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In Their Own League – Exclusive Interview with Filmmaker Lynne Sachs

Exclusive Interview with Filmmaker Lynne Sachs
In Their Own League 
By Bianca ‘Bee’ Garner 
July 17, 2020
https://intheirownleague.com/2020/07/17/exclusive-interview-with-filmmaker-lynne-sachs/

Lynne Sachs is an extraordinary filmmaker with a distinct and unique approach to documentary filmmaking. Each one of her films is an exploration into a secret hidden world as well as an experiment with the medium of visual storytelling. Currently, the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival is running a ‘Directors in Focus’ showcase of Sachs’ work where you can catch pieces like “Your Day is My Night”, “The Washing Society” and her latest film “Film About a Father Who”.

It’s been a real delight to explore Sachs’ work as part of the festival and when the opportunity arose to speak to Lynne personally, I jumped at the chance. Here’s our interview where we discuss how she approaches documentary filmmaking, her friendship with Barbara Hammer and the art of editing. 

Bianca: Hello Lynne, lovely to chat to talk. I just want to say how much I’ve enjoyed exploring your work as part of the Sheffield Doc Fest “Directors in Focus”, you have such an unique approach to filmmaking. I find it to be this unusual blend of traditional documentary style filmmaking meets the avant-garde artistic style of filmmaking of allowing imagery and sound to tell the stories. How did you develop this approach and style of filmmaking, and what was it about documentary filmmaking that appealed to you as a filmmaker?

Lynne: I’ll guess I’ll start by admitting that I don’t even know if I would be able to make a traditional documentary, that might be because of when I invest myself into an investigation or a story I take such a deep dive and I am always looking for a visual or an oral method by which I can comment on that particular theme in a way that hasn’t been done before. Sometimes it’s the topic that guides me. 

The more conventional approach would be to have a template or a formula or maybe even a time-limit like 58 minutes so you would have time for the commercial breaks, then you would take your subject and frame it by those expectations. However, that approach never really interested me and I wonder whether I have the skill or the commitment to do that style of filmmaking. 

My desire to work in the documentary realm came from a convergence of the love of art and the love of politics. My background was as an undergraduate in history, I never expected to be an academic historian but it feeds my way of thinking. I wanted my creative juices to fly but the limitations of being a historian weren’t appealing to me.

Lynne Sachs, dir. of Film About a Father Who

Bianca: Did you always strive to have a personal connection with the people and the subjects you film?

Lynne: It’s very important to me to have a complex relationship with the people in my film, just like the one I would have normally with a friend. It takes work, and often in the field of filmmaking there’s the sense of jumping in as quickly as possible then leaving. You actually leave with this gift: the interaction you had with the people you filmed. You then own that gift, but those people don’t have that anymore. I think the whole process has to take a whole circle where you work to find the right participants for your film, you work on that film and then you come back to them after completion and during distribution. 

With “Your Day is my Night” we worked on that film for a couple of years and it became a live performance and I was bringing the people from Chinatown, to places in New York City where they hadn’t been before. I was organising cars for them as they were older people and we couldn’t expect them to travel via Subway. I wanted them to experience that pleasure, and two years after we had finished shooting we took the film and the live performance to a public library in Chinatown where we had an afternoon matinee where all of their friends came.

It was actually quite a sad moment because one of the participants in the film had died since we made the film, so when his face came up in the film everyone in the audience started crying. So, it was a memorial for him in a way. There are ways films can function outside the function of building your career or taking you to film festivals. I really feel committed about the idea of having movies been shown on all different kinds of screens.

Bianca: People often overlook the importance of sound and audio in filmmaking because film is a visual medium. What I find fascinating about your films is that often the audio doesn’t always match up to what’s being depicted on-screen. I think this is brilliantly showcased in your latest film “Film About a Father Who” where we see one version of your father being shown but the narration is discussing a different aspect of his character.

Lynne: I just want to touch on something I hadn’t thought about, the formal connection between the way you understand a human being and the way that film works, and how you process what you see and what you later discover. I think that’s very particular to this medium. We have this notion that the visual and the sound should be married but we all know that marriage is just an agreement that can fall apart. It’s through that use of ‘falling apart’ where we begin to see that what something appears like isn’t actually what it is in reality, and we build in doubt. 

