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‘Shelter Me’ From the Cold World
By Arine Dekermenjian, Coast Report

With all the attention Skid Row in Los Angeles gets, it can slip the mind of Orange County residents that homelessness is an issue present in their own backyards.

The issue is being addressed by a group of Orange Coast College film students who are taking part in a documentary called “Shelter Me.”

The documentary is the final project for Film 265, Electronic Field Production, taught by Bob Lazarus. The film revolves around a benefit CD that will cost $15. The CD also called “Shelter Me,” features local songwriters and musicians singing original songs that touch upon homeless issues. The CD has 13 tracks some of which are written by homeless people.

“This group has embraced this project,” Lazarus said.

Lazarus’ class was divided into groups of about nine in the beginning of the semester and each group picked a topic they wanted to get behind.

“I was blown away by the students’ enthusiasm,” part time OCC English instructor Scott Hays said. Hays was the person who proposed the idea for “Shelter Me” to Lazarus’ class. Hays and the Friendship Shelter in Laguna Beach became the clients and the students acted as the production company.

According to its website, the Friendship Shelter provides housing, meals, and a variety of supportive services for 31 homeless people for up to 60 days at no charge.

“The idea for this CD and documentary originated in my head,” Hays wrote in an e-mail. “I then approached the Friendship Shelter, but they’re actively involved with distribution and marketing.”

Lazarus takes proposals from outside the class because students are used to coming up with their own ideas. Lazarus says it will be different in the real world.

“When they get out and get jobs, it won’t be that way,” he said. “They will have producers, directors, and clients they will have to work for.”

The documentary no longer becomes just a final project students were doing for a grade, students had to directly deal with a client. While Hays provided $150 for tape stock and the guidelines, Lazarus said the students did everything including setting up interviews, times and locations.

“We listened to the songs and realized this is something we wanted to do,” Tim Jansen, the 26-year-old co-producer and co-director of the documentary said. “It is inspiring no matter where you are in your life.”

The inspiration the students involved felt was apparent to Lazarus who commented that he could especially see the spark in one of the students. Lazarus said he understood the student’s passion when he learned he had been homeless for about six months.

One student took it a step further when getting b-roll, which is described by Lazarus as footage of homeless people in downtown Santa Ana.

“He (the student) was getting b-roll at midnight in downtown Santa Ana going down alleys with a $5,000 camera,” Lazarus said.

The class gave the students the opportunity and luxury of having a large crew, specific gear, and four high-end cameras to work with. The group of students producing the film could be seen outside the Film Department eager to head down to Laguna Beach and get footage.

Lazarus believes the students were drawn to the project because they knew there was a life for it outside the classroom.

“This is exactly the kind of programming KOCE-TV looks for and I am even considering it for film festivals and a student Emmy,” Lazarus said.

Hays said there is a story to tell and it is the students’ job to tell that story the best that they can.

“It’s hard to believe someone like that is a real person,” Jansen said about Holland a homeless man in his late 60s. “When he leaves it is not like he is walking off the set to go home. He’s not going back to anything.”

According to Hays, Holland is the one who inspired the whole concept. Holland wrote a track on the CD called “Ain’t it a Wonderful Life.”

The song is haunting with lyrics like “It must be love. Must be what it’s all about. I’ve been living out of my car for so long, I forgot what it could be like.

Myles O’Grady, 24, the director/producer of the documentary describes Holland as a person who has been through life on all levels.

“He had a lot of experiences in his life, but music wise he has met a lot of great people,” O’Grady said. “I can imagine him as the type of person who toured around with bands in the 60s.”

The topic of their project along with the people they met captivated the group so much so that they are even shooting music videos for two of the songs on the CD.

Another song called “Rebel without a Dime,” by Holland is just as poignant. It addresses the homelessness first-hand. The power of music is undeniable and while it speaks to Holland’s character that he is a songwriter the lyrics somehow make it easier to begin to imagine what his life might be like.

“It makes you pay attention to the person on the corner,” Jansen said. “They aren’t just a person holding a sign. They have a story and it is never what you’d expect.”

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