I finished the rough edit over the weekend and wanted to let everyone know we are close…
There is still a bit of tinkering to get to the final edit, mainly adding music, captions and finalizing a few audio and color adjustments, but the layout is pretty much set. I’ll show the edit to a couple people for advice, and I am still researching the best options for adding captions and music, but the hard part is over.
Beyond the edit, I will submit to film festivals and apply for grants throughout the course of the next year. Usually, once a year has passed since the completion of the production, film festivals don’t accept submissions.
Right now the timeline is to have the final cut by the end of the month. Music and captions would be the only hold up since those are most likely sourced out. By the end of July, I will have applied to festivals and grants that are currently applicable (Heartland Film Festival’s “Indy Shorts” are closed for 2021, for instance), but as next season’s festivals open up, again, I’ll apply to those throughout the year.
If and when we get accepted into anything, you’ll be the first to know… I’ll send out a list of where I applied once the final edit is ready for download. Thank you, all, and keep an eye out for the next update!
Actually, the restaurant I worked for, which had just celebrated its 13 year anniversary, owned and operated by a married couple in their mid-40s, with two daughters under 10, held a meeting to let their employees know they were shutting their doors, most likely for good. This was mid- March, I believe a day or so before Gov. Newsom issued a ‘stay-home’ order for California. Around the same time, 1/5 Americans were on the same order, which now extends to more than half of the entire world… More than 6 million other people have lost their jobs in the states. For most of those people, it will take weeks, if not months to receive stimulus checks and unemployment benefits. People’s stories are both heroic and tragic, on macro and micro levels, with devastating effects to economies and families worldwide.
My Mom and I agree, that while we don’t mind the pace, the cause and consequences of the situation are awful. I feel guilty for enjoying the time to work on things I need and want to accomplish, while others are worrying about paying rent, hoarding toilet paper and losing loved ones, if not falling ill themselves. In some ways, I have actually benefited from the circumstances. Since starting the application process in October, I have spent most days studying for exams that California requires as prerequisites for getting into a teaching credential program, so I can teach Social Science subjects in California public secondary schools. I received my test results last Friday, and only passed 5 out of the 6 tests…
If deadlines weren’t delayed due to these shutdowns, I would have to wait until August 2021 to start the program.
Instead, I have two more months to study for one test, and have since found an online program through Cal State that would allow me to student teach anywhere in the state (having said that, I’ll most likely stay in San Diego for the time being, and am still considering SDSU for the credential).
So while I can’t help but feel guilt for benefitting from this pandemic, I can choose to use my time to help others in need… Instead of having to stop studying mid-afternoon to go bartend all night, I now have plenty of time to lay out the rough draft of the documentary while I study for this last test. Further, after the last trip to Chicago in January, I feel confident I have enough content to lay out a compelling story, worthy of everyone’s interest.
Lastly, I’ve been taking some pics of the empty streets, shut down restaurants and to-go operations, and even my roommate making homemade masks to document this (hopefully) unique time in our lives. Link below for those interested…
I hope everyone is enjoying their holidays. I am writing to let everyone know of some developments with The Next Step.
I have scheduled the next round of interviews in Chicago with Thresholds and the Night Ministry for the first week of January. It seems as though Ali from Chicago Coalition for the Homeless will not be able to participate in the documentary going forward, so I am now limited to focusing on those two outreach programs.
I am still applying to grants, and would love to continue the work to include what some Chicago based hospitals are doing to combat homelessness, and if possible, progress in San Diego. Those additions are on hold until I am able to apply for more grants, but the first week of Jan. is set for more interviews in Chicago, which will hopefully lead to the bulk of the story.
I am still reviewing footage and researching organizations to make sure I ask pertinent questions and responses, and am confident these next round of interviews will help piece together what we’ve already accumulated.
Again, if there are certain topics or questions YOU feel I should ask, I’d love to hear from you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your continued support!
I am back behind a bar in San Diego to pay bills, just finished a move to a new apartment, and will be gone the first week of October. So for the past several weeks, I haven’t been able to give this project the attention it deserves, but fear not.
After conducting the latest round of interviews in July, I have been able to go through some of the footage, which has helped me refocus the project to more specific goals.
I thought it would be awesome to highlight the mobile outreach programs that are extremely effective for Chicago’s communities experiencing homelessness. The Night Ministry were a part of these interviews, and they will surely be a focal point of the project going forward.