I think doubt should be a part of any filmmaking experience, whether you’re talking about fiction or non-fiction, do we believe the ideology that is intact. If you’re a doubtful viewer in any way then you start to engage with it in a deeper way, you start to question everything and as a result you become more intellectually engaged. What I wanted to say about “Film About a Father Who” that there were times where maybe I was uncomfortable in a situation where I did have doubts, but I wanted to believe that things were more acceptable than they actually were and worked with how I thought a father should be. 

If you think about the foundations of who we think we are as children and the notions of how we fit into that micro community it’s usually pretty transparent. However, maybe that’s no longer the case today. I used to think my family was very atypical, but now that I’ve screened the film quite a lot of people have either come up to me or written to me to share their own experiences. I think our notions of family are now more evolved than how it was when I was a kid.

Ira Sachs Sr. w Painting in Film About a Father Who

Since making the film I’ve been able to have some really profound conversations with those who have watched it. Whether or not it’s your mother or father who have secrets it’s their way of protecting themselves, but it also leaves an imprint on us and we’re left with a sense of confusion about how we’re supposed to process this new information and emotions. 

Bianca: The impression I got from your film was that this was not only a self-discovery for you but also a self-discovery of who your father is. It was a self discovery of a family too.

Lynne: It took me a year of going through all the videos and super-8 films and I realise I had a lot of content about my father. The traditional approach to documentary filmmaking is that you take all the footage and make a character so people leave the movie thinking they really know that person. I thought about whether that was what I really wanted to do, as what I was really interested in was the interrelationships between people and the way we yearn for a part of our parents in ourselves and how we are always looking for stability. I know I have very distinct relationships with my parents and I value that in its own way. 

Bianca: What’s something you want the viewer to take away from “Film About a Father Who”?

Lynne: I’m very interested portraying the layers of expression especially in terms of being a woman, that include your anger and your rage as well as your ability to integrate forgiveness because I think it’s very hard to go on living your life if you hold onto the pain of your own rage. Forgiveness isn’t about saying that something didn’t happen, there are parts in my film where I realise that I’ve become very good at training myself to have forced amnesia. If you can find forgiveness and realize that the person who hurt you or made mistakes, made those mistakes because of the things they went through themselves that can help you move forward.

Photo collage from Film About A Father Who

I am also interested in showing my family’s story so others can investigate their own stories. I showed the film to a group of fifteen men in their 80s who were in a fraternity with my father and all idolised him. After the film, they said to me that they wished their daughters had made a film about them which surprised me. I think it was because the film elevated my dad to a full person and his entire life was told. He came to the premiere in New York and he was happy with the film. And he’s told me that he wants to do better in the future. 

Bianca: Another recent film of yours is “A Month of Single Frames”, a beautiful collaboration with the late filmmaker Barbara Hammer. How did that film come around?

Lynne: I met Barbara in the late ‘80s as we were both in San Francisco during that time. At that time and well into the 1990s, San Francisco was a mecca for experimental filmmakers. I think that’s the place where my style really evolved as it’s not a commercial film centre like New York or Los Angeles. There was a place called the Film Arts Foundation where you could go and learn different skills or edit your films on a 16mm flatbed and Barbara was there teaching a class. I took a weekend class with her and we hit it off! We became friends and both ended up moving to New York City. 

Twelve years ago, Barbara found out she had ovarian cancer. She was going through chemotherapy and we would take meals to her and talk to her. She actually lived a lot longer than she thought she would. During that time we became deep friends, and I think she appreciated that me and my husband (Mark Street) were not intimidated by the word ‘cancer’. She asked Mark and me to make a film with the material she gave us when she saw her life coming to an end. 

When she gave me the footage she hadn’t told me she’d also kept a journal. Her health was declining but she was quite active in terms of filmmaking in her last year, so I had to squeeze in my visits with her between chemotherapy and her trips to the Berlin Film Festival for a premiere of a film she made. And, when she went to Berlin in 2018 she lost one of her vocal chords so when we were recording her narration for the film we had to use an amplifier. What’s amazing about making a film is that it’s a sustained experience and a gift with that person you’re collaborating with. It was also a gift in the sense that we could share all that time together. 

Barbara passed away in March 2019, and I’d hadn’t yet written the text you see in the film. I really wanted a way so you could dive into the film on a personal level, and on a level where I could be talking to her, the audience, the Earth, to the future and to anyone who could be watching the movie. What’s so specific about film, that it can transport you back in history but can also propel you forward in time too. I wanted there to be an active presence which is why I talk to the audience. 

Bianca: That’s what is so special about “A Month of Single Frames” is that feeling of conversation between you, the audience and Barbara. In the way it felt like therapy and a precious way of capturing someone’s memory.

Lynne: We think of film as a closed system where you enter it but you don’t affect it although it may affect you in a psychological way. I wanted that system to be more open, the screen is no longer a closed system. 

Bianca: Do you think we’ve lost something special about the art of shooting on film compared to how we now seem to shoot everything on digital, especially in terms of the craft of editing?

Lynne: It’s funny that you mention editing because it made me recall Dziga Vertov’s “The Man With a Movie Camera” because many people believe that the director’s wife (Yelizaveta Ignatevna Svilova) really made the film, I believe her work helped give the film it’s rhythm. There’s an image of her in the film where she’s sat at the editing table and she looks like she’s sewing. This image reminds us that analogue film was constructed in a method that was very identified with women. There has been a revived interest in the materialistic qualities of the medium and the fact you can go from something three-dimensional to something two-dimensional.

In terms of my own filmmaking, “Which Way is East” was shot all on film and so was “A Month of Single Frames” and “The Last Happy Day” was digital and film. It’s a real mix. In terms of the images I shoot on Super-8 and 16mm, well I just like them better. Digital can be so pristine. There’s a sense of physicality to analogue film. Sometimes you see a strand of hair or dust, and that’s part of the real world that we’ve left behind like a fossil. 

“Film About a Father Who” is to be screened in Sheffield in Autumn, and online on Sheffield Doc/Fest Selects in parallel. The Filmmaker Focus- retrospective films are streaming now in the UK and their accessibility has been extended through August 31st.

Please see: https://selects.sheffdocfest.com/bundle/lynne-sachs-focus/

Screen Queens: Sheff Doc/Fest 2020— The Lynne Sachs Focus

By Fatima Sheriff
July 11, 2020
Screen Queens
https://screen-queens.com/2020/07/11/sheff-doc-fest-2020-the-lynne-sachs-focus/

Premiering Lynne Sachs’ latest feature, A Film About A Father Who, Doc/Fest 2020 has taken the opportunity to curate a few of the director’s most intriguing films. Spanning over decades of empathetic, experimental filmmaking, Festival Director Cintia Gil mentions that the overarching theme of these works is “translation”. Sachs elaborates that while her films often feature other countries and languages, the experience isn’t meant to feel seamless, but instead explore the sense of dépaysement, of being out of your own comfort zone, and revelling in that unfamiliarity and curiosity. 

Which Way is East (1994)
In which Lynne joins her sister Dana in Vietnam, and documents their travels north. Primarily she is connecting with the country: eating copious amounts of fruit, bonding with friends and strangers alike, examining the damage left behind from the war. There are layers beyond the direct translation of Vietnamese as peppered throughout are proverbs, which connect with the discussions and reveal how cultures perceive life differently. On another level she’s reconnecting and collaborating with a sister who she’s been separated from, and building a bridge between her own fictional, creative inclinations as a filmmaker and her sister’s political, non-fiction perceptions as a journalist. At 33 minutes, it feels like a whirlwind, footage zooming past on the roads, but one that really feels shared by all who feature in it. 

The Last Happy Day (2009)
This title is a quote from letters received by Sachs’ uncle referring to the day before the outbreak of WWI, marking a shattering of naïvité and the start of a century of disillusionment. In an incredibly liminal and fascinating piece of exploration, Sachs’ children tell the story of Sandor Lenard, a distant Hungarian cousin who fled a small town in Germany in 1938. 

Surrounded by death as he worked for the US to identify the broken bones of soldiers, his later project is intriguingly different: the translation of Winnie the Pooh into Latin. A so-called dead language, that he said best expressed dread, was applied to the philosophical exploits of children’s characters. Having watched many young men become soldiers, seeing Sachs’ kids interpret his letters and his translation brings out a deeper meaning within them. It’s a patchy portrait of a mysterious man that brings about a sense of existential crisis and a permanent exile from security. 

Your Day Is My Night (2013) 
My personal favourite, a window into the world of Chinese immigrants in New York City, who rent “shift-beds” in order to afford to live and work there. It’s a carefully orchestrated blend of performance art to highlight the nocturnal, upside-down lifestyle and monologues perfected to best tell the stories of each inhabitant. One stand out is Huang, a wedding singer who lives with his father, who shares his unique passions and fears. It is a tactile, emotional approach with many dimensions that helps the viewer begin to comprehend these experiences, and brings this hidden side of the city to light. 

