Exploring New York Life After 9/11, One Potential Roommate at a Time

Eric, a New York City apartment dweller, wonders: What information should he include when he advertises for a roommate?
“My old roommate said that I should put ‘WTC view’ in the ad,” says Eric, the hero of WTC View the film adaption of Brian Sloan’s compelling play. “I thought that was cute because you see ‘Empire State view’ all the time. It has some major value, but ‘WTC view’ doesn’t mean a thing … uh, didn’t mean a thing.”
“WTC,” of course, stands for World Trade Center, and he has placed the ad on Sept. 10, 2001 — the day before the terrorist attacks.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of this landmark production, the film has been re-released, this time in a digital format, by Edgeworx Studios and Robert Ahrens Entertainment. Strangely and sadly, it remains as relevant today as when it was first released.
Sloan, the writer and director, said, “Initially, I wouldn’t have imagined that terrorism would still be such a prevalent, persistent problem a decade on, but with the ISIS attacks abroad and even the Boston Marathon attack here in the U.S., it seems that, unfortunately, this is still with us and will be for some time.
“When any act of terrorism occurs, it shocks us that people still use violence and fear as a means to propagate a message of hate But these acts also serve to remind us of our humanity and how we can really care for one another when things like this happen.”
This story of a young gay man living in SoHo tracks the course of the two weeks after 9/11, as Eric has trouble finding a new roommate in the tragedy’s aftermath. At the same time, he struggles to keep his own balance mentally and spiritually.
“I was trying to impart to viewers a true sense of what life was like in New York at that time,” Sloan says. “I think it’s important for people to understand what that felt like. It was scary sometimes, and definitely sad, but it was also a time when New Yorkers connected with each other in a unique way.”
The production explores the effects of this tragedy through the experiences and viewpoints of people who come to look at Eric’s apartment. Through them, we see a poignantly realistic look at those overwhelming days.
Michael Urie stars as Eric, reprising his role in the original stage production along with the other members of the cast.Perhaps best known for the ABC TV series Ugly Betty, he gives a tour de force performance.
Urie introduced the role in the play shortly after graduating from the Juilliard School in 2003, and this is his first lead role in a feature film. Sloan says that Eric is not a simple role to cast, but that Urie was a solid favorite early on.
“We needed an actor who could be on stage for the entire running time of the show, which was two hours,” he said. “That meant someone with a strong sense of craft and training who could run this ‘theatrical marathon,’ as it were. On top of that, they had to be someone who was likable, too, someone that the audience would want to spend two hours with. Michael met both these qualifications very easily.”
The part of Alex — a 32-year-old gay bond trader who looks at the apartment — wasn’t easy to fill either.
“Finding someone who was believably a Wall Street guy and gay and hot — and had chemistry with Michael was a tall order,” Sloan says. “But we found that guy in Nick Potenzieri, who was amazing onscreen.”
Alex, we learn, was actually at ground zero, and if it weren’t for a malfunctioning elevator, he would have perished along with all the others.
(“Life is suddenly more vivid — I notice things I never noticed before!” he buoyantly tells Eric. “Every time I get on the subway now, it’s so cool. There’s so much life in one car!”)
Other prospective roommates provide their perspectives as well. Jeremy is originally from the United Kingdom. He works as an assistant concierge at the Plaza Hotel and details how, after the attacks, the staff at the hotel couldn’t get home due to all the transportation issues.
“So they decided to lodge us in the ballroom on the night of the 11th … on cots!” he says. “And that was my last straw!”
Next is Kevin, an insistently heterosexual manager of his uncle’s trucking company from Brooklyn, and Jeff, a gruff Democratic political consultant. Then there’s Max, a headstrong 19-year-old college student at NYU. Full of conspiracy theories, he unsettlingly expresses a kind of youthful exuberance over what’s happened and how it’s effectively tied “him and his entire generation to history.”
In developing the film, Sloan said, “I was deeply inspired by a number of other classic films set mainly in one apartment. I’d say my top two were Rear Window and Rosemary’s Baby. When adapting the screenplay here, I really started studying them and looking for interesting ways to visualize my story in a single location.”
As with any stage property that’s transferred to the big screen, Sloan says, this was a daunting task at times.
“The biggest challenge here was cutting — taking out scenes and lines from the play that were not essential in the film version,” he says. “It was hard because I had seen these work so well on stage, but I knew that too much chattiness would kill the dramatic tension.”
This meant trimming about 15-20 minutes of material and adding several visual sequences to go along with the answering machine messages that serve as transitions between scenes.
“In the play, these were just heard in the dark, which I didn’t think would fly on film,” Sloan said. “So we conceived these sequences of still photographs, compiled from a number of friends and even the NYC Fire Museum, along with some moving images later on.” A hopeful tag to the ending was also devised, and it stands as the only section of the film shot outdoors.
“This ending wraps things up on a more optimistic note,” Sloan said, “and brings us out of the apartment at the end.”
Sloan says that the release of the high definition film on iTunes (WTC View) for purchase or rental has led to its discovery by a whole new viewership.
“Because it was a gay lead character,” he said, “when it first came out in 2005, it was somewhat restricted to playing the gay festival circuit and ended up having its broadcast premiere on Logo [MTV’s LGBT channel”>. While I’m incredibly grateful to those original audiences, I think the film can appeal to really anyone who has an interest in the topic of life in the city post-9/11.”
For more information about the movie, check out www.facebook.com/WTCViewMovie. To watch the trailer, go to WTC Trailer.

Leo Buck

With both the aim and professional motto being to bring readers: "Broadway, Theater and Entertainment news you’re NOT going to find in the pages of 'People Magazine' or 'Entertainment Weekly'," Leo has been covering various aspects of the Entertainment industry for close to two decades now. From DVD, film and theater reviews, to celebrity interviews, to book and restaurant reviews, and events designed for more mainstream as well as alternative tastes, Leo's pretty much handled it all for such publications as "The O.C. Blade", "4-Front", "Rage", "Gay Chicago", and "Camp Magazine" (in Kansas City) and even "N.O.W. Magazine" in the UK, and "Gay News Amsterdam" in the Netherlands. In addition, he served as the on-camera "Entertainment Correspondent" for two years on "The Gay News" broadcast via the internet television service, "Village TV". Six years ago he discovered this thing called the internet, establishing his on-line review column, "Buck-ing Trends". Since then he's been pleased to return to his first love of live theater--particularly musicals--where, on top of keeping local theater-goers informed, his new goal has been to demonstrate to as wide an audience as possible that the local Southern California theater scene is just as vibrant, creative, traditional, alive, and (at times) down right eclectic as any other major metropolitan area--including that world-famous Boulevard in New York City.