You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Locarno Talent: Charles Poekel On Why Christmas Tree Vendors Should Get More Recognition

'Christmas, Again' plays in the Locarno Festival's Filmmakers of the Present

As the 67th Locarno Film Festival gears up, the festival known for discovering new trends will screen a film depicting a well-known North American holiday tradition – Christmas tree sales. Variety spoke to New York-based director about “Christmas, Again,” his film that shines a light on the lives of Christmas tree vendors. The vendors work 12-hour shifts on New York sidewalks and sleep in cars and campers during their off hours. The film led Poekel to set up shop himself to fund its making, and was supplemented through a Kickstarter.

What attracted you to making a film about Christmas tree vendors?

I had first moved to Brooklyn and I was trying to get a Christmas tree. It was 11 at night and I didn’t know if the Christmas stands were open or not, but I decided to go check one out and see if they were still open and the vendor said, “You know, we never close. We’re open 24 hours. We can’t lock the trees up.”

When he said that it kind of dawned to me that this was this crazy routine that if you live in New York you don’t really think about it.

You have your own Christmas tree stand- McGolrick Trees – which you’ve been running since 2010. Tell me why you decided to set up your own shop?

I realized that it would be difficult to shoot a movie at one of the stands because people are busy and everyone’s trying to make their money. So I thought what if I make my own stand and I can use the profits for the movie. I’ll have a location to shoot at and working at that stand will really give me the first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to be one of these guys.

What was one of the most challenging aspect about being a Christmas tree vendor?

The biggest challenge was setting up and closing down. It’s physically demanding because you’re creating this whole stand overnight. You come in overnight or at 7 a.m. and you’re building this stand that sort of becomes your home for months. Another challenging part is the loneliness and that’s the basis of the film – taking a look at the night guys who just sit there and watch the world.

Where do you get the trees from?

We get them from all over. Some we get directly from the farm and some we get from wholesalers. The trees themselves come from North Carolina. Or certain times we get more local trees like from New York or New Jersey. We even got a couple organic trees last year.

Do you feel like Christmas trees have a future with so many families switching to fake trees?

Honestly I feel like people are switching over to real trees. Even when people walk by the stand they’re just overcome by the smell and people really love that. We sell a lot of trees to people who haven’t had a tree in a while and they’ve had a fake one for a few years but they just want to switch it up. Every year we see a lot of people getting back into Christmas trees.

Tell me more about the process of working with a Kickstarter.

We really got a good amount of money just from the profits from the stand and then we had some outside investors and we felt like we were just a little short. We just felt that our film at the tree stand was very unique and we saw that we were just “x” amount of dollars short and thought that Kickstarter was a good opportunity to do that. And I would say we did it just in time.

Will you also set up shop this year at Christmastime?

Yeah I think so! I’ve really come to love it actually. The neighborhood here has actually come to depend on it and I’ve been getting repeat costumers every year. There are little kids who were two or three when I started who are now going into kindergarten or first grade. It’s really cool to see people come back every year.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Gully Boy to represent India in

    'Gully Boy' to Represent India In Oscars Race

    The Film Federation of India has chosen Zoya Akhtar’s “Gully Boy” as its entry in the Academy Awards’ international feature film category. The picture, a coming of age tale about an aspiring rapper in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum premiered at the Berlin film festival in February before opening to a wave of acclaim at home in [...]

  • Lucy-Lost

    Cartoon Forum: 30th Anniversary, Little Giants and New Generations

    TOULOUSE, France –  Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Cartoon Forum wrapped Sept. 19 having showcased the ever-growing strength of European animation. 85 projects were pitched from 24 countries at the co-production forum platform that played host to north of 1,000 investors, distributors and producers – a record number. Falling on French-speaking Belgium – Wallonie-Bruxelles – whose [...]

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • 'Downton Abbey' Music Gets 'Bigger, Better,

    As 'Downton Abbey' Hits the Silver Screen, the Music, Too, Gets 'Bigger, Better, Grander'

    When “Downton Abbey” fans hear that familiar strings-and-piano theme, a Pavlovian response ensues: Get to the television immediately, because you don’t want to miss a minute of the addictive Crawley family melodrama to follow. This week, with the “Downton Abbey” movie reaching theaters on Friday, fans can’t wait for their fix of Lady Mary and [...]

  • 45 Seconds of Laughter

    Film Review: '45 Seconds of Laughter'

    “Everyone is worth more than their worst act,” said Roman Catholic sister and anti-death penalty advocate Helen Prejean, and it’s with these words that “45 Seconds of Laughter” closes. It’s an apt sentiment on which to leave Tim Robbins’ sincerely felt documentary study of the therapeutic acting workshops run by his own theater company in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content