Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Homeless Mocumentary Student Film Idea - Adam Thorn

The Story

Contact: Adam Thorn

A student film group, attempting to make a film about the homeless in London, happen upon a homeless man who is as difficult as he is interesting and funny.

The group’s director, a young lady in her very early twenties, finds the homeless man enthralling and despite not at first being entirely sure where she wants to take the documentary follows him. The homeless man, subconsciously flattered by the attention and overtly enjoying having something to occupy his time (and a young woman as company- although there is no sexual companionship sought by either) allows the crew to shadow him over days at a time over a period of months. The shoot is fraught and fractured however as the man’s nomadic life and substance dependency cause him to be unpredictable and occasionally, impossibly obstinate.

At first however, after a tough introduction and bartering session over the terms of the documentary and both parties involvement in it, and while the bond is developing between the inexperienced director and the man we see an alternate take on how the homeless could live. The man seems to play up for the camera and has numerous amusing ways of passing his time and getting by in the capital. He also talks frankly about his life now, but is shifty and evasive when asked about his past.

However problems creep in as our homeless character begins to succumb to his addictions, which previously seemed under control. Relatively.

The documentary is not as fluid as it could be and it’s subject is either absent in body or mind later on in the film. Clearly attached and fond of the man she now considers a friend, the director struggles with her emotions and the documentary almost becomes the crutch of her effort to save the homeless man from his demons, or at least get under the skin of them and subsequently him.

Unfortunately the man’s casual attitude to his mortality prevails and after a one to one in hospital after an overdose, where the director tells him honestly why she can’t understand his determination to destroy himself the two never meet again, but listed as his next of kin (which comes as a surprise) the Director is contacted when he dies, and films his unceremonious funeral drawing through voiceover what she can from the experience.

The Style

The idea is based on various real life homeless stories I have either heard (from a friend who was a drug councillor for the homeless), seen in documentaries or read. As a child I was obsessed with the homeless as it terrified me. I want to make something which gives the homeless a very different personality to the norm but which doesn’t say “this is what the homeless are like” just “this is a homeless person who is like this”, even though he is fictional.

The ending is inspired by a clip I saw of a 70’s documentary called “Gail is dead” about a young girl who was a runaway heroin addict, who was followed by a film crew and interviewer- a middle aged man who I think was quite famous at the time for his documentaries. The clip was the hospital scene I describe as the ending in this story, where the man told the girl he couldn’t see what her demons were, and that not only was she a nice person she was intelligent and attractive, but seemed hell bent on dying. She did die, and the film cut from this conversation to a shot of a crematorium (or graveyard) with the voiceover “Gail Parsons died on January 21st 1795”. I found this immensely powerful even for a 2 minute clip.

I would aim to film this as if it was real, similar to the Blair Witch or recent Australian comedy Kenny, with the comedy feeling very natural and real allowing for the more intense emotional parts to feel as real as any laughs. The setting of London allows for some nice shots of the city, huge amount of extras and a very real setting, which would need very little trickery to enhance the “reality” of the project.

The piece could be written at less than feature length or longer and could allow for some substantial improvisation depending on the actors.

As it is the work is a basic idea but I feel could become something good with a proper writer and the themes/ journeys in it more clearly outlined.

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1 comment:

Warren Drew said...

Hi there,

Really like your idea/pitch and would be interested in hearing more about it as I think I'd quite like to collaborate on writing the screenplay.