Off The Grid On The North Fork

Chiko Mendez courtesy Scott Goldberg
Survivalist Lee Spraggins, left, with filmmaker Robert Leckington during the filming of the documentary “Off The Grid.”

In the land of excess that can sometimes define the East End, The Independent caught up with North Fork-based documentary filmmaker, Scott Goldberg, to ask about his most recently completed film, “Off The Grid: Survivalism and Frugality,” a feature-length movie that follows two survivalists and their journeys to create media on analog equipment. “Off The Grid” can be rented or purchased online through Vimeo.

What is the premise for ‘Off the Grid’ and what was the inspiration for it?

“Off The Grid: Survivalism and Frugality” started from a one-day shoot with survivalist Chiko Mendez. I’ve known Chiko for many years. He is a performer, musician, and also acts in independent films. At the time, and currently as well, he lives out of his van and lives an off-the-grid type of lifestyle. From that first day, the docudrama built organically from there.

We were thinking about shooting some segment parts in the Catskills but ended up keeping the docudrama Long Island-based, so we are happy to have made a Long Island movie and to cover Nassau and Suffolk including Montauk, Orient, East Marion, Greenport, Mattituck, and so on.

Who did you interview for the film? Tell us about them.

Lee Spraggins is a survivalist who lived in his defunct RV for a long time and had bought a bus that he travels in now due to funds that were raised from an online campaign to help him get on his feet.

Robert Leckington is a filmmaker who shares his thoughts as well as mine throughout the film through voice-over. Both Chiko and Lee shoot on analog equipment and we wanted to fuse together both film and video for the docudrama. I’ve always grown up loving the look of film, so this is my first dive into that realm of Super 8mm film stock.

What got you into documentary filmmaking?

I love horror movies of the ’70s and ’80s. I grew up on horror movies. Filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, John Carpenter, and George Romero have inspired my style of filmmaking as well as finding my own voice over the years.

In the early 2000s, I would watch special features on the DVDs that I bought, and being able to see behind the scenes and the work that was being done reaffirmed my love for wanting to make movies. I feel it’s so important if you’re producing an independent film to really make something unique and interesting.

What moment during filming taught you the most about the North Fork?

When filming in the village of Greenport, being in the village during a slow time of the year taught me about the struggles of a town that thrives during the warmer months.

Where do you live and what has it been like living on the North Fork so far?

We live in East Marion. Living on the North Fork is unreal. It’s unlike anywhere else here on Long Island. A lot of the locals always talk about it changing and we surely see that happening. We don’t want the North Fork to become like the South Fork, but we do want success on the North Fork in all aspects of work and living.

I’ve been able to start a career as a wedding photographer and videographer, serving many couples at local venues out here on the North Fork. I also want to raise my child out here and for her to realize how special this place is. My next project is being prepared and will involve a personal story mixed in with many elements on the North Fork.

The filmmaker is now seeking subjects for a new film specifically about outdoor life on the North Fork. More information about his most recent venture can be found by visiting

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