(Or: Why’d I hock my house to make a film about, amongst other things, homelessness?)
DUCK was shot during the winter in Los Angeles, an 18-day shoot with 2-days of pick-ups. Everyone who worked on the film owns a piece of it. And yes, our ducks are all live, all the time.
I first had the idea for DUCK while attending graduate school at USC Film. At the time, I lived in a vibrant and seedy area of MacArthur Park (the Rampart district) and worked at a homeless shelter downtown. One day my sprawling urban park was shuttered indefinitely due to mounting crime, crack, and AIDS, and its pond was drained-dry in search of a body. I found myself watching, and wondering—where are all the homeless people and the ducks going to go? It’s an image that has stuck with me since.
While working in the film industry, I’ve continued to volunteer as a crisis counselor in the AIDS ward at Cedars Sinai Hospital and on the phone line of Los Angeles’ 24-hour Suicide Prevention Center. Most recently, I’ve co-taught a poetry class for schizophrenic, bipolar, and clinically depressed homeless adults at Step Up on 2nd, a social rehabilitation center for the mentally ill. I’ve found that one thing many homeless hang onto, to fight boredom and pass the time of day, is the dying art of storytelling, the gift of gab. Always a sucker for a colorful character or an underdog tale—this, I have learned from them.
For me, DUCK is simply the story of survivors: Arthur survives by teaching and learning; Joe by adapting; Leopold via his imagination; the Pedicurist in not treating others as she has been; Norman through seeing the truth.
Two factors critical to survival are hope and the ability to change. DUCK warns where we’re heading, in the hopes of creating this change.