Josef “Birdman” Astor was blissfully unaware when he started filming Lost Bohemia that he would end up documenting the end of the artist colony where he lived. Astor spent 20 years in the studios atop Carnegie Hall before he and every other tenant was served with an eviction notice in 2009.
“My producer said ‘I’m sorry you are getting evicted, but now we have a story arc,” Astor recounts
During his time at Carnegie, he had already started to film some of the colorful personalities living in the place and documenting some of the famed guests of days past. During the glory days, a teenaged Marlon Brando walked the halls. Astor, a still photographer, knew better its latter-day residents, which included portrait artist Editta Sherman.
The artists were cleared out to make room for offices, and Astor’s film touches on the loss of a bit of art history. But he made sure not to miss out on the chance to tell the story from the point of view of an evictee.
Because he is filming events as they unfold in real time, Astor’s film has a home video feel, he says. But while he is an undeniable participant in the unfolding events, the main focus from the start was always to tell the story of the building’s many tenants.
Lost Bohemia will be shown at 6:45pm today and at 4:24pm Tuesday.