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Damian is an aspiring comic, musician, and spiritual healer battling addiction and the stresses of homelessness. Michael is a passionate advocate for recovery fueled by decades of lived experience. Together, they struggle to overcome their demons and live lives of creativity, compassion and connection.
Damian is an aspiring comic, musician, and spiritual healer battling addiction and the stresses of homelessness. Michael is a passionate advocate for recovery fueled by decades of lived experience. Together, they struggle to overcome their demons and live lives of creativity, compassion and connection.

Featured Project

Damian & Michael

(working title)
A Feature Documentary directed by Gabe Van Lelyveld
Currently in post-production. Estimated completion date: February, 2025. Sign up for our
newsletter on the home page to receive updates about the film.
Damian is an aspiring comic, musician, and spiritual healer battling addiction and the stresses of homelessness. Michael is a passionate advocate for recovery fueled by decades of lived experience. Together, they struggle to overcome their demons and live lives of creativity, compassion and connection.
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Filmed over three years, this extremely intimate documentary aims to change the way audiences view those struggling with addiction and homelessness. Relationship-centered and radically compassionate, it is a story of perseverance and the will to find enduring happiness despite one's circumstances.
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You could say that Damian and Michael were dealt bad hands in life. Michael experienced physical and emotional abuse at the boys home where he was raised from infancy to age 14. By 17 he was illiterate and living in an abandoned house in Van Nuys, California. Damian, a sensitive child, was subjected to years of neglect by his mother. At 17 he left home, and at 19 he lost his father to suicide.
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Damian & Michael is the story of two men trying to hold onto their dreams despite their circumstances. Damian is not just surviving while living in a small tent year-round, he does tarot readings on the street, standup comedy and music at Open Mic nights, as well as writes poetry for a local independent arts and culture quarterly. Michael utilizes his decades of experience struggling with substance use disorder and homelessness to help those most in need. 

 

The longer Michael tries to help Damian the better he understands his psychological and emotional strengths as well as challenges. Damian comes to learn through Michael’s actions that Michael truly cares about him, but as Damian becomes increasingly enmeshed in the criminal justice system, he pushes back against Michael’s advice to submit to a court-ordered regime of jail time, psychological evaluations and medication. 

 

Will Damian break under the enormous stress of his situation, or will he find his way into healing? Will Michael continue to believe in his ability to help others? We sincerely hope you will support this project and watch the finished film to find out.

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Before ever picking up my camera, I spent months at the homeless encampment where Damian was living and Michael was doing outreach work. I got to know the folks living there, the social workers who came out almost daily, as well as some of the dynamics at play in the community. Burned by media in the past, some of the campers were distrustful. Some were outright hostile. Slowly, I earned their trust, and in doing so was able to capture footage that I believe represents something authentic about their lives, and about homelessness, substance use disorder, and related issues in the area.

 

As much as possible, I have chosen to let the subjects and situations in the film speak for themselves. The camerawork and editing prioritize spacial and temporal immersion over representation. Shot primarily on an iPhone 12 Pro Max, the film has a raw and extremely intimate quality to it. I want viewers to feel they have walked for a time in Damian and Michael's shoes.

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The finished film will be distributed in phases:

  1. In phase one, we will submit the finished film to festivals and seek online distribution.

  2. Next, we aim to build an impact campaign that includes a website with a variety of resources related to the themes of the film as well as a method for community groups to host low or no-cost fundraiser screenings to benefit their organization.

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The team recently completed a successful crowdfunding campaign. Funds will cover the initial phase of post-production, including reviewing, cataloging and transcribing over 60 hours of footage, writing and revising a story outline, as welll as building the film scene by scene to create an assembly cut.

 

Our goal is to complete an assembly cut of the film by June, 2024. In the meantime, we are also seeking private investment and grants to support distribution and additional post-production, including scoring, graphic design, titling, as well as color and sound work. Our goal is to complete the film by Feb, 2025.

 

*Note that the Director of the film will not receive any funds from this campaign. This is his passion project and his number one goal is to see it completed.

If you are interested in contributing toward later stage post-production, please contact us.

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"Gabe was the cameraman for me on a series of one-on-one interviews around some quite sensitive themes. He was a delight to work with. Professional in all ways, experienced in his craft and creatively switched on...Could not recommend him highly enough."

          -Michael Shaw, Founder, Earth Realities Foundation

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