I recently had the opportunity to see the movie Gimme Shelter, a film based on an inspiring true story. Following the early movie screening I spent some time interviewing the director, Ronald Krauss, and real life movie inspiration, Kathy DiFiore. I learned so much about the story behind the movie and the endless hours spent creating the film.
Watching the film the night before the interview was emotional.
Although I expected tears I did not expect to feel completely moved as the movie ended. The director and movie inspiration were onsite to answer questions at the end. In a theater full of an engaged audience, the questions asked ranged from film making to facts about homeless shelters.
I won’t share any film spoilers here but I can say the story is amazing. Kathy DiFiore, a onetime homeless woman herself, opened her home and has spent her entire adult life helping homeless persons. Her work with homeless inspired her to open shelters reaching out specifically to young pregnant women in need of a home and loving community. Her tough love shown in the movie has helped countless women move on to succeed. The director, Ron, was told about Kathy’s main shelter and interested in talking to her to learn more. During a family holiday visit, he realized he was very close to Kathy’s shelter and decided to stop by. While there he began talking to the girls living in the shelter and determined Kathy’s work and story was more than an average shelter. Kathy’s story needed to be told. Very reluctantly she allowed Ron to talk with the girls and photograph the shelter. Later she turned to the girls to decide if Ron would be allowed to return and begin working on the film. The girls agreed Ron could return. He lived in the shelter for an entire year learning from the girls as he wrote the movie script. When it was time to cast for the film there was uncertainty if a Hollywood actress could play the main character, Apple, effectively. Several girls, including Vanessa Hudgens, were considered and sent to visit the shelter. Just as the girls decided Ron was perfect to tell their story, they selected Vanessa to play the part of the main character. Alongside Vanessa, there are five real residents from the shelter acting in the movie.
I was deeply intrigued and looked forward to my interview the next day.
I was escorted into the room for my interview and a cheerful Kathy hugged me as I entered. Ron was next with a big handshake and polite, “thank you,” for coming to learn about the film. I felt so comfortable in the room with their staff and a few other attendees for the interview.
I was curious why the story of Agnes “Apple” Bailey was chosen of all the girls Kathy had encountered over the many years. Ron and Kathy agreed she has the most relateable story to be shared in a film. She was pregnant and homeless with an almost non existent support system and a life of abuse.
I was especially moved when Ron explained why he was interested in creating this film. He said, “homeless has taken on a new face; it could happen to anyone…to any of us.” The term “homeless” feels negative when in reality the new face of homeless are families, mothers, and children.
Kathy referred to the film as, “not a movie, it’s a movement.” Sharing her lifelong work and commitment to improving the lives of homeless teens will hopefully shed a light on how far determination can go.
The entire cast and crew went great lengths to convey Kathy’s message and the shelter story correctly. I was amazed to learn Brendan Frasier aggressively pursued the role as Apple’s father and then donated his salary to a shelter at the end of production.
Kathy’s website, Several Sources,shares information about her various shelters and projects including how you can get involved.
Please plan to show support for the film and wonderful learning opportunity about human compassion.