• Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest

© 2019 Erik Goddard

Occurrence at West 71st Street: the story

September 3, 2018

 

 

I've had the idea of a set of murder scenes in miniature for many years. As the ideas formed and coalesced, the ideas grew from individual scenes, to a set of events happening in a place where they might be connected. It wasn't long before the idea of an apartment building began to emerge as the place where all these events could be connected through a story, but also revealed to the viewer through different views through the windows. Of course, it wasn't an original concept in that sense; Rear Window, like all things Hitchcock, had never been far from my mind. But with a unique story that fleshed out the residents of the apartments, and a contemporary approach, the stories behind the characters, and their relationship to the murder, could be related somehow, joined by some common story.

 

I had the visuals. That was the easy part. I sketched out the various apartments. There would be police tape; the red and blue of police lights on curtains; there would be closed doors, or doors partly ajar, with shadows; there may be bloodstains; there could be evidence throughout the scenes to enable the viewer to form connections and sleuth their way towards a conclusion. 

 

But as the lines came together and the size and scope and shapes of the scenes became clearer, it became increasingly obvious that I needed a story. Now, I can create a fictional narrative pretty easily; I have stories that morphed from notes or dreams to 100,000 words in a matter of weeks. But there was something about the atmosphere and the feeling of these apartments that kept tapping me on the shoulder. A place where people have lived tells as much a story as the people who lived there do. I kept thinking about Tosca

 

Just like that, I knew I had my backstory. It had everything: romance, jealousy, murder, revenge, suicide. beauty, tragedy. Puccini's opera was perfect. It would tie all these scenes together in a format originally meant for grand drama. I could hear those arias and the building music as I imagined scenes from the opera. It would be perfect!

 

But wait. Tosca's backstory was based on a work by a French playwright that took place during the French Revolutionary wars, 1800 to be exact. I delved into the details of how Puccini finally acquired the rights to use the piece as inspiration. The backdrop of the play was the threat to the Roman state of a Napoleonic victory. This meant that in much of the story pesky little things like a Papal government, secret police, assassinations, not to mention the French fucking Revolution were all swirling in the background. That stuff would be tough to mansplain in a modern retelling, the hell! A modern reboot of the story behind Puccini's opera Tosca... maybe it wasn't the story I needed after all.

 

But over some weeks I kept returning to it. Much like Puccini had viewed the playwright Sardou's work as the framework for his own piece rather than the scripted source, I began to think about Puccini's version itself as my inspiration, and not focus so much on the elements that went into the opera. I began to consider the background details that had been bugging me all along. The more I thought about it, the less those political and social details in Tosca stood as obstacles. In fact, they seemed to translate very well into the modern American political landscape. I won't embellish those details here, since that is the point of the work. 

 

Then it was game, set, match. The address I knew already: somewhere on West 71st Street. I had the characters. I knew their motivations. I knew why their apartments looked the way they do. I know what happens to all of them. I know how their stories are connected.

 

The rest, as they say, is in the details.

 

 

 

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Please reload

Archive
Please reload

Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square