It’s been a while since my last blog post. But I’ve been busy!
As you all know, I’ve been making films now for about 10 years all around the world. In that time, I’ve also finished a handful of degrees, and climbed the ladder from teaching in high schools to teaching in colleges internationally. I’ve also grown my interests in filmmaking.
While at my last job, the American University in Bulgaria, I kept a close eye on the nomadic movement happening in the states. There’s been an uptick of social media hashtags like #VanLife and #BusLife and #Skoolies and so on. These describe custom-built living spaces that were made to hit the road long term.
For many years, I’ve wanted to do the very same thing. But for reasons surrounding the stigma about a full time nomadic lifestyle, I was too embarrassed to do it. But then I thought, ‘Well, I am a nomad. I’ve been living out of one sea-bag full of clothes and a couple crates of production gear for the better part of the last decade! So why would I not do this?’
An unfortunate accident forced my mother to suffer through a two-year spate of surgeries, which necessitate my return to the states to keep an eye on things, and help her move out of her house in the midst of a divorce, do grocery shopping and drive her around to her appointments.
I’m happy to report that she is better now, and that I spent all those in-between hours building my long time dream of having a mobile editing studio! I called it Linus the Land Yacht, and it comes complete with on-demand propane hot water, a wood stove, an editing bay, running water, full bathroom and a transforming bedroom/living room combo! You can watch videos of the build here.
My plan was just to live in it for a year, film my experiences and head back out into the world of teaching and traveling. But what I found out on the road was incredible!
People are doing such amazing things with their builds! They have roving art shows, they use their rigs to fund-raise and cook for the homeless. They have mobile businesses like handymen, seamstresses, hair studios, massage parlors, yoga session – anything and everything you can think of, people are doing on the road.
But that’s not the whole story! People are finding healing in places like the high sierra and outlying deserts. They are finding communities and lifelong friendships. They are creating gatherings like Descend on Bend, the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and Skooliepalooza. They are creating tiny home communities for homeless veterans and drug addicts. They are helping and caring for each other in ways that simply wouldn’t be possible in sedentary lifestyles.
And it doesn’t stop there! There are cities and towns across America that have become not only supportive of the nomadic movement, but completely dependent on it for their seasonal economies! Places like Quartzsite, Arizona, the epicenter of traveling swap meets and gem shows, swells from a population of 3,000 to 300,000 almost overnight!
Tiny home villages are cropping up in Colorado, California, Nevada and others. Retired folks are using minimal social security checks to live the life they’ve always wanted and to see parts of America that they’ve only dreamed of. People are escaping high rent and upside-down mortgages. Young families are finding that life for their kids is more peaceful and even easier on the move! Middle-aged folks are paying down old college debt and gaining financial freedom for the first time in their lives!
Long story short, I found out that there is an amazing story to tell here. So much so, that I spent the rest of my life savings just getting out to cover events, gather interviews and piece together the amazing saga being lived out all over America’s highways and byways. But the bad news is that I’ve also… spent my entire life savings!! Which means I’m more or less on my last leg out here, sitting on an incredible story, and hoping that something turns up so that I can finish this thing that I really believe will be an epic discovery of a movement in the U.S.
So I’ve pitched it to PBS and several streaming channels, and I’ve started a crowdfunding campaign to support the rest of production.
It’s only been a week, and I’ve already received a promise of $15,000 from a promoter, if, and only if, I can raise the rest of the production costs myself!!
So I’m asking for your help to get me to that spot. All the details are below. Please donate to this great cause. Every little bit helps – even if you only have $5, it will be that much closer to the total. I have set the total at 10K, but I need a minimum of $5,000 before I can withdraw the funds and begin the last leg of completion.
Read below for details:
This film will commence in three segments.
- Segment I: History – Told through found and archival footage, this segment delineates the history of the nomadic movement
- Families took to their cars and followed the agricultural work during the “Grapes of Wrath” portion of the Great Depression
- The popularity of the movement peaked in the 60s and early 70s when the Hippie Movement exploded into a cultural phenomenon with touring musical festivals, Rainbow Gatherings and other mobile events.
- An down-spike in the U.S. economy again forced people to pursue alternative lifestyles in the 80s.
