Growing up on Staten Island, filmmakers Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio had often heard the urban legend of "Cropsey." It was a cautionary tale invented to keep them out of the abandoned buildings that remained of the Willowbrook Mental Institution. Cropsey was supposedly an escaped patient who would come out late at night and snatch children off the streets—sometimes with a hook for a hand, other times with a bloody ax. But in 1987, Jennifer Schweiger, a 13-year-old with Down syndrome, disappeared from their community. For Zeman, Brancaccio, and the other kids of Staten Island, their urban legend became real.
Even as adults, this real-life boogeyman hasn't escaped the minds of the filmmakers. The eeriness of the mystery pulsates through the film as they journey into the underbelly of their borough to investigate not just Schweiger's disappearance but four other missing children linked to a shadowy drifter named Andre Rand. As more information and clues unravel, Zeman and Brancaccio become more immersed in shocking surprises and revelations. The reality they uncover in this uniquely hair-raising documentary is more terrifying than any urban legend.
Joshua Zeman is a partner in the production company Ghost Robot and a fellow at the Sundance Institute's Creative Producing Initiative. His films include Forest Grove and Against the Current. Some of Zeman's past coproducer/producer credits include The Station Agent and Choking Man (TFF '06), which went on to win an IFP Gotham Award. In 2002, he penned and produced Members Only, a documentary on the history of organized crime in New York.
Barbara Brancaccio is New York City's executive deputy commissioner for public information. She previously curated the film festival at the 10th National Roundtable for Women in Prison and produced Surviving Justice: The Women in Prison Film Showcase, held in 2001 at Anthology Film Archives in New York City.