I was in contact with Thresholds over the summer, and will continue to attempt to schedule interviews with their organization to share the incredible work they’re dedicated to, too.
I interviewed a lawyer from Chicago Coalition for the Homeless that can connect me with some of the people I spoke with last March (2018), and I was also able to briefly meet with Ali, who is an outreach specialist for CCH. Their experience and perspective is important to share, and I’m hoping to be able to include them in the final product.
So the plan for now is to focus on the mobile outreach programs, and these are a few of the leaders in their field.
Another aspect I think is crucial to the story, but may not be covered in this specific project is the work of the hospitals in Chicago. They have actually started developing supportive housing programs for chronically homeless, as their medical bills for emergency room visits are far more expensive than it is to actually help these people stay out of the hospital, through long-term and sometimes permanent support in housing, and daily care. I have not researched this topic enough, an am trying to focus right now on the mobile outreach programs, but if I am granted funds, and am able to explore this topic, I think it is worth everyone’s time.
I am trying to schedule the next round of interviews in November. I am hoping I am able to make this the last trip to Chicago for the project, but am willing to take as many trips as necessary to compile footage and make sure I have asked all pertinent questions.
Having said that, is there anything YOU want me to ask? Are there topics you hope I am able to include on this project? What am I missing? I can’t guarantee I am able, but would love your input to help drive this mission. Feel free to text me if you have my number, or you can always reach out to email@example.com.
Thank you all for your continued support. I am putting together my next post, which will be about Stephan’s work with The Night Ministry. I had a great interview with him, but it was in the street, and I didn’t realize until scanning the footage later that my autofocus had refocused a few minutes into the interview. So instead of making you squint through that, I thought I could write an article about the interview, instead. Please stay tuned; he had some great info I am excited to share…
So we did it. For now. The money everyone pledged was for me to get back to Chicago, to see if I could find the people I met last year, and to find out why they are among the thousands of people living on the streets in Chicago any given night.
One thing I learned about documentaries that has always drawn my interest is their ability to change at any given moment. You can plan and prepare all you want, but one answer, action or discovery can change the entire story. Our plan was simple, but has quickly turned into something overwhelming, enormous and impossible to solve. And that’s ok. It actually makes our small, daily, individual efforts, and the final product of this documentary more important.
Here is where we are now…
I just got back home after spending a few days in Chicago last week, where I interviewed several people from different organizations that are in one way or another involved with helping people experiencing homelessness. From vans packed with social workers and nurse practitioners, to sectors of the city that are dedicated to the cause, I spent last week meeting with people to try to piece together the options available to individuals when experiencing homelessness.
A few themes arose, including the biggest obstacles, the most effective outreach, and how dynamic the difficulties of these individuals can be. I quickly learned I will need more interviews to tell the story, and I continue to develop research, production, funding and distribution plans to accommodate these needs…
So with the first round of interviews complete, and the editing underway, I will continue to set up interviews as questions arise, and search for production help in the form of illustrators, colorists and SFX editors and musicians for the score.
Feel free to reach out with questions. Please keep spreading the word. It’s amazing how far a quick nod or ‘hello,’ can go to helping a person feel better about themselves, which could be the catalyst for getting them back on their feet.
My apologies I have not been present on social media or posting content the past few weeks. I have been developing this story behind the scenes, planning all logistics, interviews, and even adding a (fairly large) wrinkle to the project.
Here’s what’s in store for the week(s) ahead…
I finalize whatever interviews I’ve tried to sort thus far. I will need more to help explaining the process than I’ve confirmed so far, but the first round of planning interviews will be finished before Wednesday.
Wednesday I pack. I make sure I have everything ready for the shoot. Car, camera, place to stay (more on that later), etc. Packing camera gear can be daunting. I have to make sure I don’t forget anything, but also don’t want to pack anything I’m not going to use, since I will be carrying everything on my back. Plus it will be raining in Chicago.
I fly to Indy Thursday. Friday I contact to confirm with everyone I will meet with over the next few days in Chicago, and head up Sunday morning.
I stop by Bear Komplex to pick up the backpacks they’ve donated, and then to a friends to unpack and gear up…
The wrinkle I’ve decided to include is that I will be staying in a tent for one of these nights. I will have to speak with a couple people before deciding which night makes more sense, but I want a feel for what these people go through, and I want to be able to explain that to you, so one night is the very least that will take.
I hope doing so brings a unique perspective to the situation, and an ability to explain it to the public so they see it in a new light.
