The Long Wait for “New York Waiting”

In my spare time, I do background acting work for films and television shows. Some of these don’t ever see the light of day, but others do in a way that is more glorious than expected. When they do air, it’s interesting to see where your “work” falls into the context of the plot, particularly since background actors are used for specific scenes, rarely for the entirety of the film.

One of these projects was a film called “New York Waiting.” A crew of friendly Swedes needed a select number of background actors for a scene atop the Empire State Building. Call time 5 a.m., wrap time 8 a.m. – just in time for me to catch a bus back to Washington, D.C., at 9 a.m. for a weekend trip. And they even let me store my suitcases on the set. Not bad day of work for a New Yorker who, sadly, hadn’t even visited this particular tourist spot. At the end of the shoot, one of the actors hoped that she would be able to see the film on the big screen. One of the crew members echoed that sentiment.

Fast forward a year later, and “New York Waiting” had snagged a coveted slot in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.

“Sitting at home in Sweden and saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be great for us to premiere the film at Tribeca?’ to it actually happening seemed like a giant leap of space, time [and] faith,” said director/writer/editor Joachim Hedén, who, even 11 days into the 13-day festival, was still astonished by the enormity of his debut film being screened in the Big Apple.

Shot in New York City and Florida, the film takes an interesting look at lovesickness through the eyes of two characters, Sidney (played by Chris Stewart) and Amy (Annie Woods). When the two travel via separate journeys to New York City hoping to salvage failing relationships, they have a chance encounter in the city that never sleeps. As it turns out, the Empire State Building plays a pivotal role in the film: our early-morning shoot substituted for sunset in a crucial scene. Never mind the fact that my red and black bag purchased in Las Vegas had more air time than my countenance did; I wanted to see how the characters’ fates at the end of their parallel paths turned out.

Visually, the movie made effective use of color, switching from panoramas to black & white flashbacks to tightly shot dialogues. In terms of the acting, the standout performance was by the magnetic, doe-eyed Woods. Her palette of emotions ranging from the anxieties in her relationship with the slimy Michael (Don Wildman) to her newfound belief in love is believable and heartfelt.

“Annie really was always at the top of our list,” Hedén said of the exhaustive audition process, which included about a half-dozen flights to Los Angeles to screen talent. “There was another actress who also was very, very good. She might have been considered by some as a safer choice. But I always felt that Annie had it in her to really do the character of Amy.

“I remember, distinctly, the first day of production after [her] first shot,” Hedén added. “[I]; Jonas [Sörensson], the producer; and Patrik [Thelander, the director of photography]…we just looked at each other and silently nodded to each other that we had made the right choice.”

“New York Waiting” is, altogether, a cinematic ode to the Big Apple and a reminder that even though a multitude of people from all walks of life cross through here, random meetings can lead to life-changing decisions. It’s a strong debut for Hedén, whose background was primarily in commercials and music videos.

“New Yorkers have come up to me and said, ‘It’s so nice to see New York City portrayed as a nice place where romantic encounters can happen,’” Hedén said. “In some ways, New Yorkers have, if not rediscovered the city through this film, certainly gotten to reconnect with that other aspect of the city of New York as this place where chance encounters are possible and where people actually can connect.”

On a more personal note, a combination of efficiency, friendliness and professionalism is a rare one indeed when it comes to film crews. All three of those were exhibited on that cool early morning in 2005. All the best to Joachim and everyone at Way Creative Films as they embark on their new adventure following their Tribeca international premiere.