Initially my idea was to find a small group of young people interested in filmmaking. Working with them, as well as with my UnionDocs colleagues Anthony Simon and Beyza Boyacioglu, we would workshop an idea for a short fictional film based on aspects of their lives that they would co-write and perform, and which I would direct. However, this initial concept changed when we met Emony Sabria Jones and decided to work with her alone.
Emony was in many ways the ideal collaborator. She was intelligent, self-reflective, and interested in writing and performing. She was also at a pivotal time in her life. Her senior year of high school was coming to an end, and she was preparing to move away from her close-knit family in South Williamsburg to attend college the following year. We decided our collaboration would focus on her experience of this transitional moment.
Our process over the next few months was exploratory and open-ended. Emony and I met regularly to discuss what was happening in her life and to brainstorm how to portray this in our film (these meetings were filmed by Beyza and Anthony). I gave her a series writing prompts asking her to imagine what her life would be like at various points in the future and also what her mother and grandmother were experiencing at various points in their pasts. We constructed scenes to shoot that were inspired by these writings, and we also documented some of her life at home, at school, and around the neighborhood.
The project became a kind of collaborative portrait of Emony at this particular moment in her life. Our time was limited by her imminent departure, but I think the resulting film, brief as it is, effectively captures something of Emony’s state of mind during the time we spent with her. Goodbye Southside is intimate but also tentative, fragmentary, and subjective. As a portrait of a young woman still discovering herself, made by filmmakers who were just getting to know her, this seems entirely appropriate.”
— MICHAEL VASS