- The latest wave of the movement now exists as the nomadic lifestyle is popular once again.Segment I: History – Told through found and archival footage, this segment delineates the history of the nomadic movement
- Segment II: Current Trends – The bulk of the film, told through interviews, contemporary placement
- Location: Quartzsite, Az – Snowbird capital of North America. Locals discuss the notion of being the epicenter of the nomadic movement. Quartzsite Mayor, Chamber of Commerce Members, business owners, radio personalities, nudist colony leaders, street stall vendors and native residents discuss how the nomadic movement has shaped their town, and discuss their own roles within it.
- Location: Quartzsite, Az – Footage and interviews at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and Skooliepalooza: Famous YouTubers chime in on the VanLife/BusLife and Tiny Home movement through their eyes.
- Location: Slab City, Ca – Interviews with nomads on both sides of drug addiction (those treating, and those seeking non-traditional healing away from cities and towns).
- Location: Chicago, Il – Tiny Home Village. Dedicated to eradicating homelessness among military veterans, one effort creates “Kit Houses” that promise to offer a new path to shelter those in the greatest need.
- Location: Bend, Or – Organizers and visitors of the Descend on Bend meet-up discuss their vanlife diaries, the differences between full time and seasonal road life, and where they see it going in the future.
- Location: San Diego (including Fiesta Island), Ca – Flying in the face of ordinances in cities both inside and outside of California, city council members chime in on their decision to rescind a regulation making it illegal to sleep or dwell in one’s vehicle on city streets.
- Location: Various State and National Forests, and Public Lands – Officials from the National Parks Service and the Bureau of Land Management give their take on both the benefits and the true costs of the movement in terms of statistics or financial drains.
- Location: Various – Journalists, citizens and the opposition at large, give their side of why the movement is a bad idea, what effects it has on local and municipal resources and economies, and generally where they hope to see it go in the future.
- Segment III: Closing
- Culminating with success stories and memorable quotes of key players in the movement, the film closes showcasing the hopes of dispelling the reputation of those choosing a life on the road.
- News reports, online footage, and other archival footage offer a closing glimpse of the most recent social sentiments among the status quo.
One Minute Promotional Teaser Video:
Film Proposal Teaser:
Visit the crowdfunding campaign HERE.
Want to donate directly or anonymously? Just go to paypal.me/MovingStillsMedia, and put in any amount you wish!
Can’t Donate? There are a TON of things you can do to support that are FREE, EASY and CRUCIAL!!
- Share Links:
- Share Hashtags:
- Share social media handles:
- Be a part of the film:
- I am looking for interviews on the tiny life. What’s your opinion? Do you love the tiny movement? Hate it? We can set up an in-person or remote interview that could make it into the FINAL CUT!!
- Send me your best travel pictures from a bus, on the road, volunteering for a cleanup – whatever! I’ll add them to the website, promo materials, or even the press kit for distribution! Note: images and documents must be less than 2MB, in either .DOC or .PDF format, or be a shared Google Doc). Upload HERE.
- Part of the effort of the film is also volunteerism. I was part of the BLM cleanup prior to this year’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and Skooliapalooza. You can be a part of next year’s! Email me to find out how you can help, and where the next cleanup will be.
- Help me make the film!! I am in need of production people. I have crew and *some* post-production stuff largely taken care of. But I will need graphics editors/animators, a colorist, and anyone involved in the distribution market. I’d also like to have some custom made soundtracks. So if you’re in the film industry, and can do any of these things, contact me HERE!!
About the film:
The new face of American homelessness is simply Home Free.
America is in the midst of a radical movement. But it’s not new, and it’s not unknown. It’s just getting bigger. Since the Great Depression, the alternative lifestyle of vehicle-dwelling has been fueled by everything from economic downturns to the housing crisis, to skyrocketing rent, and upside-down mortgages, to a generational distrust in contemporary society. As a result, people young and old are living in buses, building tiny homes and skipping out on the traditional home life. Professor and participant filmmaker, Cyle O’Donnell, films the movement the best way possible – as a member of the tribe! Chiming in on the nomadic lifestyle are everyone from famous YouTubers, government officials and citizens of the snowbird capital, to veteran’s rights groups, tiny home village leaders and political activists, and even lawmakers trying to quash the lifestyle.
