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Ten Thousand Saints 2015

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1980's New York City... Rage. Riot. Rebirth.

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About the Ten Thousand Saints 💬

A sad, funny coming-of-age story that follows three screwed up teens and their equally screwed up parents in the age of CBGBs, yuppies, and the tinderbox of gentrification that exploded into the Tompkins Square Park riots in New York's East Village in the 1980s.

Jude (Asa Butterfield) is a teenage boy who is trying to reconnect with his father Les (Ethan Hawke) in 1987 Manhattan. When Jude's friend, Teddy (Avan Jogia), dies of a drug overdose, Jude finds himself befriending a group of friends who are against drugs, alcohol, profanity and sex and live for punk-style rock music. When he meets Eliza (Hailee Steinfeld), who is sixteen years old and is pregnant with Teddy's child, he and Les are forced to be her rock as she struggles through her pregnancy and early motherhood while Jude struggles with his feelings for her and his relationship with his father.


Since its earliest days, New York City has been in a constant state of flux, ever-changing and evolving. This may explain why generations of New Yorkers routinely long for their New York, the version of the city that existed in their heyday. For years we've wanted to make a movie about ours - a late 1980's city of contrasts, of both urban decay and wild creativity. As in two of our previous period films Cinema Verite and American Splendor, we hoped to find a story rich with characters, whose internal struggles paralleled the more universal changes of their eras. After a long search, we finally found the perfect vehicle in Eleanor Henderson's elegiac and widely acclaimed novel Ten Thousand Saints.

We picked up this book by pure accident, but ended up connecting with so many aspects of the material. Although born in New York, Robert moved back to make the city his permanent home the very year the story is set. Shari (a born and bred New Yorker whose mother grew up across the street from Tompkins Square Park) was actually a participant in the 1988 Tompkins Square Park riots. Most importantly, we were both extremely moved by the novel’s exploration of the cosmic nature of the family.

We were also drawn in by the visual nature of the novel. Moving between the garbage-strewn streets of the East Village and the snow-covered world of bucolic Vermont, Ten Thousand Saints offered us an exciting cinematic canvas. Making a period film on an indie budget is always difficult, but we were determined to bring this story to the screen. We knew the only way to approach it was to find a creative team who shared not only our passion, but an eagerness to find new ways to work and rework on a limited budget.

The right DP was key, and Ben Kutchins was more than enthusiastic about our decision to shoot Super 16. Conceived initially as a way to roughen up today's all-too-pristine East Village, this vintage stock also handled our designer Stephen Beatrice's unconventional palette beautifully, from the browns of dilapidated tenements to the saffron hues of Krishna robes. We also needed to find creative ways to shoot around the abundant anachronisms popping up everywhere: bright blue banks of Citibikes, gleaming high-end towers, etc. Our resourceful and thrifty team met this challenge with tons of garbage, well-placed background artists and lots of filthy snow (generously donated by nature during one of New York's most brutal winters).

Music had to be an integral part of Ten Thousand Saints and we were inspired by the eclectic mix of Straight Edge Hardcore (and more specifically Krishnacore), 1980's alternative music (REM, The Replacements, The Feelies, The Cure to name a few), Eastern influenced Hare Krishna chants and the rock of the parents' generation. As for the score, it needed to balance many things including the gentrification conflict brewing in the East Village which ultimately culminated in the Tompkins Square Park Riot. Yet it also needed to express Jude's internal dilemma - his yearning for Eliza, his acceptance into the Straight Edge world, and his rebellion against the anarchy of his parents' lifestyle and, perhaps, the universe in general. Composer Garth Stevenson’s double bass approach to melody seemed like a great way to bridge the gap between all these building tensions, while also expressing Jude's budding emotional awakenings.

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the novel are its rich characters, all deeply flawed but equally heroic and we were excited to find amazing actors to breathe life into them. We couldn't be more thrilled with the cast we assembled to do so. We were incredibly lucky to land the first actor we approached for the project in Ethan Hawke, who found himself drawn to the same ideas that initially attracted us to the material. Ten Thousand Saints addresses themes the two of us have consistently addressed in our movies - identity, class, belonging and self-discovery. While these ideas originated in the splendid mind of novelist Eleanor Henderson, in many ways and for many reasons, we often marvel that Ten Thousand Saints feels like the most personal film we've ever made.

Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman

Ten Thousand Saints Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Robert Pulcini

Shari Springer Berman

Writing Credits

Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman (Screenplay)

Eleanor Henderson (Based on the novel by)


Asa Butterfield

Hailee Steinfeld

Emile Hirsch

Julianne Nicholson

Ethan Hawke

Emily Mortimer

Nadia Alexander

Avan Jogia

Music by

Garth Stevenson

Cinematography by

Ben Kutchins

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Music

Country: United States

Ten Thousand Saints Official Trailer

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