“COMMUNITY FIRST, A HOME FOR THE HOMELESS is a feature documentary about Community First! Village in Austin which is a one-of-kind, master planned development that is transforming the lives of homeless people. There is no other place like it. It has micro homes, tents, and RV’s and provides micro enterprises for the residents to make money. It has a bed and breakfast onsite, an outdoor amphitheater, 7 acres of gardens, an auto repair shop, a blacksmith shop, a woodshop, an arthouse, and a market for selling the goods the residents make. It has a mental health facility and a bus stop. And, about 20 percent of the people that live there have never been homeless. It really is transformational!” Director Layton Blaylock on COMMUNITY FIRST, A HOME FOR THE HOMELESS which screens at the 2019 edition of South By Southwest Film.
Congratulations on your film playing in at SxSW this year! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?
I would be attending even if I didn’t live in Austin. I’m very excited.
So how did you get into this movie-making business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.
I graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in Radio-TV-Film and have been working in the business ever since. I have worked on features, TV shows, documentaries, and commercials. You name it and I have worked on it. I even shot the live action portion of a computer game, back when they did that kind of thing. My background is cinematography, but I have been working as a director also for many years.
How did this project come together for you? Give me a rundown from the preparation, to shooting, to post-production to now!
The issue of homelessness has been near to my heart. I produced and directed another documentary a few years ago about an art program for homeless people called ART FROM THE STREETS. While shooting that film, I heard of this non-profit called Mobile Loaves and Fishes. They were going around the streets with trucks and handing out food and clothing to the homeless on a daily basis. The founder of that organization, Alan Graham, had been planning for years to start an “RV park on steroids” for the homeless. That became a reality and was named Community First! Village.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?
This film has been a labor of love for me. I am very passionate about trying to find ways to help homeless people in a more permanent, life changing way. Community First! Village is the epitome of that. Lots of coffee was consumed while making this film.
What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?
The biggest challenge was keeping the stories of the homeless people contained. I did hours of interviews with many of the homeless residents, and their stories are always so compelling. There were several people that I probably could have done an entire documentary on! Many of their stories are unbelievable. So far, the most rewarding moment was being able to show the staff of Community First! Village the film. Their response was awesome.
I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.
I had a very close relationship with the DP on this film, because I was the DP in addition to the director (and producer). I shot it on my Sony FS-7. Typical of a documentary, there was a lot of handheld work; however, all of my interviews were “sit down” interviews and were lit.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?
Being an Austinite and having started the film about two years ago, I’m looking forward to showing it to a lot of my friends and other Austinites that I have been curious about the project.
After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?
More festivals first, then online.
If you could show your movie in any theatre outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?
Not a direct answer, but I would ultimately like for it to air on PBS. I think they have the right audience for this film. I made the film to inspire other communities to start their own Community First! Village or something like it.
What would you say to someone who was being disruptive through a movie?
I’d like to say “show some respect and be quiet! or stop texting! etc”.
We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?
Follow your heart and be prepared to work very hard.
And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?
I didn’t see it at a festival, but A CLOCKWORK ORANGE!
This is one of the many film titles playing at SxSW 2019. For more information on this and any other title playing in the festival, point your browser to http://www.sxsw.com/film!