Skid Row

The name of the game for this week has been Location Scouting, for myself, the Director, and the AD of the project that I am currently working on.

For any film this can be a bit of an adventure, but for a script set in Skid Row this takes on a whole new level of excitement. I’m not going to lie: I wasn’t looking forward to it. The idea of visiting Skid Row in Los Angeles was very intimidating, and not only because it is a dangerous neighborhood (I don’t think that I could have gone without the group), but because I knew it was going to force me to face some of my assumptions about Life, The Universe, and Everything. I know my life is relatively sheltered by privilege. I’m not particularly proud of that fact.

We like to believe that we live in a country of prosperity and equality: which, come to think of it, are somewhat opposing ideas, and visiting a neighborhood in which the streets are lined with tents for as far as the eye can see is a resounding wake up call. Nothing makes you recognize inequality quite like being a white lady walking down a sidewalk in Skid Row looking for a place to make a movie for the USC graduate program.  I felt like I was “playing tourist”, which I probably was- whether it was for the purposes of a film or not- and I was embarrassed because of it. I was just visiting. I was just looking. I could leave again- in the same day I could just as easily find myself buying a four dollar coffee at a Starbucks in Beverly Hills or Santa Monica without anybody looking at me twice.

So I was afraid. I was afraid that I was going to go to Skid Row and see Set Dressing instead of human beings.

The question of Poverty is a question that is too big for one person to answer. Perhaps it is even a question that is too big to be answered at all. There will always be Haves and Have Nots, but when you discover that you are a Have and you are standing on a sidewalk surrounded by Have Nots there is an impulse to find some way to even the balance- if only to relieve the guilt. But what do you do? Say you give one person some money. It helps one person. But what about the next person? Say you give money to that person too. Now you’ve helped two people. Perhaps you keep giving away money until your pockets are empty. But there are still people who need help. Maybe you give away every cent that you have. There are still people who will need help. At a certain point it seems futile to do anything because nothing will make the problem go away. But if you don’t do a little bit then you don’t help anyone at all.

It’s a conundrum.

I promised myself that I would look people in the eye. It’s a little thing. I didn’t have any money to give, but I could at least do the courtesy of looking people in the eye instead of pretending they didn’t exist. It helped. At least, it helped me. Is that selfish of me? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I may not have actually changed anything except my own mind, but it helped because it made me see each person that I passed as a Person instead of a Problem. Maybe they could see me as a Person too. Maybe that is a place to start.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on July 16, 2014.

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