|2000, 15 mins. (Columbia)
Director/Writer: Andy Watts
Producers: Gaye Lirot, Betsy Alton
Executive Producer: Tony Argento
Director of Photography: Patrick Cady
Production Designer: Bryan Johnson
Composer: Randy Lee
Cast: Willie C. Carpenter, Jasmyn Ledford, Ephriam Martell.
|As a college student, Andy Watts commuted from his Astoria apartment to the Columbia University campus in Manhattan. It was the view from the Triboro Bridge of green treetops poking out between red-brick apartment buildings that gave Watts the idea for a short film. The juxtaposition of the city's concrete with lush greenery inspired Concrete, a film about a botanist who decides to make a garden behind his apartment building. "I kind of worked backwards," said Watts. "I was in a New York City frame of mind, and I started from the dramatic moment in the film when this guy digs up the concrete and starts to plant a garden."
"There was just something about that image that made me want to build a story that led to that moment. City people don't have a lot of greenery, so I thought maybe it would be a good idea to make the main character a botanist." From the simple image of the birth of a garden in the concrete jungle, Watts crafted an engaging film that centers on a growing friendship between an aging scientist who is interested in the use of plants to clean polluted air and a young girl who enjoys plants for their beauty alone.
The film reflects Watts's lifelong relationship to the city—to Queens, where he grew up, and to Columbia University, where he went to school. The apartment scenes were filmed in his building, and the greenhouse scenes were filmed at Columbia's own greenhouse. The science consultant for the film was a graduate student whose focus was on the use of plants to clean up toxic waste sites. From her, Watts learned that "plants help filter the soil, and they're a very cost-effective way to clean up these sites."
Columbia University had another very important resource for Watts: instructor Peter Miner, a highly regarded television and stage director known for his outstanding casting ability. In Concrete, Willie Carpenter, as the botanist, and Jasmine Ledford, as the young girl, give wonderfully naturalistic performances.
Concrete screened at numerous festivals (Urbanworld, L.A. Shorts International, Harlem Film Fest), and was licensed for broadcast on Japanese television
|Phytoremediation: using plants to clean soil, USDA|
Research network, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities