New Yorkers vs. Cockroaches: ‘It’s Them or Me.’


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New Yorkers vs. Cockroaches: ‘It’s Them or Me.’

April 23, 2024, 5:00 a.m. ET
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By Claudia Weill and Eli Noyes

Ms. Weill is an Oscar-nominated director. Mr. Noyes was an animator and Oscar-nominated director.

It was the early 1970s, and we had set up our little company, Cyclops Films, at 1600 Broadway. We were equipped with a newly purchased Éclair NPR, a Nagra recorder and our infatuation with cinéma vérité.

We were approached by Jack Willis at WNET, who had just started a series called “The 51st State,” a news and documentary show about the New York City metro area. And so we set about creating a collection of short films about living in the city, in the spirit of The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town.”

We put an ad in The Village Voice to find people who would be willing to talk with us about their experiences with cockroaches — an ongoing topic of conversation whenever we went to friends’ houses.

We lucked out and found affable people who opened up almost immediately. The people in this documentary welcomed us into their apartments with our questions, our camera and a Lowel light kit (which allowed us to bounce enough light off their ceilings for a good exposure). It was fun to make, and fun to watch again after all these years.

Editor’s Note: Eli Noyes died on March 24, 2024. He was 81.

Claudia Weill is a film, television and theater director. Eli Noyes was a film director and animator.

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