Written by Ellyn Parker—
Within a city, streets connect buildings to make a neighborhood. Our stories are what connect us as humans.
In 2011, when there were significant rumbles from the tech community, the arts community and the City on how to align efforts to create a framework for economic revitalization in the Market Street area. Urbanstreet Films producers Robert Cortlandt and Dan Goldes were early pioneers, showing up and investing their time and film skills to capture the stories that were woven along Market Street.
The investment into this area was more than companies signing leases. The conversations and visioning processes for how to instill a creative and thriving community for all gained the attention of community, artists, funders and international companies; all part of the same tiny portion at the center of San Francisco.
Urbanstreet Films had set out to document 5 Blocks of Market Street, from 5th to 10th.
At every meeting or event in the Market Street or Tenderloin, the 5 Blocks guys would show up with their cameras and preserve the moments of change and conversations that were occurring. The City of San Francisco’s Office of Economic Workforce, where I was working when I first met Dan and Robert, were early cheerleaders and funders for the film. The film is still in production and has created side projects that include a mapping and oral stories project. Check out the inspirational stories and stay up to date or support the film here.
But sometimes stories take a sad turn. “5 Blocks” co-producer/co-director Robert Cortland moved to San Diego last year, and was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Sadly, Robert passed away last Saturday, August 27th. Even throughout his battle, he remained a partner and visionary part of the film.
I hope you all will celebrate the work that Robert has done and his immense amount of creative inspiration. Robert had been passionate about documenting the changes in Central Market Street, not only working on “5 Blocks” but also as a volunteer photographer for Tenderloin non-profits and as one of the creators of the Oral NowStories project. That project, funded by the SF Arts Commission and created by Hospitality House, Archive Productions, and Urbanstreet Films, trained Central Market, Tenderloin, and SOMA residents in interviewing and film techniques and then facilitated them recording oral histories (really, “now stories”) of themselves and their peers.
Friends have set up a GoFundMe account to help Robert and his sister – his housemate and primary caregiver – with expenses that insurance cannot cover. If you are able and so inclined, you can contribute to the fund which is just shy of a $30,000 goal, here.
Please join in sending thoughts of love to Robert’s family and friends and remembering to celebrate our stories.