The Washing Society (2018)
Co-directed with playwright Lizzie Olesker, this team effort is the culmination of a performance piece named ‘Every Fold Matters’, detailing and valuing the efforts of laundry workers. This film is named after the original Atlanta Washing Society of 1881, where thousands of African American laundresses unionised and demanded better pay and agency over clients. This revolutionary spirit is carried on, as the film juxtaposes three actresses with three workers, folding and carrying thousands of garments a day, unappreciated and undervalued. Through the combination of conversation and performances, the intimacy and volume of their work is brought to light. 

A Month In Single Frames (For Barbara Hammer) (2018) 
As filmmaker Barbara Hammer was undergoing chemotherapy, she gave certain filmmakers free reign with her unpublished work. In this case, Sachs plays with the footage taken on Hammer’s month long residency at Cape Cod. Particularly hypnotic are past Barbara’s meticulous and beautiful attempts to capture new colours in the sun, the sea and the sand, and the spontaneous originality with which she saw the same cabin and its surroundings. Here the translation is very much inter-generational, as Hammer reads from her journal at the time, and we overhear discussions between the two. Sachs revisits this time of creativity in an organic way and carefully scrapbooks it into a philosophical homage.

Note: this particular film makes a beautiful double bill with Lynne Ramsay’s Brigitte which will be out on Doc/Fest Selects in the autumn. She profiles a prolific portrait photographer, trying to see what Brigitte sees in her subjects, and turns that mirror towards her own life and approach to art.   

Full film available as part of Doc/Fest Selects here.

Throughout all these works, the partnership between Sachs and her subjects shines. Often she remains in contact with them, continuing to campaign alongside them. The collection boasts celebrating “translation as a political and poetic tool” and through this glimpse into her career, it is clear that the bridges she builds last. By the end of her films, it feels like both an honour and a necessity to inhabit these spaces and listen to these stories. 

Chinese Press: Your Day is My Night in Print and Broadcast

YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT was featured in a variety of Chinese publications throughout the fall. Here are some of the links and text:

Watch TV report on SinoVision:
http://video.sinovision.net/?id=9623
Dec. 14, 2012

The multimedia performance “Your Day Is My Night” from independent producer and director, Lynne Sachs, the premiere was launched in Chinatown. The film is talking about all sorts of joys and sorrows of new immigrants in the US and several Chinese immigrants performed their own stories in the movie.

The film is talking about a group of Chinese immigrants working in shift-jobs.  In order to save money, they share a rental apartment or room, even share a bed as shift-bed style. This performance is casted by six non-professional Chinese actors and actress, interweaving movie and drama in order to present the realistic history of new immigrants in Chinatown in 45 minutes performance.  All the conversations in the film are in Chinese and subtitled with English.

51-year-old Jewish director, Lynne Sachs said, “This movie is inspired by the images of photographer (Jacob Riis)”.  One of the main characters, Mr. Yun Xin Huang (黃雲秀) said, “I immigrated to U.S. in 1995 and lived in my friend’s house for three months.  I slept in a closet in harsh living conditions.  I participate in this film, I want to let more people learn the stories of Chinese immigrants by reappearing the scenes of my harsh life.”

The film production was started in 2011 and the full version will be presented in 2013. The movie was taken in East Broadway of Chinatown to present the ordinary and touching stories of Chinese immigrants.  The performance will be showed tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, please take a chance to be there if you are interested.

Chinese Newspaper
http://epaper.usqiaobao.com:81/qiaobao/html/2012-04/24/content_647891.htm

During the day and night untold immigrants bitterness
Chinese star in the true story of Chinatown preview interactive warm
Qiao Bao Reporter Ye Yongkang

