“Off Track Betty,” a Short Film About the Changing Lower East Side, Featured in Online Exhibition

Still from OffTrackBetty2015

Still from OffTrackBetty2015

Here’s another chance to catch “Off Track Betty,” a short film we featured about the disappearing Lower East Side, which was shot before the Essex Crossing development began. Many of the locations used for the story no longer exist.

The film is screening in a curated selection of work created by the New York based film collective, FilmShop.  As most live film festival screenings were cancelled due to the pandemic, the organization created a new initiative called Filmshop Exhibition, an online showcase offering members the opportunity to share their work virtually via curated blocks by notable members of the entertainment industry.

“Off Track Betty,” written and directed by Clayton Dean Smith, tells the fictional story of Betty Kaminski, “a longtime resident of the Lower East Side who begins to question her place in the city she calls home.”  In an interview with Smith in 2015, who had lived on the Lower East Side for about 15 years, he told us the idea for the film came during his morning walk past Delancey and Essex streets.

Smith became fascinated by a building on the southwest corner that featured a faded OTB (Off Track Betting) sign on the top of its facade. He wondered who lived there. “In my mind I had an image of a woman,” he said. “It was a flight of fancy.”

Long after writing the script, he realized that the setting for the film was very much an endangered place. The shooting locations were all in and around the former Seward Park development site. One scene takes place in front of the old Jade Fountain Liquors, which was swept away along with the rest of the former Essex Street Market building on the south side of Delancey Street. Another scene was partially shot inside the former shoe store at 402 Grand St., a building that will be demolished in a matter of weeks. “Every frame of this short,” said Smith documents a landscape that will be totally changed. “It will serve as a kind of archive” of the Seward Park site as it looked before a nearly two-million sq. ft. residential and retail complex rises from the rubble.

The free series kicked off September 10th and runs on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through October 24th on the FilmShop Exhibition website.