As a film student in Chicago, Michael Schweisheimer witnessed the challenges that two homeless men faced while trying to emerge from their lots in life.
Instead of constantly saying he didn’t have money, Schweisheimer befriended the men. He learned their stories, through conversations that included a memorable one about the difficulty of getting a job when you don’t have a place to shower beforehand.
The guy who lived near the film school was a father and husband who lost his family’s support when he became homeless.
The other man was always near the pizza shop where Schweisheimer worked; he gave him extra food when it was available and got him a job that lasted until the payday on which he grabbed his check and never returned.
“Too many people act as if homeless people are a nuisance and not a person,” said Schweisheimer, who went on to launch Primitive World Productions, a full service production company specializing in producing videos for non-profit organizations and green businesses.
A local homeless-themed film festival
He is now working with Depaul USA, an advocacy group based in Germantown which, in October, will host a film festival at the Painted Bride. The event is built as a way to explore homelessness through videography.
This is the first film festival for Depaul USA, a homeless advocacy group which previously hosted photography exhibits that shed a light on homelessness.
Program director Sandra Guillory said she thinks it is important to continuously find creative ways to discuss the topic.
“What we want to do is to make sure the dialogue keeps on moving,” said Guillory. “We don’t want to keep repeating ourselves.”
How to get involved
Submissions are currently being accepted for the 90-minute viewing that will showcase multiple five- to 10-minute videos. The grand price is $1,500.
“I think all of us, when you say homeless or homelessness, have a certain group of mental pictures that may come to mind,” said Schweisheimer. “But when you gives those rapid-fire stereotypes a face, voice and a story, you turn what a brief mental picture is into a fully fleshed-out human being so that you can understand their path, their challenges and their needs.”