Having built a solar powered, off-grid “skoolie” (converted school bus), director and narrator, Cyle O’Donnell, spends one year living on the road, documenting the “nomadic movement” and interviewing others who have taken to the road. He also takes his father, a retired ex-military photojournalist, along for the ride.
Showcasing events like the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, Skooliepalooza, Decend on Bend and others; and visiting places like Slab City, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) encampments, and even Walmart parking lots; Bus-Lifers, Van-Lifers and tiny home dwellers chime in on what the movement looks like to them.
A special segment will also be dedicated to homeless veterans benefiting from the tiny home villages springing up in Colorado, California and Arizona.
Principal and supporting footage has all been completed for this film. However, there are interviews slated for production in the next few months with: Quartzsite Mayor, Ed Foster; Dr. Alan Auerbach (expert in economics from the University of California); and officials from the Bureau of Land Management and the National Parks Service. Local residents of Quartzsite, Arizona, (the snowbird capital of America) will also be interviewed, along with street interviews (opposition, and those waging counter-actions against the nomadic movement).
Note from the Director:
As this is one of the simpler documentaries I’ve set out to create, there will not be “above the line” staff in the true sense of the title, cutting the budget down from six figures, into the very low five figures. Creative direction is more journalistic in nature, following where the most compelling story leads. Thus far, the interviews and ambitious undertaking of creating the visual landscape of the film (tiny homes, nomadic events, epic state/national park vistas), have provided the best means for the documentary style of presentation, with very informative interviews largely controlling the artistic flow.
Locations include the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, Skooliepalooza (both completed), Decend on Bend (TBA), Fiesta Island, and others to interview event coordinators, van dwellers, and well-known YouTubers in the nomadic movement. Footage will focus on challenging the status quo perception of vehicle dwellers and reveal an unexpected sense of safety, community and healing for those involved.
Deeper looks into the lifestyle reveal an entire world of different things people are doing on the road – from roving art shows, to yoga and meditation retreats – the new face of Rubber Tramping is the biggest and best it’s ever been.
Showcasing interviews from some of the biggest YouTubers in the #BusLife, #VanLife and #Skoolie communities, popular nomads and snowbirds alike are at home in their roving abodes. The interviews to come will cover the opposition, local residents of the Quartzsite area where a tiny village inflates to tens of thousands every winter.
You don’t have to donate through the crowdfunding campaign, if you want to remain anonymous, or you just want to get 100% of your proceeds directly to the film effort. The perks are the same either way!
Check these out below:
- All donations of any amount get a copy of the film regardless of distribution delays!
- All donations of $20 or more get an extended cut of the film!
- As a huge perk, all donations of $40 will get a special edition of the film, where all of the YouTubers interviewed in production will say a special thank you during the credits.*
- All donations of $60 get the extended cut, plus a 20-page, full color PDF of behind the scenes pictures, maps, production notes, and more.
- $80 gets you all the above, plus an additional download of long-play extended scenes, aerial photos and video of the grounds, and sneaky drone flights into parks!
- Donations of $100 get the above, plus all the podcasts I recorded with all the nomads throughout the entire trip!
- $120 gets the above, plus all three seasons of Travel Geek Films. That’s 24 Episodes!
- $150 gets your name and/or business listed in the credits as a co-producer!
- $200 gets you an exclusive interview in the film!
Pre-Production and Development…………………………$1,500
Rights, Music & Talent………………………………………….$1,450
Crew & Personnel………………………………………………..$5,600
Office & Administrative costs…………………………………$800
Bookkeeping, Copyrighting & Transcription………….$6,135
Finances covered so far……………………………………$5,915
First Crowdfunding Total……………………………………$25,556
Private Donation (Campaign Reduction!!)……..$15,000
Looking for more information or have a question? See the FAQ
Why this story?
While distilling a strange, but ultimately inevitable result of an evaporating middle class, a corporate grab at the real estate market, and an ensuing housing and financial crisis, this film is deeply seeded in both adventure and the scope of the human will, for an underdog story that touches us all.
Help me tell the story of the evolution of the true American Spirit!
*Upon agreement with all interviewees.