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International Motion Art Awards: Dustin Cohen's "The Shoemaker"

By David Schonauer   Thursday March 13, 2014


Brooklyn-based filmmaker Dustin Cohen’s short documentary The Shoemaker is the fourth installment of a video series about the craftspeople and artisans who live in his beloved borough. “Whether it’s a couple of young guys opening up a woodworking shop in Greenpoint or a shoemaker in Bensonhurst who’s been at it for over seven decades, I find it amazing how many people are creating and producing things here,” says Cohen. His International Motion Art Awards-winning profile of cobbler Frank Catalfumo is both intimate and tender. “I'm interested in the people, their stories, and their voices,” says Cohen. As he explains below, the decision to focus on Catalfumo was an obvious one: “I remember walking into the shop for the first time and it was like stepping back in time; and I immediately knew this was a story that needed to be told,” he writes.

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International Motion Art Awards
The Shoemaker
By Dustin Cohen

I started filming The Shoemakerduring the summer of 2012. It was filmed entirely in and around Frank Catalfumo’s shop in the Bensonhurst area of Brooklyn. I went back there several times over the next few months to shoot. The film was released in early April of 2013.

I read about Mr. Catalfumo a few years ago in a local newspaper article, and I thought he would make for a good story. He opened up F&C Shoes in 1945 and to this day, at age 91, he works five days a week. I remember walking into the shop for the first time, and it was like stepping back in time; and I immediately knew this was a story that needed to be told. The smell of leather and shoe polish, all the textures, the original machinery, it was really something special. I went back the next week with a filmmaker friend of mine, Michael Hurley, and we filmed and documented Frank and his son Michael working for the day.

The Shoemaker is the fourth installment of a personal project I started a couple years ago entitled "Made In Brooklyn." It is a video series about makers, craftspeople, and artisans who are based in the borough. Whether it’s a couple of young guys opening up a woodworking shop in Greenpoint or a shoemaker in Bensonhurst who’s been at it for over seven decades, I find it amazing how many people are creating and producing things here. These are narrative driven, human-interest pieces. I'm interested in the people, their story, and their voices. I go and meet everyone beforehand, talk with them, see their workspaces, spend time with them, explain what I'm doing and why I think this project is important. There's no exploitation, and I think that's an important part of it. And once people realize that, we're able to get in there and tell an intimate, truthful story. This is so important when all I have to offer in return is a DVD with the final video and the photographs.

We were geared up with Canon 5Ds, a variety of Canon lenses, a small travel slider and some minimal audio equipment, doing our best to not be in the way while the Catalfumos worked just like any other day. The shop is not big, and we needed to keep our impact very minimal. I went back a handful more times by myself to the Bensonhurst shop, some days focusing on stills and other days on interviews and b-roll.

Every story that came out of Mr. Catalfumo was so thoughtful and retrospective. He really has lived an amazing life, dedicating himself to his family, his community, his country (he is a World War II veteran) and his craft. The response to the short film thus far has been so incredibly positive; I’m humbled by it.

I was born in Los Angeles, raised in the Bay Area, graduated from UC Santa Barbara, and I've spent the last nine years living in Brooklyn. When I was 21, I moved to New York City to pursue photography and filmmaking and shot stories for Rolling Stone, Billboard, Inked, XXL, and a bunch of other publications.  A couple years ago I helped develop a network TV show, and that really opened my eyes to the filmmaking world and helped guide me into more video projects.  My clients now include Bose, Stella Artois, Macy’s, Roche USA, and Whole Foods. I have a few projects in the pipeline, but I’m always looking for new, interesting stories and people to explore, so if any of you out there know of any, send them my way!

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