I film and interview all day Monday and Tuesday before heading back to Indianapolis to start processing the footage and everything I learned Tuesday evening.
Lastly, I’ve decided it makes more sense to tackle this story from Indianapolis. It is close to Chicago, and logistically works better than San Diego. I would have to get back behind a bar (worse places to be, I know), and not be able to devote the time and energy to this if I am trying to eek by paying bills just to live in America’s Finest City. If I am able to carry this project back to San Diego, I would love to help here, too, so we’ll see. But for the time being, I will spend a few weeks here after I get back from the Chicago trip to tie up loose ends and head back to Indy in August until this project is complete.
I wanted to post an update on Tent City to let everyone know how we’ve progressed over the past couple weeks. I have been setting up interviews, getting the logistics in order, such as car and camera rentals and have been trying to map out how to get as much footage and information in the short time I am there.
A few organizations have not taken the time to respond, but those who have are excited to be part of this project and will certainly help us reach more people! It’s cool to think about how this project will affect the people we are trying to help, but also how it may influence people that weren’t initially part of anything, and are motivated to be part of helping somehow after seeing what we are trying to do.
The weeks leading up to the project require a lot of work behind the scenes. I’ll continue to post updates on Instagram and LinkedIn, which will surely ramp up when I get back to Chicago 30 June.
Lastly, “Tent City,” is a working title. It may change (I expect it to) once I get back to Chicago and hear what these individuals say about their experience living there. Often times a phrase or word makes itself clearly important or symbolic of the project. It isn’t that ‘Tent City’ doesn’t represent this issue, but the name is not singular to this project or issue, and again, another symbol could make itself apparent once I get back.
I don’t know much about Mark Michael Allen, other than he’s vegetarian and I trust that’s his name. It didn’t take long to realize he doesn’t know much about himself other than that, either…
The first night I ever saw Mark, he was sitting on a bench in the heart of Grape Street Square. I just asked if he was hungry and wanted a burrito, when he looked up and replied, “Bean and cheese?” It wasn’t. “I’m vegetarian,” he said, and declined.
I took my camera on a walk a few days later and saw him next to the Balboa Park Municipal Golf Course. I was sort of meandering, looking for a place to have dinner myself, so approached him again, to see if he remembered me and if he could use a bean and cheese burrito…
He wasn’t necessarily hungry, but had a lot to say; most of which was extremely difficult to understand. I was taken aback by what I was hearing, utterances of being the heir of Starbucks in Denmark, and that he knew me, “Larry,” as the heir to another European monolith in which I could not understand. Every question, as simple as I tried to make them, led to a confusing, tangled answer. I didn’t know how to respond. He was in a great mood, and has been the few times I’ve seen him, so I didn’t feel threatened, but he couldn’t give me a clear answer from where he thought he knew me, if he was in the military (other than he was a 5 star general in a secret division of the Air Force), or even where he stayed at night, other than that bench or, “you know, Mary’s…” Overwhelmed, I told him I had to take some more pictures, and would bring him a burrito at his bench in a bit, and went on my way. We exchanged names, which is the first time I heard him say he was “Mark Michael Allen.”
After dinner, I stopped by 7-11 and found the bean and cheese burrito he was talking about and brought him one. I again tried to have somewhat of a conversation with him, but he could not complete a clear sentence that made any sense, other than firmly establishing he only wanted bean and cheese in his burrito, and when I asked his name again, he replied, “Mark Michael Allen,” confused I didn’t already know. He was trying to tell me about a division of the military he was in, but I could not make any sense of it. He thought he knew me but I could not find out from where. I was utterly confused, and had no idea how to move help the conversation progress.
How could I help Mark? I don’t even know if he understands what I am saying to him! He isn’t mumbling like he’s drunk, and he isn’t speaking like he’s on drugs.
Suddenly, it clicked… This is dementia.
I am obviously unfamiliar with the condition, but what else could this be? Could he be blocking his past because of trauma? Possibly; I have noticed him talking to himself when I walk by, but there is really no way for me to know, if he isn’t part of a shelter or program, and can’t really communicate himself what he’s going through. And it isn’t my place to ask questions that personal.
He did try to pay me back by saying he gets social security every month, and would have to owe me, unless I declared it a gift. I didn’t ask how he received his checks, and I certainly didn’t need to be reimbursed. He seems happy, or at least content. I haven’t seen him beg, drink or cause any commotion in the least. He’s always calm when I see him on that bench.
