Ian Moubayed ’12 was panicking. Inside his New York City apartment was camera equipment worth thousands of dollars that he needed to take to a shoot with Matthew Akers, a critically acclaimed filmmaker with whom Moubayed was working. It was a dream gig for someone just a year out of school—the kind of rare opportunity you just don’t want to screw up. But also inside the apartment? Moubayed’s keys. Flustered, he called family members, eventually getting some actionable advice: Call an emergency locksmith. Fifteen minutes later, Moubayed was in, nascent career unscathed.
The experience triggered Moubayed’s cinematic impulse. Initially interested in scripted filmmaking at Denison, he eventually shifted to documentary work, producing his first film—which covered a controversial Peruvian conceptual artist—during his junior year. The experience sealed his interest in making documentaries. Now, in his conversation with the locksmith who opened his apartment door, he saw the potential for a trove of stories about a city hidden behind locked doors. He visited a few locksmiths as the idea was germinating, eventually finding a company in Brooklyn that offered some compelling characters and story lines: a veteran locksmith who was handing over the reins to a mentee; an oldschool, comic-relief-type owner; and a New York City borough struggling with rapid gentrification. “There was an opportunity here to tell larger stories,” says Moubayed.
By May of this year, he had shot about half of a documentary film he’s titled “Keys to the City,” launching a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund the rest of the project and pursuing sponsorships and outside investors for support. He hopes to add cinematic re-creations to the final product and bring on an Emmy Award–winning producer to help guide the film. If all goes according to plan, the movie will be released next fall, in time to hit the film-festival circuit.
For Moubayed, the film is personal. He feels a kinship to the retiring locksmith, who expresses a sense of alienation from a city that constantly welcomes him in. “I could relate to that,” says Moubayed. “Being surrounded by all these people and still feeling very alone—I very much connect to that idea.” As a Connecticut native and relative newcomer to NYC, he’s also aware of the irony of his telling the story of Brooklyn’s gentrification. “The echo I hear from the people who live here is a sense of loss—the loss of culture, the loss of family life,” he says. This movie is his way of ensuring those voices are heard.