Saturday, July 04, 2009

Life On Screen

If you played word association with the name of the county in which we live, the responses would be fairly predictable. For most, "Westchester" would likely bring up such matches as "affluent," "suburb," "New York" and "bucolic, to name but a few. Some of a certain age might even conjure up "The Dick Van Dyke Show" from the early sixties. After all, it was in New Rochelle that Dick tripped over the ottoman in the living room in the show's opening every week.

That's not to say that it's all green grass and golf clubs. The county does contain cities such as gritty Yonkers and redeveloped White Plains. And a wide variety of people from different economic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds call it home. But on balance, I would venture that more would more associate it with wealthy enclaves, power and privilege than with the cutting edge of rap.

That's why it's surprising what you get when you enter "Westchester Trailer" into your favorite search engine. To be sure, a variety of hits come up, ranging from a business that sells a vehicle to ferry horses that you can tow behind your car, to a place that specializes in RV's and related accessories, to a new piece of EMS equipment that the county recently acquired. However, you'll also get links to a series of promotional shorts for a film under development, titled "Westchester."

If you think about it, it's probably not surprising that the county would be fodder for a screen drama. After all, we've had any number of TV shows that focused on young adults and kids in other wealthy enclaves, such as "The Hills," "90210" and "The OC." More recently the genre has moved east, with "Gossip Girl" and its reality spin-off "NYC Prep." So it makes sense that someone would edge a little further north, and tap into the similar zeitgeist those examples share with Chappaqua, Mamaroneck and Larchmont.

The trailer starts down that path. It opens with white on black text in a modern font: "On the outskirts of New York City Culture lies Westchester. The most diverse suburb in the country. Here is a place where kids have seen it all, and will do anything to have it all for themselves." There are shots of big houses, high-end stores and Metro-North trains. So far, no surprises, and pretty much what you might expect. But then it takes a diversion: "It's about where rich meets poor and hiphop meets the 'burbs."

Turns out this flick doesn't take place in your yacht club's Westchester. The show focuses not on rich kids, but those aspiring to be so. And their vehicle isn't Wall Street, but the urban music business. Or as a girl's voice explains after the titles fade, "My boyfriend Twin has a music management company and manages his friend Rome." Hardly the typical labels of Brook, Josh, Summer and Zach you usually find in similar zip codes.

Twin begs and borrows funds from obviously ethnic parents and friends as a way to bankroll his aspirations. Just as Eminen shouldered his way into the hip-hop world and earned respect and a following almost in spite of his race, so too does Twin and his crew hope to strike it rich on the basis of talent. It plays out as the collision of several worlds, from the club scene (for the drinking and macho-posturing scenes) to the shores of Long Island Sound (for the romantic, dreamy, relationship scenes) to what appears to be a Sopranos-esque subculture (for the tough guy, vaguely underworld money scenes). It's all cut together with a thumping music video vibe. Or about as far as you can get from what many consider the highlight of the spring social season, the Mount Kisco Community Fair and Great Rubber Duck Race.

Up until now, Westchester has served as a backdrop numerous times on the big screen, from "Fatal Attraction" (our own town of Bedford) to "Big" (Rye Playland) to "Hell High" (The 1989 B-grade horror film was partially shot on location at Scarsdale High School). On TV, it has been referenced liberally, including serving as the alibi and refuge for many a bad guy on countless episodes of "Law and Order." Should "Westchester" get picked up and made, there's a chance the county may get some name-recognition on its own. True, the portrait may not be the most flattering. But look on the bright side: at least it's not "The Real Housewives of Westchester County." Yet.


Marc Wollin of Bedford prefers living anonymously. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review and The Scarsdale Inquirer.

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