Jono Robertson is a Bushwick-based writer and director, who has collaborated with filmmaker Victor Oliveira for over eight years, producing short films that have traveled around the festival circuit and the internet.
On Jan. 28 at 8 p.m., they will be doing something a little different and premiering their first feature film called “S.S. Swenson,” as a private screening at the House of Yes. Preceding the feature film screening they will also be screening a short film called “Cucina,” by Oliveira, which is a story that follows the disappearance of a young man’s mother which results in his drunk father trying to mend a relationship that was never there.
Their collaboration is personal and deliberate, which shows in the work. In “S.S. Swenson,” written by Robertson and co-directed by Oliveira, they tell the story of three siblings grieving the loss of their father. Having descended to the point where they are homeless degenerates, they live in a fantasy world where they are a ship crew in search of a sea vessel.
Robertson wanted to tell a story about grief and how we all personally cope with it. “The nautical themes come from my childhood, my family would spend every summer on a little boat. When my family was in the suburban community, we were the family other people felt sorry for, with the dying parent,” said Robertson. “But in the summers, we lived in our own fantasy world where everything was okay, on our little boat. This movie deals with characters creating fantasies to cope with their present and past, how far they will go to protect that fantasy, and what’s its breaking point is.”
As an artist, it is known that your environment is everything when it comes to creativity. Over the course of his time in New York City, Robertson found that living in Bushwick has given him the opportunity to get away from the slow pace of his hometown of Toronto, but has also offered him a safe haven from the chaos of Manhattan. Given the complexity and sensitivity of his storytelling, it makes sense that he has searched for a space that allows him room to create relationships and be available for when inspiration strikes.
“Surround yourself with the best cast and crew possible. Work extremely hard,” he advises. “It’s an expensive art form, so if you aren’t loaded you’re going to have to be willing to make great sacrifices, can’t wait around to be discovered by someone who will pay the way for you.”
This go-getter attitude is what has allowed Robertson and Oliveira to work so well together, “We’re blessed to be surrounded by artists and in a community where we can thrive.”
Another important factor of sharing stories like this, is having a clear vision of what the storyteller would like an audience to get out of the experience.
“As viewers, we’re all looking to feel something. If you are vulnerable the audience may follow you there,” he explained. “So you have to be personal and vulnerable. You need to make it interesting and play by the rules of storytelling, but at the end of the day, your project’s main roots should be highly personal. We hope it’s a funny and moving journey with compelling characters.”
“Cucina,” by Victor Oliveira is being screened on Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m., and “The S.S. Swenson,” at 8 p.m., at the House of Yes. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are on a donation basis with a suggested donation of $10. All funds raised will go toward representation and distribution of the film. Reservation can be made here.
All images courtesy of Jono Robertson.