Melinda Raebyne is the director of Stories of Us: Camp Second Chance, which will have its premiere at the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival!
Stories of Us: Camp Second Chance is a documentary focusing on Camp Second Chance, a homeless camp in Seattle. Seattle’s local homeless population has increased 40% within the last few years, totalling over 12,000 people. To provide an authentic look at the struggles of Seattle’s homeless, director Melinda Raebyne lived at Camp Second Chance for a period of time, putting faces to the statistics and a voice to their stories.
We had the opportunity to ask director Melinda Raebyne a few questions about the making of her film below.
What is your film about?
Homeless people are, at the very heart of this, “people.” In giving a voice to their stories I hope to humanize them, so people in our society can identify more readily with what has become a nameless, faceless population within our communities. My hope with this documentary, to build a bridge of similarity by showing how much more we are connected to one another through like experiences.
How did you find this homeless camp and why did you decide to make a film about it?
A friend of mine posted on Facebook about going to help build mini homes at a homeless camp and this was always something that I wanted to be a part of. Enhance my connection with Camp Second Chance was born.
Throughout my travels I’ve met and talked with a lot people that mainstream society might not given a second thought to and in some cases have a negative perception of. But what I found was when I took the time to get to know someone that I might not normally talk with, my life becomes enhanced a little bit more because of them. America’s landscape of people is so much boarder then what our media is covering. It’s us, the everyday people who are heroes, heroines, dreamers, lovers, risk takers that have lost a lot, hoped for more, reached the unattainable, and by telling these stories we get boarder idea of the beauty of this country and maybe connects us all a little. I figured the residents at Camp Second Chance would be no different.
How did the experience of making this film affect you?
It showed me how strong I was, and it showed me that I’m not as courageous as I think I was. I hate being cold so not only did I make it through staying at a homeless camp sleep in a tent during winter, but I was there when it snowed for several days. And there was no escaping the cold in an environment like this. After a few days, my body was adopting to outside elements. As far as the last part of my statement, I don’t what to give my film away, so you’ll need to come and watch the film to understand what I’m referring to.
The issues around homelessness in Seattle continue on, and I'm sure it felt like you could continue shooting your film -- how did you know that it was time to stop shooting and finish your film?
I always say that in documentary filmmaking that it’s not my job to dictate the story but to allow the story to tell itself and I applied this to Stories of Us: Camp Second Chance. After filming the first part of the documentary, I stayed in contact what the residence of the camp, so I knew a lot of what was happening with the camp and those that I interviewed. For me it was a no brainer that I need to tell this part of the story and that their follow-ups would be the conclusion to the film.
What were some of the biggest challenges in making your film?
This was my first documentary and it eventually became my first feature film. There was a number of times during post-production that I wondered if I took on more then I could handle, that maybe I wasn’t at the skill level yet. But it was the residents at the camp that was my motivation in completing the film to my best ability. They trusted me with their personal stories, shared with me some of their darkest moments and confessed their hopes and dreams with me. I felt that if I didn’t finish the film that I would have broken their trust and that’s not ok with me.
For information on screening times at SIFF, visit: https://www.siff.net/festival/stories-of-us-camp-second-chance
A conversation with documentary filmmaker and Women in Film member Amy Enser, the director of the film The Long Haul: The Story of the Buckaroos.
The Long Haul: The Story of the Buckaroos follows the story of Seattle’s all-male, country-Western-themed, slightly parodistic burlesque dance troupe, uncovering their secrets and baring their souls (and plenty else) in this up-tempo doc.
We were thrilled to ask Amy Enser some questions about her latest film!
What is your film about?
The Long Haul is about an unlikely troupe of self-proclaimed "average joes" who perform in a comedic male revue called the Buckaroos. Beyond the cowboy hats and sparkly thongs, the film reveals the vulnerabilities of each Buckaroo and what compelled them to bare it all on stage.
Who are the Buckaroos?
The Buckaroos was a special semi-annual show created by Can Can Kitchen & Cabaret, Pike Place Market's famed dinner cabaret theater, that ran from 2013-2017 at the Triple Door. Unintentionally the show featured non-performers after a live casting call (recreated with the same talent and original judges in the film) had the audience rooting the loudest for the 'average joes'. In particular, the first person cast came on stage and chopped wood. His name also happens to be Joe. :)
Why did you decide to make this film and how did you get connected to the Buckaroos?
I've come to realize as a non-fiction storyteller that films tend to find me instead of the other way around. In this case, I had absolutely no intention of pursuing a feature film, but one of my closest friends and collaborators, local cinematographer Jonathan Houser, happened to be in the Buckaroos and kept pitching it to me. I showed up to what I thought was a rehearsal before anyone knew I was going to start filming, and walked into a steamy dance studio where half-naked sweaty men were pumping free weights while I rack-focused on various parts of their bodies. Needless to say, that experience kept me coming back and it didn't take long before I was totally charmed by the diverse group of personalities. In 2015 I started getting some grant funding and decided to take the project seriously. For the next two summers I filmed nearly every day and am thrilled with the result. Though there is a lot of over-the-top spectacle in the film, I'm most excited by how sensitive it is and how necessary it's been for the audience to see all types of men being vulnerable, especially in today's #metoo cultural climate.
What was one of the biggest challenges in making this film?
Like all documentary filmmaking, life tends to get in the way of your plans and all sorts of twists and turns take over, some good and some bad in terms of the story you're hoping to tell. Because I was following a performance group over the course of three years, it was inevitable that there would be cast changes for various reasons. I think I handled it pretty well in the film, but we definitely had to pivot a few times because either someone we were focusing on left the project or new ones came in that we had to make room for.
Do you have a favorite scene or moment in the film (or the making of the film)
It's difficult to narrow down because the whole process was such a joy, but the whole development, rehearsal and final performance of the synchronized swimming number to It's Raining Men is absolutely unforgettable. I have a sensitive funny bone so I'm an easy target for laughs, but that number produced so many laugh-out-loud moments that we had trouble finding clips that were either steady or didn't have my chuckling polluting the audio. It's a crowd favorite for sure.
For information on screening times at SIFF, visit: https://www.siff.net/festival/the-long-haul-the-story-of-the-buckaroos