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Live Out Loud: A Documentary Of Hope By Melissa Gregory Rue

Sumaiyya, David and John

LIVE OUT LOUD is a feature documentary about art therapy for the homeless. It is a great film and runs about 90 minutes long. The Director is a wonderful woman named Melissa Gregory Rue. The documentary is incredibly empowering and inspiring. We all know that homelessness is a huge issue, but how many people are ready to help and get involved? Watch this film if you have ever been motivated to make a difference in the homeless crises and be proactive within your community in a creative and beautiful way!

LIVE OUT LOUD is a documentary that centers upon the transformative power of filmmaking. Shot over one year, LIVE OUT LOUD tells the stories of three people experiencing homelessness in Portland, Oregon, who are empowered and begin to heal from childhood trauma by learning to make films in a grant-funded class. Their backgrounds are as diverse as their projects. Sumaiyya, a white woman in her 60's who's a recovering heroin addict and former sex worker, makes a self-portrait. David, a black man in his mid 20's who wants to be a film director, writes and directs a Halloween dramedy. John, a gay, white fan fiction writer in his early 30s, experiments with stop motion animation as a new artistic medium. To specific degrees, their shared journey puts each one on a better path. It is an inspiring documentary and motivates the audience to believe in humanity again. The defining factor is that all three have their own story to tell. Once they share their stories, it becomes cathartic and raises their overall sense of self-worth.

"MISSION: We aim to inspire other cities to rethink their approaches to connecting with and uplifting people experiencing homelessness. There’s no doubt that getting people into housing, with food and water are vital first steps. But there’s another side to solving this crisis—restoring self-esteem. The isolation and stigmatization of homelessness tears people down, but art can help them regain hope for the future. We want more cities to create programs that both empower people experiencing homelessness and bring them together with their larger communities, citywide. "(Melissa Gregory Rue)

When Melissa had a moment, she talked with Gemma Magazine about LIVE OUT LIUD, the homeless issue, and her experience at Dances With Films.

Melissa Gregory Rue

WHY NOW? Before Covid, over half a million people were living on our streets. The pandemic pushed even more people out of their homes due to rising rents and inflation. Currently, our country faces the worst housing crisis since The Great Depression. While there’s no doubt that meeting people’s basic needs is essential; without self-worth and hope, those who have experienced homelessness cannot move forward with their lives. Melissa and her team proposed that making films, or really any type of art, has the power not only to help people heal, but to bring disparate communities together and create empathy and understanding. Melissa Gregory Rue aspires to improve upon how we connect with the homeless and ultimately, create lasting change.

When Melissa had a moment to stop, we spoke with her about LIVE OUT LOUD, her passion for the documentary, and the homeless crises that prevails in so many communities today,

The confidence that Sumaiyya, David, and John gained from taking on their film projects is fantastic. Why do you think this is?

People without homes are used to being treated as invisible or as a nuisance to society. This program, BCCTV, gave Sumaiyya, David, and John a place to meet every Saturday where they were recognized as emerging artists with important stories to contribute to society. Instead of being looked down upon, they were consistently reminded of their abilities and potential. Filmmaking requires many stages and fierce determination. Discovering that they could see their projects through to completion showed them they were capable of way more than they realized. Ultimately, becoming directors of their films gave them the confidence to direct their own lives.

Sumaiyya and Melissa Gregory Rue

Taking on film projects also starts to help them heal from their childhood traumas. Can you expand?

Making art is a reflective process. In this case, making films allowed them to reflect upon and work through past traumas differently. Sumaiyya's film is the most obvious example because it's a short documentary about her life. In one scene, she recounts being raped just before she got into public housing. At the end of that scene, we hug, and she says, "That felt like you were my therapist." Well, I'm certainly not a trained therapist, but I believe that when people recount their experiences to someone who cares, listens intently, and assures them that their stories matter, that process is therapeutic. For David and John's projects, you must look more closely to see the parallels to their own experiences. In David's narrative, the protagonist's father wants to kick him out of the house. In John's stop motion alien film, one antagonist says to another, "Let's kill 'em. They're different."

What was it like to be a part of 'Dances With Films?'

Incredibly exciting. I'd spent a nail-biting five months waiting for a festival to say yes. And, it wasn't just yes; it was a personal email from the director of documentary programming, Jackie Tepper, and she loved our film. I'd had a lot of good feedback from friends and colleagues, but you never know how the festival game will pan out. At this point, we have two more festival screenings, and I'm hoping for a few more before we move to distribution. Now I can sleep again!

What can people do to help the homeless issue? People who want to be proactive?

As our film attests, untreated childhood trauma is often the reason people live on the streets. How do we change that? Elect public servants who are committed to ending homelessness. Support programs that are working to help parents and children lead healthier lives. Sesame Street in Communities is one of my favorites. Advocate for public schools to provide more school psychologists. The ratio at present is absurd. Some districts have only one psychologist for an entire school system of thousands of kids. With all of the trauma kids face today, we should have teams of psychologists working with the schools. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, also offers excellent online resources, like the National Alliance on Ending Homelessness. Often people want to help but feel they don't have the resources or time. Think small. Find a program in your community that helps prevent people from becoming homeless or helps them get back into housing, and look on their website to find out what kinds of donations they currently need. Volunteer a couple of hours a week at a food bank, a shelter, or an educational program for people experiencing homelessness. Donate money if you can. Teach your children to have compassion and model volunteerism as a part of being a responsible citizen.

What are some misconceptions people have about the homeless population?

The most significant misconception people have about people without homes is that they lack the intelligence and talent to function in society. Our streets are filled with human potential that is going to waste.

Are you working on upcoming projects?

I'm in the early stages of planning for my next documentary. It will be a short documentary about my experience battling late-stage, chronic Lyme disease. It also addresses using a treatment considered experimental still in the U.S. The proceeds from the short will be used for a more extended feature where my story is the frame for a broader topic that is top secret.

To learn more about Melissa Gregory Rue and her inspiring projects:

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