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Local Bartender Brings to Light Bushwick's Millennial Alcoholism Through Short Film — Arts & Culture on Bushwick Daily

Local Bartender Brings to Light Bushwick's Millennial Alcoholism Through Short Film

A personal story of a local bartender explores the hardship of young adult alcoholism in Bushwick.

Anna van der Heijden

anna.vanderheijden1@gmail.com

Last week, short film JONES, which was shot in Bushwick, won Best Drama Short at the Twister Alley International Film Festival. JONES is a short film that follows Jones on her journey from realizing that she has an alcohol problem to trying to stop drinking. The eight-minute long film sketches a realistic picture of the struggle of overcoming addiction. 

The writer of the film, Marzy Hart, does not just play Jones, she is Jones. Her own experiences with alcoholism were the inspiration behind the story. As a teen, she went from being the odd one out to one of the cool kids, which came with drinking alcohol. It wasn’t until years later that she realized that she was a functioning alcoholic.

“I had this set of rules for myself,” Hart said. “Like, if I don’t drink alone, I’m not an alcoholic.”

Right after high school, she moved to Bushwick and worked as a bartender. With a group of bartender friends, her life quickly started to revolve around drinking. When someone suggested an alcohol-free month and no one succeeded, Hart realized that she had a problem. She tried going alcohol-free again, and, with the help of a great support system, she managed to do it.

Production crew.

“I don’t think you have to be struggling with alcoholism or addiction to identify with this story,” said Stacey Maltin, the director of JONES. “What I find so fascinating about JONES is the inner demons aspect. We all have voices in our heads and I wanted to explore what happens when nothing can drown them out.”

The film uses a very personal story to tell a universal one: everyone has internal struggles to deal with. When the heroine caves and opens her liquor cabinet, she finds a note-to-self saying: “Nice Try.” One AA meeting is not going to fix her problems, just like there are no easy fixes for anybody’s internal struggles.

This movie aims to normalize conversations around alcohol addiction. New York City's Health Department considers you to be a heavy drinker when you have at least one (women) or two (men) drinks per day. When you consider this, having a glass of wine with your pasta, an after-work beer with your co-workers, or a nerve-calming cocktail with a date, doesn’t sound that innocent anymore. We all drink a lot, because drinking is ingrained in our culture, so we might not realize that we have a problem.

“In New York, drinking is so much part of our social, as well as our careers, that you almost feel this pressure that you have to drink,” said Carrie Radigan, the producer of JONES. “I wanted to tell this story, because I think people, especially millennials, need to hear it, because people don’t think about their health until they’re older. And it should be more acceptable for people to not drink.”

Hart wanted to illustrate this in a scene, where passed out in an alley, two other intoxicated women try to steal her bike. She said: “You see this person who realizes that drinking is a problem, and you see the way it’s considered completely normal in society and everyone is doing it. So it’s hard to realize that you’re doing something that is not great for you.”

Production crew.

In Bushwick, going to bars is part of the neighborhood culture. There is a place to get drinks on almost every corner, which makes it a very accessible thing to do. Hart was one of those people who got lured in by the neon bar signs of Bushwick. Because her struggle with alcohol peaked and faded in Bushwick, she felt like it was important that the film was shot there.

“I’m going to come off as a bitter sober person,” said Hart, “but I think that it’s a problem that alcohol is so accessible to young people. I don’t know what it would look like to have something that is not bars necessarily, but I think society needs a way to diversify our activities.”

On a sweltering summer’s day in 2018, the small crew spent two days shooting JONES. This was not the first, and won’t be the last film the women make together. Hart and Maltin, who both live in Bushwick, were such a great team in the past, that they decided to start a company. They named it after a hashtag they always used to describe what they did: Besties Make Movies.


All images courtesy of  Joel Crane.

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