Jacob Interviews….Vending for Change’s Michael Schoenfeld

Vending for Change is a short documentary that is gaining ground in film festivals. Photo property of Frazer Lockhart, Michael Schoenfeld and Marty Chapman.

 

One documentary that is receiving a lot of buzz from film festivals is Vending for Change.  This film has already received awards including Best of Fest from the FilmStock Film Festival and was an Official Selection for the Starz Denver Film Festival.    Recently, I had the opportunity to correspond with Co-Director Michael Schoenfeld.   In this interview, he talks about the filming process and the obstacles that this film encountered while filming.

 

Jacob Elyachar: Why did you decide to make a documentary on this topic?

Michael Schoenfeld: I originally wanted to make a documentary about a homeless or low-income family that tries to operate a normal life, i.e. the kids going to school, parents going to work. That didn’t pan out at the beginning, and my Co-Director Frazer knew of the Denver Voice, so we got in touch with them and they opened their offices up to us the next day. In general though, whenever I see a homeless person on the street I always wonder how they ended up there, so I wanted to explore that in more depth.

 

JE: Your documentary follows around two homeless vendors that work for The Denver Voice, what did you and your fellow filmmakers see in them that lead them to become the subjects of your documentary?

MS: We caught Dymar Blanton, the young vendor, on his first day vending and that was one of our goals, to follow someone who hadn’t done this before. He had a very interesting back story (which he tells in the film) and was also our age (22) which made it that much more interesting for us. Johnny Alexander, the older vendor has been selling papers for three years and actually holds the national monthly sales record for papers. We decided to showcase him because of his juxtaposition to Dymar and how they were essentially 2 completely different story arcs that ended up contrasting perfectly.

 

JE: Could you describe some of the obstacles that you and your fellow filmmakers experienced during the filming process?

MS:  In terms of obstacles, our first couple weeks were full of them before we even stumbled upon the Denver Voice. We tried working through the Denver Rescue Mission, but we kept running into “red tape” and they weren’t going to allow us the same creative freedom that the Denver Voice ended up giving us. But once we got in touch with the Voice, our biggest obstacle was narrowing our focus down to two subjects. When we walked in the first morning with our cameras, there were literally people lining up to tell us their stories. At that point we just decided to record it all and see what we got. There were a lot of great stories to be told, but with the help of workshopping in our class (which the film was the assignment for) we settled on Dymar and Johnny.

 

JE: Whom did you ask for advice on how to overcome the obstacles that you stated in the last question?

MS: Overcoming these obstacles was largely due to the comments we received from fellow classmates and professors. We showed a lot of footage and people would tell us what was most engaging. My fellow filmmakers and myself would also spend many hours during the week and on the weekends watching clips to decide what was best to use.

 

JE: What is the message that you hope to get across to the audience?

MS: The message I hope to get across is that the homeless are just as human as all of us. These vendors, instead of just standing on the corner with a sign, begging for money, they sign up with the Denver Voice, and WORK for money just like we all do. Giving them a one-dollar donation for what is a really great paper can help them out in so many ways.

 

To find out more information on Vending for Change, visit their Facebook fan page at: www.facebook.com/vendingforchange or to follow them on Twitter: @vending4change.

 

 

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Copyright 2015 Jacob Elyachar