Tuesday, July 04, 2006

There but for the grace of God...

The reason I'm grousing about iMovie's brokenness is that I've embarked on a most unlikely adventure. I have always been interested in making movies, and a few years ago I wrote a screenplay that I've been shopping around Hollywood for a couple of years now (which is par for the course I am given to understand).

I have also been kicking around the idea of making a documentary about homeless people, who have always fascinated me in a macabre sort of way. I have long found it puzzling how a society as rich as ours could have so many homeless people, and I wanted to find out for myself how they got to be that way.

I have started working with a venture capital firm in Santa Monica, which is the homeless capital of the world. The relatively mild climate and liberal politics attract homeless people from all over. In order to make the commute less annoying we got a little apartment near the office, and my wife and I spend about a third of our time there now.

The other night I was walking my dog out in the park that overlooks the Pacific ocean, and he went up to a bum (that is how he later described himself) lying on the grass to say hello. The bum petted my dog for a bit and then he thanked me for letting him pet my dog. He said, "I'd forgotten how nice it is to pet a dog." That nearly broke my heart. So I decided to grab a camera and start filming.

What I found has really shocked me. I don't have time to go into details right now, but suffice it to say that there's an amazing variety of homeless people in Santa Monica. Some are ex-hippies who turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. Some, like Walter, the one who petted my dog, had some tragedy strike them (Walter's wife and four children were killed by a drunk driver) and were never able to recover from the trauma. (Ironically, Walter is now an alchoholic. But he doesn't drive.) Some are Katrina victims dumped here by FEMA. Some have a few screws loose. And some have a whole hardware store rattling around inside their heads. (I have some great footage of a guy named Daniel explaing how he knows all the world's leaders thanks to his psychic powers.)

And then there's Michael.

Michael has a master's degree in psychology. He used to be a licensed marriage and family counselor. His father was a radio and television director. He had a wife and a son. The family had a few million dollars in the bank.

Then Michael's twin brother stole all his money and his father's money and left the country. And then Michael had a heart attack which left him with a $100,000+ hospital bill.

Michael has been homeless for over four years.

Yesterday he turned 60. The stories he tells are heartbreaking and very, very scary.

And I have them all on tape.

Unfortunately, it's HD video, which takes for bloody ever to download and edit on my little Mac Mini. I was really hoping to get a short segment edited out that I could put on the web to try and draw some attention to Michaels case to see if anyone knows a way to help the poor guy. (The situation is very, very complicated.)

It's after 1:00 in the morning, I've been working on the damn thing for six hours and only have it about half done, and I have to host a Fourth of July party tomorrow, so I probably won't be able to finish it until the 5th at the earliest. So this poor sod has to spend two more nights on the street, maybe more, because I'm going to get together with a bunch of friends and eat hamburgers and swim in our pool.

It seems wrong. Very, very wrong.


asdf said...

Please post a link to whatever you end up with online!

There was a photo documentary on BBC a little while ago showing some of the things that I grew up seeing:

Ron said...

Please post a link to whatever you end up with online!

I intend to, but I already have nearly four hours of footage (and that's in only two days of shooting!) so I have to edit it down, and that takes a long time. I had a five-minute trailer almost ready to go last night, and then I lost it all (as a result of my own stupidity which I don't have time to describe right now). Arrrggghhh!!!!

I'm trying to interleave some editing with playing host at our 4th of July party today.