Woog's World / A son of Westport making a mark in film
By Dan Woog
Children inherit the world their parents create. That's a mantra Jared Frank believes, and he feels lucky to inherit a beautiful, safe world. It was created for him here in Westport, where his parents moved when Jared was in sixth grade. It was here he grew up exposed to the arts, intellectual challenges, and the encouragement of a caring community to follow his dreams.
But such a world is rare. And the more Jared saw of other suburban towns -- the desolation, sameness, anomie -- the more the NYU Tisch School of the Arts graduate was drawn to use his own inherited world to explore and explain that one.
Then the housing bust hit, and Jared had his chance.
"Kingswood" -- a short independent film -- is a product of his keen insights, sharp eye and tremendous vision. Set during the housing crisis, its landscape of stalled developments and vacant homes represents both a crumbling of the American dream and a defilement of our national inheritance.
Kat -- a teenage runaway and scavenger in an exurban wasteland beyond the reach of authority -- wanders from one empty house to another. She meets a group of high school kids -- including a boy named Jacob. He tries to help, but like the ruined landscape around her, Kat proves difficult to repair.
It's a compelling if often bleak story. But Jared is making it soar.
Less than a decade out of Staples High School, he has a track record of creativity and accomplishment that -- he readily acknowledges -- was nourished in his unique suburban hometown. Since graduating from Tisch in 2006, Jared has directed, edited and shot videos. He formed his own business, Topsy Design, for which he has styled fashion shoots, designed and costumed films and music videos and decorated residences. Jared also runs an online lifestyle store, which drew raves when it opened last year
At Staples, he had to balance the rigors of dance and the demands of AP and honors courses. He found an amazing group of artistic friends -- people like Bronwyn Lonsdale, who now produces videos; musician Tyler Anderson; director Daryl Wein, and opera singer Toby Burns. At Staples, too, thanks in part to literature and creative writing courses, Jared discovered the power of the written word.
By the time he entered college, his focus had shifted to visual arts.
Tisch, he says, "put me in a room with the right people. I got a camera, and learned how to shoot. It was a great, creative environment."
New York was "the real world." There were artists everywhere -- and critics. "You can't be coddled in the city," Jared says. "Everyone sees what you can---- and can't -- do." Once again, he realized he was being shaped by his surroundings.
As he moved after his 2006 graduation into the film world -- learning how to direct crews, handle technical and administrative tasks, and produce a product that touched and influenced viewers -- he kept returning to the theme of roots, influences and communities. He knew the power of personal stories, and searched for a way to tell the tale of suburbia.
In "Kingswood," Jared says, "I wanted to explore a scarred world, one that parallels the scarred background of a character." Because he is not from that place -- Westport, he says, has "a real strong and positive history" -- he felt he could bring an important, clear eye to such a story.
Jared has spent many months scouring the country for a suitable location. America does not lack for stalled housing developments -- in fact, the number of bleak, semi-finished homes attests to the truth of Jared's message.
He has also been casting actors. "Finding great, natural 18-year-olds is really hard," he notes. "These are real 3-D characters. Not many teenagers can handle these roles."
And he is raising money. That's an odious task for every moviemaker, but Jared's enthusiasm and energy have won over several key contributors. Many are from Westport.
He's nearly a third of the way to his fundraising goal. (Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to "Fractured Atlas," c/o Jared Frank, 678 Broadway, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10012, or made through the website www.indiegogo.com/Kingswood.)
The film goes into production this summer. Jared will edit it throughout the summer, then submit it to film festivals in the fall. At the same time, he's finishing a feature screenplay based on "Kingswood."
Jared lives in Los Angeles now. He's going places -- professionally and geographically. But wherever he lands, he'll carry plenty of Westport with him. Clearly, he's inherited the world his parents created for him.