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The Stew: A Young Filmmaker's Perspective on the Gen-Z Experience in NYC

Written and Interviewed by Nathan Zierlein

Photography by Thea Wiener

Following the lives of a reclusive artist colony in Brooklyn, New York “The Stew” follows a posse of 20-somethings while they navigate their emotions, relationships, and creative identities in this turbulent rite of passage tale.

Nestled between Gates Ave and Palmetto St is the intimate Bushwick studio set of “The Stew”. After hiking from Myrtle Ave. photographer Thea Wiener and I swing open the heavy front door and climb up the winding staircase of the rustic industrial building. Once at the top, we’re greeted by 22-year-old indie director, Isaac Woon, on the rooftop of his production for “The Stew”. The studio run by founders Jaqueline “Jackie” Brockell and Oz Hewett has transformed itself into a creative haven for Woon and his close knit studio mates. So much so that “The Stew” is a parody of his daily life and friendships at the coveted artist hub. Inside, the amber light of the afternoon radiates through the many large windows. From floor to ceiling, various art, paintings, and crafts adorn the cozy art space. I’m ushered to an elevated seating platform with a hash and nick-nack cluttered table separating a set of two mismatched couches.

Sitting across from me is studio mate Jackie who plays “Olive” and Nadege Giraudet, band member of Salt People whose original song “This Here Shout” is featured in the score. Giraduet is also credited as playing the character “Tiger”. We whisper back and forth giggling amongst ourselves while on set frequent scene cuts disrupt our banter.

Do you feel any connection to your character? How did you get involved in this project? Brockell: “Isaac has been painting here for I guess the last year [..] the script kind of came from our day-to-day together. What it means to share this artistic space, this creative space, how we use each other's tools and how we get into each other's hair [..] fun coexistence, the script is loosely based on the members of the studio. [Giraudet chiming in] He was insane for that!” Giraudet: “In the last year and a half we (Woon & Giraudet) started meeting with another group of actors on a regular basis and work-shopped different things [..] He wasn’t planning on having me a part of the cast. Initially I was cast as “Olive” and Jackie as “ Tiger” but we switched after the first reading. [Turning to Brockell] Is the character you're playing based off of you? Brockell: That's the thing, I don’t know who was based on me originally, they’ve (the characters) evolved so much over the readings.”

What have you learned about your character Tiger and how does she relate to you? Giraudet: “I mean I think she’s coming more into being a person, I don’t think i’m very similar to her. She’s harbored quite a bit of resentment. I do relate to her being young and struggling and learning who she is with everyone else. Figuring out who they are in relation to each other, how people reflect back at you [..] I think that's a lot of the story as well, almost like a hall of mirrors. I think it’s cool how Isaac covers this.”

After dropping out of school in 2021 at Western Washington University, Woon decided to relocate to NYC in hopes of pursuing his creative endeavors in a post lockdown urban landscape. Originally from Tacoma Wash., Woon is a painter, screenwriter, and actor who’s developed a creative network for himself in the sceney artistic underworld of Bushwick, N.Y. Inspired by the likes of Lena Dunhem and Phoebe Waller Bridge, Woon’s directorial message is that his audience is not alone and that isolation can be surmounted through art and human connection. Woon’s contagious charisma has inspired sibling, Nikola Woon, and high-school friend, Lily Rand to leave Washington State for the Big Time in the Big Apple. Managing lights and sound on set, N. Woon previously worked with I. Woon on set design commissions for theater companies and Off-Broadway productions. “I moved to New York a year ago, partially to spend time with Isaac, partially for architectural jobs and partially to see the city,” says N. Woon. Since then, the familiar trio have spent that year working alongside one another creating art in the studio space. “The Stew” actress Rand or “Stella” has become a close confidante of Woon following their moving in together. Rand clarifies “We definitely weren’t as close in high school as we are now, I actually ended up moving here because of Isaac [..] I live with Isaac now”. As daylight dissipates and a cool draft creeps in, Isaac sits across from me wearing an all black beatnik ensemble and a pair of stylish Dr. Martens. The cast and crew slowly trickle out and “the we’re left only with Woon and a few stragglers.

What was your initial inspiration for “The Stew”? Is this story based on your reality, someone else’s, or an entirely fictional one?

Woon: “Usually I write with specific actors in mind, I did start with the cast. You know? Writing either for or against people’s voices . It’s sometimes interesting to see people play the

opposite of who they are. My character is “Nazar”, which is definitely a side of who I am and airing out some of my own shit [He laughs]. Usually when I’m writing I typically write about a character based on myself. It’s like my entry into the world of how I understand things.”

What sets “The Stew” apart from other contemporary coming of age narratives? Woon: “I’d say for sure it’s a coming of age story, part of it is dealing with expectations of being an adult and realizing what that means for you [..] but also being totally untested in the world. You have all these ideas about who you are and what’s possible [..] and then you realize you have very little experience. What sets it apart is that I’m writing it during my coming of age. I think it’s as accurate and up-to-date as that could be. I think there's also something about gay loneliness that is very real in the film.”

Does “The Stew” navigate the innate discomfort of connecting with others as a young person?

Woon: “At its core it’s about impotence and fear that's underneath [the lack of connection]. It’s sort of like the inability to actualize your dreams, the inability to connect with people, the inability to fully live in an unafraid way. Which I think has a lot to do with gay stuff.” Are there any creative processes that drive your script writing?

Woon: “I spent a lot of my time out and about with my voice memos app recording people talking. This was inspired by Annie Baker who is a playwright who writes hyper-realistic dialogue [..] I’ve done eight or more drafts of it (The Stew). Another interesting thing is seeing how the actors fight against the lines I give them.”

What is a piece of wisdom or advice you’d give to upcoming directors or screenwriters? How could a young director get started on making their first film?

Woon: “Start with your friends or people that are doing things or would be willing to help you, if you’re a writer write from your own life and write from things you know [..] even starting with a character that is like yourself is an easy entry point into a story. I’d say leaning on your friends or even asking people who aren’t that experienced if they could do lights or sound for you is another way to make that connection.”

Producer(s): Marcus Clément @hommeclement on IG.

Director: Isaac Woon: Isaac Woon Art Website:

Link Tree: The Stew Link Tree (Soon to be updated, serves as a way for people to follow the project)

Written and Interviewed by Nathan Zierlein

Photography by Thea Wiener

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