Most people I encountered in Chicago were able to have a conversation. They were trying to get out of the situation they were in, which seems to be different than what I’ve found so far in San Diego. The people in Chicago wanted desperately to find homes, where people here in America’s Finest City seem to just want to be left alone.
Thanks to your support, the Kickstarter was successfully funded. So I’ll be heading back to Chicago at the end of June to try to find them, and figure out what is keeping them from finding a suitable place to live.
In the meantime, we still have until Thursday afternoon on the Kickstarter fundraising campaign, and every backer we continue to gain shows the grants I apply to that we have a strong following. If you have a moment, head to Kickstarter and make a small pledge now! It means a lot to a cause much larger than ourselves. Your support is appreciated! Hyperlinks are live or click embedded video below…
I went downtown Monday morning to try to find a street I’d passed before, where people were sleeping on a sidewalk lined with shopping carts, sleeping bags and suitcases. I didn’t find it, but didn’t have to, to find similar conditions. I actually found something familiar to me after what I’d filmed in Chicago, as the city had posted eviction notices where people loitered and lived.
I was immediately apprehensive to approach some of these people when I found this street, partly because I didn’t want to offend anyone and didn’t now how, and partly because they were belligerent for no apparent reason. There were a few police officers around on bicycles, and a few people that seemed to be gathering their things and moving. Then I saw the cleanup notice.
You can’t blame owners for not wanting people to camp outside of their business, and you can’t blame the police for enforcing their removal, but there is still no solution to where they should go…
I didn’t want to start asking people questions under these circumstances, not having any clue what I was getting into, and realized a lot of these people did not want me around.
It did shed new light on what I am getting into here. I am somewhat embarrassed for not speaking more with these people, and instead relenting to the fear I felt and getting out of the situation.
Not that I didn’t experience the same dissent as I continued to walk around. I was taking pictures of someone in a lawn chair digging through his bag when a railway passed, so I covered my camera to avoid any dust from harming my equipment. Someone approached me on their bicycle and asked me if I was taking pictures of them. I replied that I wasn’t, but he asked me to show him, and asked why I covered up my camera when I saw him coming over. He’d been through this before, and explained that people would come by and snicker and snap photos, so I showed him what pictures I’d taken, and told him what I was doing.
He chose to be live on the streets, and didn’t want to be on camera. He wasn’t asking for help either, he just didn’t want to be criticized or ridiculed. Speaking with him gave me new perspective on the many different stories people experience that bring them to not having a place to live. Our discussion, added to the few other people I’ve spoken with during this project are why I’m embarrassed I didn’t speak with the people when I first arrived downtown. Their stories are important, too! I was just too fearful to ask.
I’m hoping this experience helps he shock effect the smell of drugs and alcohol, the yelling and inaudible shouts produce. Their situation is so new to me, but having been exposed to it calls me to act. So I continued to speak with few more people, mainly to offer words of encouragement and gain more knowledge about their experiences and this epidemic. Actually, the more people I speak with, the more theyencourage me to see this project through to the end.
We’re a week in to the Kickstarter campaign for Tent City, and we’ve raised 50% of our goal! I am sure we will reach it by 30 May (ONLY TWO WEEKS AWAY), but that is no reason to rest on laurels, and I sure don’t want this going down to the last minute! Let me first say, “Thank you,” to everyone and explain the importance of your pledge as best as I can.
When your name pops up as a supporter, it is such a huge way of telling me, “Keep going!” That means a lot, guys. One thing I never thought about, as I am producing my first independent film and crowd-funding campaign, was support from anonymous sources. “Likes,” and “follows,” from people on social media, known or unknown, are gratifying and yet another source of motivation, but still, not anonymous. There is just a little extra boost when I see someone anonymously pledge on Kickstarter, so I just wanted to take a second to thank them for their support, too. Not that I don’t want to see all of your lovely names!
When I launched this campaign last week, I sent a link to every email I could find. I’d been collecting them for a few years, knowing I would have to reach out as a filmmaker down the road, asking for help in some ways. Well, I realized asking several hundred people I barely knew to take time out of their day and money out of their pockets to support this may not be the best approach, so I’ve concentrated the list to people that have made a positive impact on my life, in hopes that I’ve done the same for you.
Thank you to everyone for your support. I’m urging you not to wait if you are able to help in any way. Please remember that any pledge on Kickstarter gives a monumental amount of support for this cause, regardless of the dollar amount. The more people we can show are behind Tent City, the better chance we have to make a lasting impact on these people’s lives.