An inside look at homelessness in the Midwest.
Interview with Director/Producer Maria Lavelle
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I’m originally from Norway, but moved to Sioux Falls, SD, to study journalism at Augustana University in 2014. When I went back for Christmas last year, I suddenly noticed that there were so many homeless people out in the streets. They’d probably always been there, but I never noticed them when I lived there and saw them every day. I then realized I’d never seen any homeless people in Sioux Falls, and decided I wanted to explore what homelessness looked like in South Dakota.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
This film gives a real-life-look into the homeless community in a city where homelessness in nearly invisible. You get to meet Chris, a teenager who has been homeless for the past seven years, his 17-year-old girlfriend, Jojo, Robert Eggers, a man with two master’s degrees who became a homeless man in his 60s, as well as a number of other people who are trying to survive out in the biting South Dakota cold.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
If we, as humans, can find an excuse or a reason for something, we feel that we don’t have to deal with the issue – and that’s what happened with the homeless issue in Sioux Falls. The homeless community has been moved away from the downtown area, and the only thing connecting the two worlds is the bridge crossing the Sioux River, thereby the title Over the Bridge. It’s an “out of sight, out of mind” situation, because you won’t find the homeless unless you’re looking for them. I think many social issues and problems can be solved simply by shedding a light in that dark corner, and making people aware of what’s actually going on, rather than just moving it out or sight.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
When the co-producer, Sarah Kocher, and I started this project, we just wanted to make a short video story that we could show to our professors at Augustana for some constructive feedback; nothing big, just a four-minute thing featuring the homeless community. But as soon as we visited the shelters and saw the magnitude of the issue, we knew we’d have to change our plans. After six weeks together with the people we met there, we had enough footage for a feature documentary, but decided to cut it down to 18 minutes, because we believe the chances of getting our message across would be better if we kept it short and concise.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The response and feedback has been amazing so far. We initially planned on just showing our film to a few people at school, but after more than 200 people showed up at our little “school premiere,” and with all the media coverage we got, this film suddenly turned into something way bigger than we could ever have predicted. We’ve been selected to seven film festivals across the country, and won awards at two of them.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
No, it has strengthened my point of view.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
Our main goal is to make people aware of the issue, so we embrace any publicity regarding the issue.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We want anyone who can help spread the message about homelessness on board. We also need producers for future projects.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
We want this film to remind people that homelessness is not just a personal battle, it’s a social issue that needs to be dealt with by the community. Not everyone has the resources to contribute financially, but to set a side a few hours to volunteer may enrich your life as much as the people you reach out to.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What can we do to help?
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Sarah and I are already talking about our next collaboration, but we’re still trying to figure out the details.
Interview: October 2016
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Over the Bridge
An inside look at homelessness in the Midwest.
Length: 18 minutes
Director: Maria Lavelle
Producer: Maria Lavelle
Co-producer: Sarah Kocher
About the writer, director and producer:
Maria Lavelle is a journalism and theatre student at Augustana University. She wants to make a career out of telling stories on the big screen, both narrative and documentary.
Sarah Kocher earned her journalism degree last year, and now works as a volunteer and videographer in the UK.
Key cast: Robert Eggers, Stacey Tieszen, Susan Bunger
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists):
- Producers, film festival directors, and journalists
Funders: Self funded.
Made in association with: NOET Productions
Release date: March 11 2016, Augustana University