Local filmmaker and Seattle University’s Lindy Boustedt is the producer, project manager, and overall brains behind American Refugees, part of the Project of Family Homelessness.
Established by the Center for Strategic Communications (CSC) through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Project on Family Homelessness increases awareness, understanding, and insight into homelessness through media.
The project’s American Refugees is a collection of four short animated films that premiered at the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), and is now available online.
Washington Filmworks sat down with Boustedt to discuss the innovative and ambitious project, including its history, involved filmmakers, and newfound legacy.
Washington Filmworks: How did the Project on Family Homelessness Originate?
Lindy Boustedt: The Center for Strategic Communications (CSC) established its Project on Family Homelessness in late 2009 through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Its goals are to increase public awareness and understanding of family homelessness and its causes and solutions, and to engage the public to end family homelessness. In 2010, the Center created the Journalism Fellowships on Family Homelessness, which yielded outstanding and unprecedented in-depth reporting by six different news organizations and independent journalists, and was commended by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. The Film & Family Homelessness Project is modeled after the Journalism Fellowships, with a similar goal of engaging the public to end family homelessness, using film as a powerful springboard for discussion and an inspiration for action.
WF: Part of the project is American Refugees, which consists of four short films and productions – what story are they telling?
LB: American Refugees, the series of short films as part of the project, reflects the hidden homelessness of thousands of family members in Washington State who sometimes feel exiled from their communities. We’re telling these stories through animation because it provides a unique perspective on the causes of and solutions to family homelessness, but gives us a different way to outreach to our community and engage them in action.
About the films:
The Beast Inside, directed by Amy Enser and animated by Drew Christie, illustrates the viewpoint of a teenager in a homeless family, highlighting the difficulties of both being a teen and being homeless. Enser used her documentary background to find and conduct all the interviews for the story. Once the interviews were cut together, Christie took over using hand-drawn animation to illustrate this story through a muted warm color palette.
Home for Sale visualizes prospective buyers walking through an empty home, all the while seeing the family who once lived there and the moments that led to them losing their home. An oil painter physically painted the different, separate layers of the images, then the paintings were scanned and layered images were created and animated. In writing the film, director Laura Jean Cronin drew on the personal experience of buying her first home and how it felt seeing foreclosed homes for sale.
The Smiths showcases the cycle of a family falling into homelessness and how they can move out of it if a compassionate, supportive community and resources are in place. Neely Goniodsky used a mixture of hand drawn animation, digital cut outs and painting to bring the story to life and did all of the animation herself.
Super Dads is a compilation of several different stories of homelessness as seen through the eyes of local fathers and their children. Sihanouk Mariona used stop-motion animation with clay to portray the daily hurdles these parents face in trying to provide for themselves and their children.
WF: How did you identify directors for each project? What was important in seeking out this talent?
LB: Amy Enser, Drew Christie, Laura Jean Cronin, Neely Goniodsky and Sihanouk Mariona were chosen because of their talent to create films that are entertaining, visually stunning, and highlight the real-life stories and struggles of Washington families experiencing poverty or homelessness.
WF: American Refugees is available online. Why did you choose to distribute these films on the internet?
LB: We originally premiered them at SIFF 2014 at the Harvard Exit Theatre, and it was a fantastic way to kick off and premiere the films. I then spent the rest of the summer holding smaller screenings around the region with business leaders, college students, community leaders, in an effort to encourage discussion after the films.
All four films created by this project are available online. That is the whole kit and kaboodle. We released them online because the project is about raising awareness with the masses around the issue of family homelessness and encouraging people to share the films with their communities, their friends, their families – not about reaching audiences only at festivals.
WF: What do you hope audiences take away from American Refugees and the Project on Family Homelessness?
LB: My hope for these films is that they raise awareness that families too are experiencing homelessness. These films are not meant to be a complete and thorough education on the subject but to rather open the door, encouraging you to learn more. Human beings naturally want to find patterns, to connect dots. I hope these films help people start to see the signs (the dots) of family homelessness in their communities, which will make them more aware and hopefully, more inclined to take action to help their fellow citizens off the streets.
WF: What is next for the project?
LB: The project only lasted one year and is now over and done – it ended this past September. My fellow colleagues at Seattle University are continuing their work with the Project on Family Homelessness and the Faith & Family Homelessness Project and will continue to utilize these films in their work. We’ve also made them available to our partner service providers in the area to aid in their work.
We also just learned that an excerpt from one of the films will be used by YouTube in a compilation they’re putting together to play before the Sundance Documentary Shorts Program at this year’s festival, which is really exciting!
I hope the films have a long and useful life online.
Check out American Refugees’ collection of short films here. We thank Lindy Boustedt for her time, intelligence, and commitment to an important cause and original project!
Lindy Boustedt is an award-winning filmmaker and project manager for SU’s Film & Family Homelessness Project, funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Boustedt utilized her extensive and diverse filmmaking skills to produce American Refugees, four short animated films about family homelessness in Washington State. She also assisted the filmmakers with other needs such as writing, storyline and managing post-production.
Boustedt is co-owner of First Sight Productions, where she writes, edits, directs and produces narrative features and shorts with her partner. Boustedt has written, directed, produced or edited dozens of films, including three features, and created media for nonprofit fundraisers and corporate promotions. Her short film, Ten Years Later was a 2014 SIFF Official Selection. Her short, Practical Things, was a 2014 Pal Springs ShortsFest Official Selection and was also an Official Selection of the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (SLGFF), Tacoma Film Festival, POW Fest, and the London Lesbian Film Festival. Her short, The Summer Home, won best drama at the First Glance Hollywood festival; her feature film, This is Ours, was nominated for the Audience Choice at the 2012 Tacoma Film Festival.