a short film.

“Someone once said to me, ‘Just because it happened to you, doesn’t make it interesting,’” said Sidón. This is the paradox that he explores in his film.

The characters in Grand Street first meet when Amory’s screenplay is rejected by Camilla who is an executive at a production company. When their paths cross again, the two discover that the things happening to them over the course of the next 24 hours in the big city indeed make for an interesting story.

Grand Street may reflect Sidon’s own experience trying to get the movie made. The screenplay was repeatedly rejected by Hollywood for being a small arty script, so Sidón finally decided to make Grand Street himself.

In 2010, he signed on a cast and started shooting in 35mm film. Running out of funds, he raised money on Kickstarter. When that ran out, he applied for “U.S. In Progress,” a director’s showcase and post-production competition held in Poland and France. He won $80,000, which was used for the digital scanning of the film, and done in Poland.

Grand Street went through its final sound pass just before the PSIFF. The film had its world premiere at the JeonJu International Film Festival, South Korea, in May. Actor Michael Wincott who plays Reuben in Grand Street, asked Sidón to screen the film at his hometown film festival in Canada. The PSIFF screening was the film’s U.S. premiere.

The PSIFF jurors for the New Voices/ New Vision are in the film distribution business. The winner of the New Voices/ New Vision receives a $60,000 Panavision camera rental package.

Although Grand Street did not win the New Voices/ New Vision prize, Sidón is thrilled to be a part of the PSIFF and is hopeful his film will get attention and distribution.

In the meantime, Sidón is working on his next film. Titled Draggers, he wrote the screenplay and will direct an ensemble cast about a mutiny aboard a commercial scalloping boat. Charlotte Riley, who plays Camilla in Grand Street, is currently set to play the first mate.

“It’s an atmospheric drama like Grand Street but it couldn’t be more different,” said Sidón. “I’m excited about it.”

Sidón is a bright and interesting filmmaker. Just because some of his stories may have happened to him, doesn’t mean they’re not interesting and worthy of the big screen.