The New Year Parade

The New Year Parade is an unusual combination of a narrative film about divorce set within documentary footage of string bands competing in the annual Mummer’s Parade in Philadelphia.

I’ll give it 2.5 stars out of . It’s been over three months since I saw it as I write this, and my memory is pretty vague. That generally means it wasn’t a great film.

I saw this at the Camera Cinema Club in Campbell on 7/20/2008. The writer/director/producer/cinematographer/editor Tom Quinn was at the screening from Philadelphia to answer questions (there may be minor spoilers below):

  • The mummers is a Catholic Irish tradition
  • The first parade was in 1901, and was shot by Edison in 1902
  • Some bands spend $70-100,000 even though the prizes are much smaller
  • Quinn started by interviewing his friends about their parents’ divorces (his parents are together)–the friends are starting their own families, so it’s on their minds–the stories had a lot of similarities
  • Quinn wanted to make the film of just the small moments in the divorce process
  • He’s actually from the suburbs and not South Philadelphia, but had to film in South Philadelphia since it’s a character
  • Almost all the leads were non-professionals (sister, brother, and mother), and the father was played by an relatively novice actor
  • Quinn had very little money ($8K to shoot), so he tried to make that weakness a strength: he used non-professional actors as well as real string band members and footage
  • Usually it was only Quinn and one other crew member (light/sound/second camera) plus the actors
  • The dialog was about 50% scripted and 50% improvised–there were long takes with some scripted lines and some not, so even though they often used the scripted lines, the context felt more real
  • There were two months of rehearsals
  • The girl who played Cat (the sister) was a high school girl who Quinn met though her art teacher
  • Quinn had to recast the brother after they started, to a long-term friend
  • They shot about 160 hours of footage: about 80 hours of the Mummers and 80 of the narrative scenes
  • The film was shot over 3 years–no one could cut their hair
  • And it was shot out of order
  • There was going to be a story line of Cat and her mother watching the old home movies–it got cut for time
  • Quinn is still working on distribution–he plans to start around New Years in Philadelphia and expand (self distributed)–he hopes to get a distributor for the DVD and downloads
  • A lot of the band members are cops, so for random concerts they just block off the street
  • “The great thing about not having money is that you have to have relationships with people”
  • Quinn tried to make his first feature in second grade–and he tried every year until he was 28, when he finally made one


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