Local filmmakers David Yama and Isaac Handelman have produced a compelling short documentary on some homeless friends who have been struggling to make ends meet.
One issue that stood out to the two creatives in their pursuit to find and share stories has been the homeless crisis, which now affects virtually every community, big or small, in our country today.
“We were shocked to find that there are homeless individuals and families who are employed, who work but even with employment they have ended up effectively homeless,” Yama told The B-Town Blog. “Either living on someones couch, in an RV parked outside of a property or on the street-side illegally. We found that for those employed living homeless, it appeared that more often they had something of a roof over their head, and that the next step in the fate of these individuals – ending up in a tent – ultimately led to them losing their employment and sources of income.”
While investigating this issue trying to come up with how they would make a film about it, Yama says he learned that a childhood friend of his was living in this exact predicament. Zak Grenier and his son Bryson Grenier are both employed and bring in a steady income, and Zak’s girlfriend Winter Rain also brings in income through artwork. But after being illegally removed from Winter’s parent’s property, the family has been effectively homeless for the last 18 months, living out of gifted/donated pre-1960s decrepit trailers. For some time, they had to park their trailers at state parks during off-season for over $2,000 a month. Eventually, Zak’s employer let them park their trailers on a storage lot which wasn’t meant nor allowed for living on. That time is past its end, and now the Health Department appears to be involved. With nowhere to move their trailers, a very likely scenario is that the sheriff’s department will impound the trailers and the Grenier family will be forced to live in tents on the side of the road, a next step that will very likely lead to them losing their employment, losing everything.
“In our investigation, we found that this scenario is one not unique to the Grenier’s,” Yama said. “Throughout the Southend and Seattle, countless RVs are parked illegally on the side of roads and under underpasses. We found individuals, couples and families who are employed, but are unable to afford getting themselves into a stable living situation. We were shocked to hear how expensive it actually is to be employed and effectively homeless. These RVs often don’t have running water, sewage, or electricity. While the Grenier’s have been fortunate to have a small amount of electricity to divide between their trailers, the trailers themselves do not have running water, gas, or sewage. This means that they can’t store much food let alone cook food. They have to depend on bottled water and prepared foods, with long trips to the nearest grocery stores, adding to the costs of living homeless. In order to have a place to go to the bathroom, the Grenier’s have to pay for someone to drain their trailer’s sewage tanks. All together, the family pays on average around $2,000 a month to survive in their current living standards.”
Given what they learned about the Grenier’s and discovering that others right on their streets are living through this same hell, the filmmakers decided to make a short documentary about the Grenier’s plight.
“We made this film to both bring to light this situation so many are suffering through as well as to try and help this one family overcome their predicament,” Yama said. “The Grenier’s have a chance to turn things around. If they were able to raise enough funds to either purchase a lot to park their RVs or make the down payment necessary to get into a rent-to-own situation, they’d be able to pay the month-to-month costs with their incomes. Isaac and I are confident that if enough people hear this family’s story and come together to help them, they’ll be able to turn things around and be one less homeless family in this country. There are so many on the brink, and we plan to tell their stories moving forward. The stories of not homeless people living on ‘our’ streets, but the stories of members of our community who are much less fortunate. We also challenge our fellow local independent filmmakers, and local independent filmmakers of other communities to take a moment and also cover this. Let us all tell the stories of our community’s dilemmas. We have the power to influence and bring about change with our lenses, not simply entertain.”
The Grenier Family’s GoFundMe page can be found here:
Both graduated from the University of Washington’s new Cinema and Media Studies Program with a desire to create independent local films. While the program was more geared towards comparative literature and analysis of film, like many in the program, they utilized what they learned about the history of cinema and the techniques applied to make their own films.
“Over the better part of the last year, we worked on a film based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, for which I starred in and Isaac co-wrote and directed,” Yama said. “While the project was extremely fulfilling, we wanted to switch gears and begin working on a project that reflected the current state of our communities and country.”
- Isaac Handelman was born in Seattle, but grew up mostly in Spokane:
“During my childhood, I wrote fantasy novels, movie reviews, and directed my troupe of friends in numerous comedic short films and series on YouTube. I moved back to Seattle for college at UW, where I labored to find a path that I gelled with. I found my way to the Computer Science department before quitting just before my senior year to major in Cinema and Media Studies. Since graduating, I’ve worked various odd-jobs as a childcare worker, a technical writer, and most recently a clerk at a tabletop game/toy/education supply store. I had a brief sojourn in a UW Bothell graduate program before withdrawing to focus on my creative pursuits. In my spare time, I write and make movies.
“My most recent, notable project is the Lovecraftian horror short film ‘Thing at the Door,’ which started as a screenplay conceived with fellow CMS major Max Warchol in my senior year screenwriting class with UW professor Shawn Wong. Eventually, we finished the script, recruited a small cast/crew of local filmmaking enthusiasts and friends (including David Yama in the starring role), and set forth bringing our vision to life as writer/directors. After a COVID-prolonged year of shooting and post-production, the film finally released a couple of weeks ago and has been submitted for consideration in several indie film festivals, including Joe Bob’s Mutant Fest. It’s viewable here. My other recent filmmaking efforts include a short film produced entirely in my room, an upcoming multimedia music video made alongside Cory Cogley of ‘Thing at the Door’ fame, and of course David’s ‘Save the World Project: The Grenier Family Rescue.'”
- David Yama grew up primarily in the small coastal town of Ocean Shores, Washington with four siblings and parents:
“Much of my childhood was spent living in motels for which my parents worked for. I dropped out of school at 14 to focus on bringing in an income to help my household, and at 15 I boarded the historical tall-ship the Lady Washington to sail for California. From there, I “boat-hopped” onto other historical vessels, fishing vessels, and even a cruise ship. By the age of 19, I had circumnavigated the globe through sailing. At the age of 18, I had even landed a position as a deckhand on the H.M.S. Rose for the film ‘Master and Commander’ for which I received a credit.
“Life on land was not as exciting, however, with me settling for a series of dead-end jobs. That all changed when I was 27 and decided to return to academia at South Seattle College (SSC). While there, I was awarded numerous scholarships and awards for my studies in the sciences and while attending SSC I was selected to become an undergraduate researcher in the UW’s BioE department. This happened through the Building Bridges to Bioengineering (B3) scholarship, and while working in Doctor Deok-Ho Kim’s laboratory, I researched skeletal and cardiac muscular tissue engineering. This led to me being awarded the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Scholarship, which allowed me to transfer to the UW BioE program. However, after a year in the program I both suffered medical issues as well as found that research just wasn’t for me.
“After taking over a year off from studies, I decided to return to the UW to pursue a different path. I landed on the CMS program out of a desire to create films.While in the CMS program, I made a few student films and made many great connections with members of the local industry as well as with amazing aspiring peers such as Isaac Handelman. I have found the work we do to be extremely fulfilling, and I hope to get more members of our community here on the Southside such as Burien and White Center more involved in making homegrown films that speak to our community.”