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FREEDOMLAND

About The Production
Before principal photography began on Freedomland in late March, 2005, director Roth, producer Rudin and their production team scouted every low-income housing project in the New York/New Jersey area to find the right location for the film's Armstrong Houses, where much of story takes place. (Price's model for Armstrong, the Jersey City housing complex Curry's Woods, had been demolished several years previous). They finally settled on Mulford Gardens in Yonkers, New York state's fourth largest city just across the Hudson River from New Jersey. Built in 1939 as one of the nation's first low-income housing projects, Mulford Gardens consists of more than 550 apartments in 17 groupings of three and four-story buildings that sprawl over a Yonkers hillside. Itself scheduled for demolition in the fall of 2005, Mulford Gardens was still 75 percent occupied when the production filmed there for almost four weeks, close to half the total shooting schedule.

Freedomland production designer David Wasco was born in New Jersey not far from the location in Richard Price's story. Although it's a universal story that could have taken place in any American city, Wasco and director Roth felt it important to maintain the fictional New Jersey world described in Price's novel and script. Wasco extensively researched New Jersey neighborhoods, police stations, hospitals, low-income housing, parks and city streets, as well as the people who lived in those communities. And that is reflected in the production design and the costumes in the movie.

Wasco describes Mulford Gardens as "labyrinthine, cascading down a hill with steps that evoke Escher engravings, unlike many such projects, which are on a flat landscape with vertical buildings. It had a trapped feeling but wasn't your cliché ridden, graffiti strewn, drug-riddled world,” he says. "It sort of had a real sense of family and community that was very strong." (It also mirrored Price's script in that it had a park across the street as well as other elements that were pivotal to the action of the story).

Mindful of the fact that hundreds of families lived at Mulford Gardens, the filmmakers met with the residents early on about how best to avoid any potential disruptions to their daily lives during filming. "People live here and we had to be respectful of that,” says Roth.

More than 50 residents worked as extras in the film. Others were hired by the locations department, or rented out rooms in their apartments to the production company. At the same time, the film company did some reconstruction work on several of Mulford's more decayed sections. Wasco was surprised at the residents' response to some of the smallest details. "I remember that as soon as we had finished putting up one of the backboards with a basketball hoop on it, it was swamped with kids,” he says.

Mulford Gardens was also happy to have Jackson as a visitor. "The neighborhood loved him,” says Eldard. "People on the street just dug Sam Jackson.”

The production later hosted a large barbeque for all the Mulford residents to celebrate the completion of filming and to thank them for their patience and cooperation. "The community came to feel that the movie was theirs, and rightly so,” observes Roth.

The city of Yonkers offered the filmmakers several other locations, including Ashburton Avenue, which stood in for Dempsy's Martin Luther King Boulevard. "Yonkers is similar to Northern New Jersey in that it has a kind of small town feel,” says Roth. Other Yonkers locations included the Yonkers Community Action Program building on Ashburton, which supplied the setting for several interiors, as well as the exterior for the Dempsy Police Department.

"Freedomland,” the abandoned children's home where Lorenzo leads the search for Brenda's son, was filmed in the actual location<

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