Only a few days ago a panhandler in a wheelchair was shot and killed not too far north of downtown Miami. The motive of the suspected shooter -- who was taken into custody after a police chase -- remains unknown, but it's doubtful the deceased, 58-year-old Israel Zequra, had enemies bitter enough to shoot him dead. You may add this killing to the long list of random acts of violence that often befalls the destitute.
Inspired by all too common horror stories against humanity like Zequra's, Miami-based independent filmmakers David Jaure and Paul Alexandro are taking action. They have created a nonprofit to benefit the homeless and a moving film, entitled 3:13, about a man (played by Alexandro) who loses his job, his family, his home and ultimately his life as a desperate soul living on the streets of Downtown Miami.
Jaure wrote the screenplay and directed the film. After three years in the making, numerous film festivals have picked up the movie, and it has won awards for acting and directing in several festivals in Spain. Most recently it took the grand prize at the San Antonio Film Festival.
New Times: Congratulations on the Grand Prize award from the San Antonio Film Festival. What was that like? What did they say about the film that inspired them to choose it for the award?
David Jaure: The last day of the Festival, the awards ceremony, they were announcing all the awards as my brother and I were sitting and cheering for some great friends we made at the Festival. The last award of the ceremony was the Grand Prize. When they call out the name '3:13,' I truly thought it was a dream, and had to stand up with my brother to receive the award. Why didn't I expect it? One, our film was made with true love of the art, where all actors and most of the crew worked for no pay. Two, we had no big name actors in our film, and we're competing against films with known actors like Daniel Baldwin, William Baldwin, Lou Diamond Phillips, Gary Busey...just to name a few.
Ninty-five percent of the people that watched our film had no idea the real things that happen to the homeless and how vulnerable they are to social indifference. The audience asked many questions, and I believe we really touched their heart. Many of them, after watching the Film have come to us personally and mentioned they were once before at that stage of either being homeless or homeless for several months. They open up to me.
A title card opens the film saying it is based on true events. Is it one story or an amalgamation of anecdotes?
Everything that happens to Peter has happened to real homeless people. It is an amalgamation of true events, put together into one story that makes our movie. It is these stories, that make our film so real. It is not the typical feel-good Hollywood flick with a happy ending. I believe the audience nowadays wants to go watch a movie that makes you change the way you feel and think when you leave the theater. That is my mission, to create reality in film. If I could do that and use this media in a positive way, like creating awareness, then I will be very happy.
With proceeds from the film benefiting homeless people, this is clearly a subject close to you. What is your personal connection with homelessness?
My brother and I used to work for 20 years in Downtown Miami and parked two blocks away from our office. In 1999, while walking back and forth, we saw several homeless people. As the years passed, we noticed the number of homeless people growing, especially in the late 2000s. Some we saw everyday, became acquainted, gave them food, clothing, and money. They are very fragile and not all of them will tell you their stories.
You depict the extreme evil and kindness of a variety of people: young, old; male, female; people in authority others who are outright outlaws. It's a powerful, varied depiction. What made you decide on all these different depictions because it really shows how alone this man is.
When you write a script, you also put your life experiences on paper. Good and evil is everywhere. It sometimes comes out of nowhere. It is an animal instinct in human beings. In statistics, the average hate crimes against homeless people are under the age of 30. But when I write the good and evil in each character, it is something you have to feel at the moment. Statistics always help, but when I wrote each character and scene, it's almost as if I am living this character.
There's a scene where you pan across some of the real homeless in Miami. Did you ever think of making a documentary?
These are real homeless people and wanted to not only show reality, but I believe it makes our main character even more realistic. I have thought about it, but not all documentaries have been successful with creating awareness about homelessness. I always dreamed of making a movie with my brother. Now, my dream of making a movie with my brother and helping humanity leaves me feeling very grateful.
Are there certain filmmakers who inspired you?
There are two filmmakers that inspire me: Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood. Even though they work in very different in genres, they both depict reality in their films. Their characters and scenes are so real, you almost forget you are watching a movie.
You shot this around Miami. Was it hard to get permits?
It was entirely shot in Miami. Most of the Scenes of Peter homeless were shot in Downtown Miami. It took me about two weeks to get the permits. Wasn't hard at all.
What challenges did you find in shooting around Downtown Miami?
We had several homeless people watching our shoot. Most of them noticed my brother in his homeless character and asked what we were shooting. We explained it was a film about homelessness and told them we were trying to create awareness. They automatically began cheering for us and to help them make a change. Another time in the shoot, we would set up two tables with food for the small crew we had. We took a break and noticed an African-American man lying on the floor about 20 feet away. We asked him if he wanted to join us and eat and he accepted.
Climate was also a challenge as we shot in the summer. We shot underneath the bridge of Midtown at around 8 p.m. and began raining. It flooded and all our lights got wet. We only had one trailer and the entire team and actors were inside. The water almost came inside the trailer. Rain stopped at 1 a.m. and asked the actors and crew what they wanted to do. They all said let's continue shooting. We had to buy hair dryers to dry the cables for the lighting, and at 2 a.m., we continued shooting again.
Any tips for other local filmmakers?
Making any type of film takes time, dedication, and love overall. I have spent over three years with 3:13 and have learned that you have to be patient, never give up, and continue learning the craft.
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What's next for the film?
We have to finish our festival run which will last into April 2015. We are now talking to a couple of distributors. Around April 2015, we will be touring our film to each important city in Europe and United States, where they have large numbers of homeless people, do a fundraising event, invite a celebrity to each of these events, then go in the theater to watch 3:13. Each event will be done with our organization, homelessworldaid.org, and other homeless organizations in each respective city. The idea is also to make people aware that there are homeless organizations that help this cause.
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @HansMorgenstern.