DRIVERS WANTED at DOC NYC : New York’s Documentary Festival

November 12th, 2012 by Mr. C

(Photo credit: Joshua Z Weinstein)

Director: Joshua Z Weinstein
Producer: Jean Tsien

Drivers Wanted was a fun & eye opening documentary about a NYC Taxi fleet company with its charming but no-nonsense owner Stan, & a few of their colorful characters that roam the big apple as their cab drivers. Stan’s company established in 1956 as – 55 Stan Operating Corporation is run out of Long Island City, Queens off of Vernon Blvd, not too far from where we usually romp around looking for new graffiti in LIC on Jackson Avenue at 5 Pointz.

The taxi garage at 55 Stan is a straight up timewarp. It seems like nothing has changed since they first opened up in 1956 unlike the vehicles, mechanics, & drivers that have probably pilfered through there since. The aged & bruised lockers that are scattered about in the breakroom, the Ms. Pacman arcade that chomps around and lightens up the grim space, the plexi or perhaps bulletproof glass that separates the dispatcher and the cash from the cabbies at checkin/checkout, and the high pitch echoing sounds of impact guns powered up by air compressors in the garage as bolts are being unhinged, all form a sense of day to day hustling at LIC in the NYC. The other constant of course is Stan – a man that runs his cab company with an iron-fist but has a heart of a lion that truly cares for his drivers – a lion king of sorts of his domain. Stan joked in the beginning of the movie that he was like the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz, that when you opened up the curtain or the window to reveal the Wiz – out would spill a short and spunky Jewish guy doling out words of wisdom! Stan remains active in his company as he dispatches, answers the phone, & assigns cabs to his drivers as well as recruiting for new cabbies at a nearby hack licensing center.

(Stan at the lobby of IFC after the screening)

Another charismatic character in the garage is Spider, a 90 year old cab driver who has roots in the south but has found a home in NYC driving a cab for 67 years now. With a cigar in tow and with his own feisty outlook in life, he drives a cab a few days a week as well as helping out at the garage. Spider even accompanies Stan while he looks for new recruits acting as a driver/lookout for traffic cops while Stan passes out flyers at the hack training center.

The main character that the camera follows around is Eric, a chinese immigrant who drives a tour bus that recently had his work schedule scaled back to just driving 1 day a week. He struggles to support his two kids and wife. We follow Eric as he obtains his cab license and captures the attention of Stan who is always on the prowl looking for a few good men/women to navigate his yellow cabs!

Eric and his family graciously opens up their lives so that we may get a peek at his trials and tribulations of working as a new cabbie for the best Taxi Fleet company in NYC as Stan describes it!

(Eric’s 2 kids, Joshua Z Weinstein(director),Stan, & Jean Tsien-producer)

Drivers Wanted is a documentary that is polar opposites of the well known “Taxicab Confessions” show on HBO. This film focuses on the person behind the wheel of a yellow cab, their lives, their families, and how they came about driving as a hack in the city that never sleeps. It will take us viewers on a fun filled glimpse of the outspoken Stan and his company – 55 Stan Operating Corporation along with a few chosen drivers including an experienced old lion (Spider) and a rookie (Eric). I can tell you after watching this documentary, I have a whole new found respect for cabbies and what they have to go through to survive. It really touched a nerve in me. From the amount of money the drivers have to pay ($160) to lease the taxi per shift to the fare jumpers to driving in haphazard weather conditions – all the way down to the everyday hustle.

Stan was in attendance at the screening and I asked him after the Q&A if he was a fan or have watched “TAXI” the 1970’s sitcom with Danny Devito, Tony Danza, & Judd Hirsch AND Stan said his company was the inspiration for that show! I wasn’t sure if he was serious or if he was Stan being Stan but I wasn’t about to argue with him!

If you get a chance to see DRIVERS WANTED – do it! It’s charming, it’s touching, it’s real, it’s New York! I believe the director Joshua Z Weinstein mentioned that it will have a week run at RERUN Theater starting November 30th in Brooklyn! Go for yours!

There was a brief Q&A after the screening of Drivers Wanted at IFC Theater – DOC NYC Festival. Joshua Weinstein (director), Jean Tsien (producer), Stan, and Eric’s wife and two kids were in attendance! Eric couldn’t be there because he was working! All hail the yellow cab!

(Q&A after the screening)

(photos and video by mr c)

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