By a number of Chinese immigrants to tell their own story, entitled “Your day is my night,” the movie, recently held in Chinatown and the Chatham Library screenings to attract more than 20 Chinese and foreign interest to the watch, after the meeting and ask questions.
[Qiao Bao Reporter, reported Ye Yongkang New York,] many new immigrants to the United States because of economic problems can only pick up old mattresses to sleep, it was to save money, the two shared a bed, their own work, others go to bed, to bed Friends of the work himself back to sleep, they will not even been seen. “Your day is my night,” director Lynne Sachs, said the new Chinese immigrants have a lot of bitterness touching story, she wanted to shoot out these stories, let the community know. Therefore, more than a year ago, she visited the United States and East Union into the hall, get the hall with the help of the consultant Zhao Sheng, introduced a narrative of the 26 Chinese.
Sachs said that they meet and discuss with these Chinese, pick a more narrative, shooting the film, a year of filming, and now finally completed. The film is divided into three parts, the first part of the earlier projection over your day is my night “is the second part, will be edited into 70 minutes screening.
Placed in the center of the projection room scene, two mattresses, put a movie, turns to go to bed by the actors performances (see the right, Ye Yongkang photo). Upon completion, the foreigner the audience to ask questions, share a new Chinese migrants are incredible.
The film Fuzhou Huang Yunxiu is a singer and host of the wedding. He said he had paid money to snakeheads later the United States, the snakeheads in Chinatown to find a “closet” He lives down, but there are four weeks a lot of noise make it difficult to fall asleep. The Huang Yunxiu said, many people like his singing, he likes to make people happy, he is a tool of the people’s celebration of the songs on across the ocean, the troubling thing down. His songs is like a huge bridge, everyone returned to his hometown to go sailing in a dream.
Actor Xu Jin then said of his childhood in his hometown, families who have been looted. In Chinatown, there is field after the fire, he picked up a mattress on the roadside, when smell the stench of burnt smell rushed to his nose, the former all the nightmares will come to mind, so that he could not sleep, he can only use some tablecloths and mattress isolation.
The actor Li Xueqing said, when she resided in Hong Kong, six brothers and sisters and mother live together in the same apartment, there are six or seven families huddled together, each one of the snoring noise, they find it interesting, each has its own unique tone, like the music as played. She had never seen his father until the age of 18 a day before going to sleep, the mother called her in a dream to try to dream of my father, she later try to make their own dream never seen the face.
The actor car Changqing said, in the first 10 years of his life, he is a well-fed, happy little boy, but after 1947, everything changed, back and forth. Came to the United States, people here are wealthy, many people like to collect valuable things, he has collected the mattress, but also give it away to get clean
New! Click the words above to edit and view alternate translations.

World Journal April 22,2012
http://ny.worldjournal.com/view/full_nynews/18320982/article-%E5%BA%8A%E7%9A%84%E6%95%85%E4%BA%8B%E7%B4%80%E9%8C%84%E7%89%87-%E9%81%93%E7%9B%A1%E8%B2%A7%E5%9B%B0-?instance=nybull_news2#.T5kiem8bp6U.mailto

You are willing to give the bed to the non-parent not a friend to use? Can you imagine with nothing to do with people who share a bed? You ever feel happy you have one of their own bed? New York Public LibraryMuseum and the Chatham Branch Library show on the 21st day is my night (Your day is My night) documentary about is the life force had to take turns using the the bedspace rest of the Chinese story with others.
According to film director Lynne Sachs, years ago she heard relatives talk about the 1960s, many immigrants because of economic distress, sharing a roof, put in the room mattresses for home. Decades later this year, the New York metropolis
Chinatown corner, some people still live a and then a similar life. Sachs said that the bed is a personal thing, an important part of private life, it records each person’s life carries the identity of each person, and also about the simple individual behind a long history. When we take turns to rest in bed, their lives intertwined.
Sachs to find the seven Chinese ordinary people cast into the hall through the eastern United States associated, from each person’s particular experiences, present their story by sharing a bed. Yesterday, the five actors also attended the event, live performance on two mattresses to sleep in shifts, “your day is night life. Nightclub and The Wedding Singer the Huang Yunxiu first came to New York when he was still in the closet lived the rest will inevitably want to have anyone lying in bed, doing what, but I kept thinking will always survive, “the rent is too your can not afford what way? “

Your Day is My Night: Live Film Performance

“Your Day is My Night:  Live Film Performance”
dir. Lynne Sachs

SEE TRAILER FOR OUR LIVE PERFORMANCE HERE:

Presented as a Live Performance in 2012 at these venues throughout New York City:

Art@Reinassance at St. Nick’s Alliance, Greenpoint Brooklyn
http://roundrobinbrooklyn.blogspot.com/p/hospitality.html
Chatham Square Branch of the New York Public Library, Chinatown
Proteus Gowanus Interdisciplinary Gallery, Brooklyn
http://proteusgowanus.org/2012/04/your-day-is-my-night-an-interactive-film-performance/
The Performance Project at University Settlement, Lower East Side
http://www.universitysettlement.org/us/news/PerformanceProject/2012-2013_performance_calendar/

Produced by Lynne Sachs and Sean Hanley

Partially funded by the New York State Council for the Arts and the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.  Presented in collaboration with the Tenement Museum and the Museum of the Chinese in America.

