Continuing on with this week’s theme with our interviews of cast + crew from the short movie we made for On My Block Films, today’s post features our neighbor, Michael Lapthorn. When he’s not acting as production manager, kid-wrangler, and/or rushed, coffee-loving businessman in local film, he spends his time planning exhibitions in one of the most impressive museums in the world, which we found pretty interesting. Also interesting—Michael and his wife, Siobhán, have lived in our neighborhood for 15 years now.
Read on to learn his thoughts on movie-making, the neighborhood’s evolution over the years, and blowing up Central Park.
Kindness of Ravens: So, what made you get involved with On My Block Films in the first place? Do you have a background in theatre or film at all, or was it just something fun to do?
Michael Lapthorn: I had made some student films way back in college and I remember that it was a lot of fun and that you could get really lost in the filmmaking process. I wasn’t sure until I actually went up the stairs (Ryan lives two floors above me) that I would be able to commit to the process, knowing how all-consuming it could potentially become. But I’m glad I made the right choice.
KoR: Did anything strike you as especially challenging about the film-making process?
ML: Not really, other than being aware of what was going on, what everyone else was doing, and trying think a couple steps ahead so as not to get bogged down.
KoR: Yes—to my understanding of the job responsibilities, you were a superb production manager in that sense. Were you surprised at how effective the project was in bringing together a bunch of people who didn’t really know each other that well prior to the movie?
ML: Totally. I think we all instinctively realized that, since our time was so short, we had better think as a group and let our individual wants sit back a bit for the good of the whole—sort of proof of the power of collective thinking.
KoR: Our hive mind was commendable. What did your kids think of being in the movie?
ML: Quinn (child who found the camera on the street and then promptly drops it in the toilet) loved it, even though he got the jitters when the cameras started rolling. I think Lucy had less personal investment in the project, but she gave a very naturalistic performance.
KoR: True—we all felt pretty terrible when she wiped out on the sidewalk…but at the same time knew that was probably some pretty great footage. Our hats off to Lucy’s commitment to method acting. So, you pitched a film idea early on that very nearly got the vote. We thought it was an awesome idea that had the potential for coming out really funny. Any plans to potentially run it for the actual competition now that you’ve got a well-seasoned crew in place and ready to go? Our cat would have to be involved again, clearly.
ML: Absolutely – if I ever get the time to write something down. Day jobs suck.
KoR: They do put a cramp in my more natural computer-game-playing, nap-taking inclinations. You’ve been in the neighborhood for a pretty significant amount of time—15 years, right? How has the area changed in all that time?
ML: Our block has actually changed very little, except for a huge infusion of children, strollers, and the cars to put them in. Mazzola’s hasn’t changed a bit, but the old Nino’s (now Francesco’s) and the Salumeria (now Bar Bruno) were definitely authentic old school. It’s also become something of a destination, as opposed to a pass-though to the bridge over the BQE.
KoR: That’s interesting. I guess it’s still pretty solidly old-school Italian. I know it may result in massive generalizations, but what do you like more and less about the neighborhood now as compared to when you first moved to it?
ML: I like having felt like we made the right decision to stay close to downtown Brooklyn. It was a bit of a sacrifice in terms of apartment size, but we get the best of Brooklyn, and can get to the city in a matter of moments.
KoR: What brought you to Carroll Gardens in the first place?
ML: Siobhán and I both dug the low buildings, the trees, and the laid-back vibe. And the rent was cheap.
KoR: So, when you’re not making movies with people on your block, you act as the Senior Exhibition Designer for Metropolitan Museum of Art. My first question has to be—do you get lost every morning when you go to work? We’ve been members of the museum for a little while now, and I seriously cannot tell North from South once I set foot through those doors.
ML: No, I don’t get lost—I groove on finding the most efficient routes to various parts of the building, which happily sometimes involves taking secret staircases by hidden doors. I also cover several miles a day just getting around. The place is about eight blocks square.
KoR: Secret staircases? I want to take secret staircases! Can you explain what’s involved in being an exhibition designer? Did you get to try on the knight’s armor in the Medieval room? If so, related question—do you need an assistant?
ML: I get interns sometimes, but it’s mostly solo work. We get assigned to a curator and work through theme of the show, the object list, and figure out what goes where. Often I’ll need to draw up a new case or some special display. We hardly ever get to touch anything—that’s the technicians job.
KoR: Application withdrawn. What’s it like working at one of the most prestigious, most well-known and -respected museums in the world? …besides awesome.
ML: It’s pretty cool. But working at the Met is actually not that different that working in any other extremely awesome environment. In many ways you can just replace plastic widgets or ad pitches with priceless works of art and it’s about the same. I deal with most of the art in a very abstract way—I get dimensions and a picture and then I have to imagine what it could be and draw what it takes to make that happen.
KoR: Seems like a lot of three-dimensional drawing in the brain. Was it nuts working there when the McQueen exhibit was going on?
ML: It was definitely hard to get through the museum. Thus secret passages.
KoR: Any favorite current exhibits?
ML: Greek + Roman, South + Southeast Asia.
KoR: Do you have any crazy museum stories? Something bizarre someone did or tried to do with an exhibit or someone sleeping the night in the Egyptian tomb or…I don’t know….
ML: I think of all the cool things that have happened in the Met since I started, it would have to be that when the American Wing courtyard was being renovated, they blasted—literally blasted with dynamite, chipped away, and scooped out with giant backhoes—an additional 30,000 square feet of storage space into the Manhattan Schist bedrock of Central Park UNDER the museum. And the Tiffany fountain (made of glass, of course) six feet away was completely unharmed. That’s good engineering.
KoR: That sounds pretty intense. Alright, lightning round—Totem animal?
KoR: Astute guys. Best thing about having kids in New York?
ML: Exposure to everything.
KoR: Worst thing about having kids in New York?
ML: Exposure to everything.
KoR: Well-said. Preferred super power?
KoR: Favorite thing about the Met?
ML: Going in early when all the lights are off and there’s nobody around.
KoR: Sounds eerily peaceful. Nickname growing up?
KoR: That’s a bit of a let-down. Favorite spot in Carroll Gardens?
ML: Cabrini Park. Although that’s probably more the Columbia St. Waterfront District.
KoR: Huh. I’ve been by but never in. Favorite tattoo, either real or theoretical?
ML: Some medieval manuscript marginalia I saw somewhere once.
KoR: Alright. Finally, most rewarding thing about being involved with On My Block Films?
ML: The low-ish level of commitment I was able to offer to the process was accepted without question.
See Michael’s handiwork by visiting the Met 930AM-530PM, Tuesday-Thursday, 930AM-9PM Friday + Saturday, and 930AM-530PM Sunday. I dare you not to get lost. And check out Michael’s acting chops here or over at the On My Block Films site.