Three Young Filmmakers Going Undercover as Homeless People Get Their Equipment Stolen

Graduating from college sucks. Drawing penises on your friend's forehead is no longer socially acceptable, everything costs money, and potential employers regard your expensive diploma like a sheet of Charmin.

Kevin Saftner, Drew Dayton, and Galen Sisco, three 24-year-old buddies from Pittsburgh, know this all too well. Their college education netted them only unemployment and stints waiting tables. Says Saftner: "We realized, Hey, man, if we didn't have good friends and family around us right now, we could be homeless."

So three weeks ago, the trio, who majored in business and technological education, did the only reasonable thing: They decided to make a first-person documentary about what it's like to be homeless, using roughly $5,000 worth of film equipment, most of it borrowed. They would travel the East Coast, crashing at shelters, begging for change, and eating at soup kitchens. The project, called "Needed Change" has a blog and a Twitter page. A taste:

Let's all give Drew a huge round of applause, as of right now he is in the Miami Rescue Mission men's shelter for three days while Kevin and I are working on other aspects of the documentary. What Drew is doing is huge, as he is taking on the identity of a homeless person just arriving into the shelter for the intake program... He's flying solo in there, undercover, without letting our project get him any kind of special treatment.

Their devotion to the hobo lifestyle had its limits, though: The threesome is making the quest in Saftner's 2010 Kia Soul. Not exactly Kerouac-esque.

Their first extended stay has been Miami, destination for thousands of heat-seeking drifters. Near noon on March 14, about a week after arriving here, the auteurs were "driving around trying to get some B-roll stuff," Saftner says, when they stopped for coffee at Denny's on Biscayne Boulevard at NE 36th Street. When they returned to their car -- which Saftner "does not remember" if he locked, according to a police report -- they discovered thieves had taken all of their equipment, including two laptops and their $2,000 digital video camera.

As Will Smith once said: Welcome to Miami.

Determined to continue their project, the kids spent their $150 "emergency fund" on a new Flip Video camera, leaving them short on gas money. Since the theft, all they've been doing is "sleeping, walking someplace to try to get something to eat, and eating," Saftner says.

Once their families back home scrape together some rescue cash, the filmmakers hope to be back on the road, headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, to continue their tour of videotaped homelessness. "We're not going to be discouraged," Saftner says, "and we're going to go until we find what it is we're looking for."

We gotta say, though: Their project seems a lot more authentic since their stuff got jacked.

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Gus Garcia-Roberts