“The Holdouts,” a new web series raising money on Kickstarter, is an ode to what some have called vanishing New York. It’s the story of “a blue collar guy who just wants to get day-wasted for three dollars,” but every gin joint he used to haunt has turned into a Starbucks or a Duane Reade or a Bank of America. Created by Dan Menke and Stephen Girasuolo, Menke wrote the script specifically with stars Kevin Corrigan (“Goodfellas,” “The Departed”) and Jayce Bartok (“The Cake Eaters”) in mind.
“Kevin and I for a while had been sending each other the Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York thing, bitching at four in the morning about something closing,” Menke said, speaking from his rent-controlled Williamsburg studio. “Being a native New Yorker as he is, the underlying theme of people being priced out and the struggle to try to stay here was definitely something Kevin connected with.” For years after meeting Corrigan, Menke wrote possible projects. “I would periodically get up the nerve to send them to him,” the writer said, “and he liked this one.”
Menke met Bartok when the actor appeared on his monthly variety show hosted by New York’s filthiest marionette, The Arty Need Show. Originally, the show was about two down and out actors — with a running gag that Corrigan would always get recognized for his role in “Goodfellas,” while Bartok got mistaken as someone’s cousin’s ex. “With the added backdrop of gentrification, the project has deepened exponentially,” said Bartok. “It gives it that meaning, that edge, that wow, this is relevant.”
Though he may be less recognizable than Corrigan, Bartok cut his teeth with bit parts in classics like “The Fisher King,” and “School Ties.” More recently, he has written and produced two features; “The Cake Eaters,” with Kristin Stewart and Bruce Dern, which won best feature at The Stony Brook Film Festival in 2008, and “Fall to Rise,” starring Daphne Rubin-Vega.
The gentrification subject is particularly relevant to Bartok, whose artist mother moved him to Soho when he was eleven. “We moved to Soho when it was bodegas and art galleries, that kind of ‘After Hours’ Martin Scorsese Soho, and over 20 years I watched it become this kind of Euro mall.” Bartok was a Soho holdout until five years ago, when he moved to the Fort Greene neighborhood in Brooklyn. “You couldn’t leave the house on weekends,” he said. “There was no neighborhood anymore.”
The series has a bit of an “Odd Couple” feel, with Bartok playing the naïve newbie and Corrigan schooling his character on the real New York. The team is hoping the five-minute episodes will gain momentum like the hit web series “High Maintenance,” and get picked up for television.
Why are such accomplished film and television actors turning to web content? According to Bartok, “these days, just business wise, when you have major movie stars doing pilot after pilot, and you’re competing with Tony winners for one episode of ‘Elementary,’ you’re like wow, this is it, it truly is an actor’s life.”
It almost sounds as tough as say, holding out on a New York apartment.