Emily Lewis and Professor Dr. Dean Duncan, Media Arts Studies
Emily Lewis Documentary on Homeless and 2002 Winter Olympics Faculty Mentor: Dean Duncan, Media Arts Studies The original project that I intended to complete for this scholarship was a documentary film on juvenile delinquents and the Utah court system. This project became impossible to do because of a lack of access and information, so my focus has since changed.
The 2002 Winter Olympics affected Utahns in many different ways, and my project was a documentary focusing on the impact the Games had on both the homeless and the more privileged Utahns. By shadowing the Mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson, as well as many homeless Utahns, I hoped to discover the different ways that the Olympics were experienced. I had heard many stories of low-income Utah citizens being kicked out of their apartments and homeless people being moved from their usual areas. I choose to juxtapose this with the Mayor’s experience because of his outspoken desire to make the experience a good one for all Utahns, including the homeless, and his high-profile position, which included hobnobbing with the rich and powerful, during the Games.
Through the course of the Olympics I followed Mayor Anderson as he made speeches at homeless shelters, foreign dignitary banquets, and city meetings. He gave me full access to all of his activities and parties. I also followed homeless advocates and Utahns living at the homeless shelter to try to see what impact the Olympics were having on them. I conducted many interviews as well as obtained much observational footage. I am, however, still working on putting the footage together into a cohesive film, and am still making discoveries about the outcome of this research.
Some of the things that I discovered during the Olympics were as follows. Many of the people I spoke with living at the homeless shelter had lived in apartments or low-income motels and had been told that, during the Olympics themselves, they would either have to move out or pay huge increases in rent during the month, sometimes 5 times more than their actual rent. I spoke to some people who felt the Olympics had no impact on their life whatsoever, besides the increased crowds on the street. Some expressed frustration at the increase of policemen on the street arresting people for loitering or public intoxication, and the evacuation of Pioneer Park, where many people slept prior to the Olympics. There was a wide range of responses, but there also seemed to be an increase in volunteers willing to help make sure that the Utah homeless and low-income survived the event.
My experience with the Mayor was very different. Although he expressed much concern for these “other” Utahns, and his actions were indicative of this, much of his time was spent at extravagant functions, usually as the center of attention among wealthy visitors and Utahns. Although this was necessary and inevitable, it occasionally frustrated me to switch between these worlds, and I think it will be an interesting contrast for the documentary.
This semester I intend to do some follow-up interviews, as well as begin to piece together the final project. I know that much more will surface as I review the footage and begin trying to make a comprehensible film.
The ORCA Scholarship gave me the ability to take the weeks during the Olympics off from work and focus my time primarily on the project. I was able to fully immerse myself in the Olympics themselves, and felt I had a front seat to the action that was taking place, whether it was from the more high-profile side or the little-noticed one. I feel I got a well-rounded view of the Olympics from several different perspectives, and I also got a chance to learn more about documentary filmmaking and what it entails. I know that the experience has had a very positive effect on me, both personally and educationally, and will impact my future projects and interests.