JERSEY CITY — Yaniel Paulino said he was one of those native-born New Yorkers who weren’t too fond of New Jersey.
But now, after living in Jersey City for six years, he said the city’s grown on him. The community has helped ground him as not only a person, but a film director too, he added.
Paulino, 31, was awarded Chelsea Film Festival’s Best Audience Award on Oct. 18 for his debut feature film, “GreyScale.” It was in Jersey City’s parks, Paulino’s Journal Square home and small Downtown office where the award-winning product of “GreyScale” was crafted, he said.
“I love the landmark here and that has helped me put this film together…,” Paulino said. “When I moved to Jersey City that’s when I had the time to actually sit down, edit the movie and finish filming the movie.”
“GreyScale” takes place in New York City and follows the life of Alex, a photographer who becomes colorblind and, later on, learns she’ll also have to accept completely losing her vision. The news pushes her to anxiety, depression and suicide attempts, leaving questions for her creative ability, Paulino said. Eugene, a freelance painter, falls in love with Alex and becomes her backbone as she navigates through her struggles.
Paulino said “All the Light We Cannot See,” a 2014 book by Anthony Doerr, inspired “GreyScale.” The award-winning book focuses on a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths cross in France as they try to survive the aftermath of World War II.
Paulino read the novel a few years ago and the idea “caught his attention.”
“I sat with my writer and said, ‘Let’s make a simple movie on the struggles that a blind person goes through and their daily lives,’” he said. “So often we don’t get to see what they’re going through.”
When Paulino heard he was given the Chelsea Film Festival’s Best Audience Award, he was shocked.
The international festival is a renowned New York film event that highlights the work of emerging filmmakers, producers and actors. The Best Audience award is given to a film the audience thought was the best as opposed to a set of judges or chosen jury.
“It’s an honor to be selected because the audience chose ‘GreyScale,’” Paulino said. “It tells me that we are on the right track… We’re trying to bring hope amidst the pandemic.”
This is Paulino’s first award for a feature film. His short film, “A Walk Within,” also won an award a couple of years ago.
“GreyScale” is set to debut next at the Montreal World Film Festival, one of Canada’s oldest international film festivals and the only competitive film festival in North America.