Ten Thousand Saints, the new film from directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, covers a lot of ground. It’s about love and family and secrets and growing up, but in a lot of ways it’s also about New York City. Specifically, it’s about the East Village—the neighborhood where the film, which stars Hailee Steinfeld, Emily Mortimer, Ethan Hawk and Asa Butterfield, takes place—around the area’s infamous 1988 riots.
“I read a review of the book by Eleanor Henderson, 10,000 Saints, and thought it sounded like something I would really want to read,” Berman explains. “I had actually personally been in the Tompkins Square Park riots, I had happened to stumble into it, so I was like, wow I should really read this book. And then I really fell in love with it.”
Pulcini adds, “We had been actively looking for something to do that was set in this era in New York, and this book came along that Shari found and it was set in the year that I moved to Manhattan, when I was really taking everything in, so it seemed like a great fit.”
Here, Berman and Pulcini share some of their favorite neighborhood spots.
Pulcini: “I had a work study job at the Public Theater when I was a film student. They had something called Film at the Public, and it was just an office of three people. I got to meet Martin Scorsese several times. All kinds of people came through those doors; I got to watch Woody Allen direct when he would rent spaces there. It was very exciting. I also got to see a lot of theater. And now it’s as vibrant as ever.”
Berman: “I have a real personal connection to this place. In the mid ’80s I met [playwright] Miguel Piñero, and he said, ‘Come, I wanna show you something.’ It’s this amazing, performance-based space with a café, and it’s really in the spirit of the old East Village. It’s there for giving opportunities to emerging artists, poets and playwrights. The first screenplay that I wrote when I was in film school was produced there.”
Berman: “When we were young filmmakers, we would treat ourselves to Moroccan food here. I hadn’t been back in years and we went there when we were location scouting and had lunch because we were shooting right there. It was fantastic. It was better! I thought, oh, we’re just remembering this being really good, but it really was fantastic.”
Pulcini: “When I had no money, this was my spot. We went two or three times a week and I would have soup and challah bread. And there’s something very romantic about that counter, you feel kind of like an immigrant who used to reside there. It just felt very traditional in a wonderful way—and it was great to go alone.”
The Horseshoe Bar
Berman: “Some people call it Vazac’s, some call it 7B, some people call it Horseshoe Bar. But it’s just the East Village bar in my opinion. It’s been there forever. We filmed in Tompkins Square Park and I wanted to go in but we were too busy shooting that I didn’t get a chance to go in. It was already closed when we wrapped. So I haven’t been there very recently but when you visit, you can feel generations of East Villagers from Ukrainian immigrants to 1970s hippies, punks, hipsters and NYU students. It just feels like the life of the East Village. Also, my mom grew up as a little girl right down the street from there, so I imagine my grandfather going and having a beer there.”
Pulcini: “When I moved to New York, I couldn’t believe The Sock Man, I became obsessed with that place. I used to go there because it was there, I would go there to get socks just because it existed. It was so special and wonderful. I’m just happy that it survived. I think it’s really a tribute to this guy who really focused his business. And you can get any kind of wild sock there. Everyone should go to The Sock Man.”