In “Your Day is My Night” a group of Chinese performers creates a dynamic live film performance that tells the collective story of Chinese immigration to New York City from the viewpoint of an older generation.  On both stage and screen, the seven performers play themselves, all living together in a shift-bed apartment in the heart of Chinatown. Since the early days of New York’s tenement houses, shift workers have had to share beds, making such spaces a fundamental part of immigrant life.  In this production, the concept of the shift-bed allows the audience to see the private become public. The bed transforms into a stage when the performers exchange stories around domestic life, immigration and personal-political upheaval.  They speak of family ruptures during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a mattress found on the street, four men on one bed in Chinatown.  “Your Day is My Night” is a provocative work of experimental theater and cinema that reflects deeply on this familiar item of household furniture.

A bilingual performance in Chinese and English.

Featuring: Yi Chun Cao, Linda Y.H. Chan, Chung Qing Che, Ellen Ho, Yun Xiu Huang, Sheut Hing Lee, Kam Yin Tsui

“Your Day is My Night” directed by Lynne Sachs;   cinematography and editing by Sean Hanley and Ethan Mass; music by Stephen Vitiello;  Monologue writing support by Rojo Robles. Translations by Catherine Ng, Jenifer Lee and Bryan Chang.

Each evening includes an engaging talk-back with the performers, moderated by representatives from University Settlement’s Project Home, the Tenement Museum, and photographer Alan Chin.


For more info visit University Settlement


Additional Related “Tenement Talk” Program on October 23 presented at the Tenement Museum on Tuesday, October 23.
Please go to Your Day My Night Tenement Talk for more information.

Your Day is My Night Seut Lee Ellen Ho


Your_Day_Is_My_Night_Tsui_profile

DNAinfo NYC “New Performance Focuses on Shift Beds”

DNAinfo

http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20121213/chinatown/chinatown-rotating-shift-bed-residents-at-center-of-new-performance

CHINATOWN — A multimedia performance is seeking to shine a light on the phenomenon of “shift beds,” in which struggling immigrants rent places to sleep in 12-hour installments.

The performance, “Your Day is My Night,” will show at University Settlement on Eldridge Street this Thursday and Friday night, as a prelude to a documentary of the same name that will premiere in February.

The show intersperses excerpts from the upcoming film with live performances from predominantly Chinese Americans, detailing the often private life of workers who share beds to survive, but who also gain a sense of community as they carve out life in America.

“What you will see is a place where adults interact and talk and have this really homely life,” said filmmaker Lynne Sachs, 51, who has so far spent two years working on the documentary and accompanying performance, along with cinematographer Sean Hanley. “There is a lot conversation and exchange of live experience.”

As New Yorkers complain about living in what they consider tiny apartments, “shift beds” have been commonplace in immigrant communities, as well as in China, for years.

Jacob Riis photographed the lifestyle at the turn of the last century, capturing the beds where one person sleeps during the day and someone else moves in at night.

“Often, if you see a very small building with a large pile of trash out the front, chances are lots of people live there,” said Sachs.

Shift-bed apartments currently exist in areas like the corner of East Broadway and Allen Street, Sachs explained, providing accommodation to renters willing to vacate for half of the day for about $150 a month.

Many of the performers taking the stage for the show are between 50 and 70 years old and have themselves spent time in a shift bed.

“I gave them a change — to be performers and tell their own life story,” Sachs said.

Those performing on stage create the narrative using tai chi, dance, song and acting, with any Chinese translated via subtitles.

Sachs, a Carroll Gardens resident, was first inspired to research New York’s shift-bed lifestyle when an elderly uncle recalled its prevalence in the 1980s.

“I began to research and found out it was still happening today,” she said.

Even though eight people occupying an 800-square-foot apartment may seem to offer a poor quality of life, Sachs pointed to the community the shift-bed system creates for workers whose families often stayed in China while money was sent home, or until a life could be set up in America.

“We are trying to show that shift beds aren’t the struggle they seem to be,” she said.