Twenty years after spending my time on the streets, I was given the opportunity to direct my first feature film. In 2010, I networked every relationship I had and raised the first $150,000 to start production. I reached out to every actor I had ever met during other projects, signing Shenae Grimes and Marshall Allman on to tell this authentic story of homeless youth. Now all I had to do was write the script...
Shenae spent weeks down on the Venice boardwalk getting to know the kids down there and doing her research in order to give an honest performance. Half of our cast and part of our crew ended up being the very same homeless youth she befriended and now five of them are off of the streets and back home. We were able to give away 450 meals in the 2 ½ weeks of production, and many of the actors donated their fees to the shelter we worked with My Friend's Place. It was amazing to witness a group of young Hollywood, better known for shows like Beverly Hills 90210 and High School Musical, who were willing to donate their time and energy to create a film that could make a difference. I call this Film-Anthropy.
I ended up mortgaging my house to put in the final $50,000 to finish the film; it always amazes me that twenty years ago I didn't even have a home to stay in and now I had the ability to mortgage my own. If I can do it, anyone can... That's the story I want to tell to inspire today's homeless youth to get where they belong.
We've become the little-film-that-could, and even though we didn't get into any of the major festivals, our team of producers rallied, taking up that hustle from the streets and turning a "no" into a "yes" by securing a small theatrical window for the fall. Our distributor shares the same vision we do to push the film as a social campaign, not just an artistic piece, and further my dream of Film-Anthropy to help those in need.
Rotimi Rainwater, Director or SUGAR.