Private Project

TWO TRENTONS: An American City Speaks

Trenton is a city with much to say.
Two Trentons is a hard-hitting look at a city desperate to redefine itself - through art, music, education, and prison reform - from its all-too-familiar image as a blighted, urban lost cause of decay, violence, hopelessness and moral decline. Featuring numerous interviews with city planners, clergymen, scientists, mental health professionals, artists, musicians, educators, and non-profit volunteers, the experiences of the people who live, work and struggle in Trenton are movingly expressed with eloquence and urgency. Two Trentons doesn't flinch from truth-telling, nor from giving people an opportunity to have their say.
Filmed across two years, Two Trentons looks at the life-defining struggle between mindsets for the survival of a community.

  • Brad Mays
  • Joe Hulihan
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 30 minutes 36 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 23, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    80,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Brad Mays

A veteran of dozens of stage, television and independent film productions spanning some thirty years, Brad Mays first became interested in theatre and film while attending high school in Princeton, New Jersey in 1970. Shortly after appearing in his first school play, Joseph Heller's "We Bombed In New Haven," he was invited to participate in a work/study program at the McCarter Theatre, a professional repertory company housed in an elegant proscenium house in town. This valuable experience, in which Mays appeared in both speaking and non speaking roles in "Macbeth" and "Caesar At The Rubicon" crystallized his love for the stage, and when his family moved to Baltimore, it was not long before he became involved in an experimental theatre company, the Corner Theatre ETC. There, Mays had a chance to participate in some pretty far-out stuff, most notably several plays written by Gordon Porterfield, a highly controversial Baltimore playwright. It was in this environment that Mays was given his first chances at directing main-stage productions for paying audiences. Among these less-than-stellar efforts were: Ionesco's "Jack Or The Submission" and "The Future Is In Eggs," "Lovers" by Brian Friel, Mart Crowley's "The Boys In The Band," and John Whiting's "The Devils Of Loudun".

Following studies at Towson University, Mays he directed and co-starred in a very well-received production of "Equus", which he followed up with Euripides' "The Bacchae." Again, the reviews were favorable and audiences encouragingly large. During the next two years, from 1981 - 83, Mays directed productions of "Chamber Music" by Arthur Kopit, "White Whore And The Bit Player" by Tom Eyen, and Brecht/Weill's "Threepenny Opera."

Mays' first New York effort was an evening of one-act plays written by his long-time friend Linda Chambers. "Joan," "Stones," and "Requiem" were performed at the Cubiculo Theatre, which once housed the National Shakespeare Company. This was followed by a highly inventive staging of "The Water Hen," by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy to those in the know), which critic Mark Matousak praised for its "masterful comic direction." After two more plays, "Altitude Sickness" and "The Stipulation," both written by David Weisberg, Mays took his first shot at independent film making with his production of "Stage Fright" (1989), which played at the Berlin Film Festival. By the end of that year, Mays was living in Hollywood.

The first work Mays was able to get in the entertainment mecca was script writing and doctoring, which he did for several years for a variety of producers. During this time he also continued directing plays: "Dragon Slayers" by Stanley Keyes (screen writer for "Stage Fright"), a two-act version of "Joan" by Linda Chambers, and a second attempt at directing Euripides' "The Bacchae" in 1997, which was immensely successful and received not only superlative reviews but three LA Weekly Theatre Award nominations: for Best Production Design, Best Musical Score, and Best Direction. Determined that this achievement would make for a wonderful independent film, Mays and life-partner/producer Lorenda Starfelt undertook to do just that. The results were fascinating if uneven - "The Bacchae" (2000), with whom Mays and Starfelt shared an less-than-happy collaboration with producer John Morrissey, boasts excellent performances but suffers from an uneven visual scheme.

Following the turmoil of "The Bacchae", Mays began film editing as a way of paying the bills. "Resillience" (2005), "Shakespeare's Merchant" (2003), "Dodo" (2006), "Showgirls - Provincetown, MA" (2008) and "Crystal Fog" (2008) are just a few of the numerous films he edited for other directors. Among the plays he directed during this period were "Marat/Sade" by Peter Weiss, Euripides' "The Trojan Women" (which he filmed as a stage documentary), and a controversial multi-media production of Anthony Burgess' "A Clockwork Orange", which was nominated for three LA Weekly Theatre Awards: best revival production, best actress and best direction. Just as Mays had predicted would happen, the production received the Best Actress Award for Vanessa Claire Smith's riveting portrayal of the play's main character Alex, a teenage psychopath who is destroyed then ultimately revived by his love of classical music. "A Clockwork Orange" was the last play Mays staged in Los Angeles, and he is inclined to regard it as his legit theatre swan song.

In 2006, Mays directed and edited the documentary feature "Sing*ularity," which depicts the innovative methods employed by Ann Baltz's famed OperaWorks Program for the training of opera singers. The following year, he directed the romantic comedy "The Watermelon" (2008), produced by Lorenda Starfelt and written by Michael Hemmingson. "The Watermelon" received its world debut at the San Diego Film Festival. Later, the film won the "Diamond Award" at the 2011 California Film Festival. Several other films quickly followed - the political documentary "The Audacity of Democracy"; "A Way Back In", which was featured at the Idyllwild International Fesitval of Cinema, and subsequently won several awards; the award-nominated 2011 comedy web series "Customer Diss-Service", and the 2012 comedy short, "The Donut Shop", winner of "The People's Choice Award" at the 2012 San Francisco Black Film Festival and "Best Comedy" at the 2013 San Diego Black Film Fesitval.

In 2009, Mays was invited by producer Annie Wong to participate - along with Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, theatre scholar Richard Schechner, and acclaimed actor Alan Cumming - in a discussion about "The Bacchae" for the acclaimed PBS series "Invitation To World Literature, which is now a permanent feature of Annenberg Media's educational website.

May's most recent feature films are the documentary "I Grew Up in Princeton," a unique exploration of what life was like in the shadow of one of the world's great universities during the cultural and political upheavals of the late 60s/early 70s; "Road Rage," a bleak comedy about falling in hate, which premiered in March of 2016; "Aiden's Butterflies," a short film portrait of a young boy who is doing his part to save Monarch Butterflies from extinction; and "Jubilate Trego," a loving feature tribute to one of the greatest American choral directors of the 20th century. In September of 2019, Mays premiered his feature documentary film "Two Trentons: An American City Speaks" at the New Jersey International Film Festival, where it won the "Best Documentary, Honorable Mention" award. In 2020, he directed the music video "Leviathan," for Detroit producer Blake Harrington. He also worked as cinematographer on "Rags Of Time: J. Robert Oppenheimer," for his friend, director Patricia Robinson-Linder.

Since 2020, Mays has also completed writing two plays: "A Tissue of Lies: A Story of Horatio, Fortinbras and Wittenberg Following the Overthrow of Denmark", and "Culture War: Savonarola and the Medici's".

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Director Statement

I went into this project with no set ideas about what the film was going to be, what it was going to say. My usual approach to documentaries is to just shoot as much footage as I can, and then allow the film's themes to emerge, unabated - let the film speak to me during the editing process.

I could never have anticipated the tragic ART ALL NIGHT shooting. It happened on what was supposed to be my final day of filming, and it turned out to be one of the defining elements of the film's narrative. Trenton is a beautiful city; an arts-driven city. It is also a town at war with itself. As such, it is a microcosm of America.