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Film Uses Local Church, Destined for Condos, as Inspiration

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St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church and School, which date back to 1892, will one day be home to condos, but until the conversion construction starts, the complex serves as an unconventional temporary arts space. It's been co-opted for use as artists' studios, a concert venue, and a party locale?all with the permission of property developer Cayuga Capital Management, which purchased the site, along with others nearby, for $4.1 million in January of 2011?but perhaps the quirkiest of all its after-spiritual jobs has been as the inspiration (and backdrop) for a film that's in post-production.

Rover, a movie about a cult leader who tries to mobilize his followers by having them make a divinely ordained movie together (yes, that's a film within a film), basically spurred forth from director Tony Blahd's brain because of the sheer availability of the Gothic church as a cheap setting. No surprise, because the church, located at located at 626 Bushwick Avenue, is beautiful. Check out a photo essay and an artsy, sweeping video of all the cool architectural details. "The whole movie was reverse-engineered," says producer Matthew Thurm. "What kind of story can you tell with a 19th-century broken-down Bushwick church and [a budget of] $50,000?" But now that filming is done, the team is trying to raise money for post-production costs in a Kickstarter campaign ($1,500 to go!) that ends tomorrow morning at 11:23 a.m. EST. UPDATE: And they hit their goal, so keep an eye out for the film.

Rover's makers need the extra cash for things like sound editing, visual effects, and color correction. For its part, Cayuga Capital Management still hasn't procured the proper permits from the Department of Buildings to proceed with construction, but the plan is to eventually convert the church, school, and surrounding buildings into 99 residential units and parking spaces with over 90,000 total square feet of space.

The limbo before gentrification comes, then, has been a creative catalyst of sorts for the area, which is an unexpected perk. "It sounds sad on the surface of things, turning a church into condos. But they didn't really have a congregation anymore, and they were looking for a buyer, and they found it," Thurm says. "In the interim, artists have a place to work, musicians have a place to play, and we had a place to make our movie."
· Rover's post-production fundraising campaign [Kickstarter]
· Leaders Want Bushwick Rezoning so It's Not the Next Billyburg [Curbed]
· Coverage of 626 Bushwick Avenue [Bushwick Daily]