The Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation

Location, Location documentary film project

Grant Information
Categories Arts , Community
Location United States
Cycle Year 2014
Organization Information
Organization Name (provided by applicant) The Austin Film Society
Organization Name (provided by automatic EIN validation)
Contact Information
Contact Name Holly Herrick, associate artistic director
Phone 512-322-0145
1901 East 51 Street
Additional Information
Used for An award of $8,000 from the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation will cover the final completion costs of the fine-cut of Location, Location. Specifically, your funds will cover the costs of a hard drive to back up the entire project for the online of the film, and titles and motion graphics. As the last money in, your foundation will serve a crucial role in bringing this project to completion.
Benefits The overall goal of the film is to raise awareness of the affordable housing crisis and spur citizen action for preservation and funding at the local and national level, break down stereotypes about public housing and the folk who live there, support outreach partner organizations in their education and advocacy efforts, and screen for members of Congress to impact federal housing legislation. This film is a unique teaching tool because the footage was collected in real-time over a span of 8 years, capturing a pivotal moment in public housing policy, when policymakers and politicians were rethinking the role and purpose of public housing and because it provides critical insights into the role of citizen participation and how public policy is decided. Working with a network of collaborative partners who serve on the film’s advisory panel (please see letters of support), we are developing an outreach plan for co-hosted screenings in community venues and at universities throughout the country.
Proposal Description Organization and Mission:
The Austin Film Society (AFS) is a non-profit membership organization founded in 1985 by filmmaker Richard Linklater (director of such films as Slacker and Bernie) to foster independent film production in Austin, Texas. The mission of the Austin Film Society is to promote the appreciation of film and support creative filmmaking. AFS achieves its mission through: programming diverse rarely-seen films; supporting regional filmmakers; providing outreach and education programs for at-risk youth and the wider community; and managing a 100,000 square foot film production facility in central Austin. The Directors Guild of America's awarded AFS the first DGA Honors Award in recognition for its support of regional film production and culture. AFS is the fiscal sponsor for Location, Location.

The total cost of this project is $401,085. The amount now needed to complete the project is only $8,000. In addition to two previous awards from the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation, funding has been secured thus far from the Brown Foundation, the Houston Endowment, The Creekmore and Adele Fath Charitable Foundation, the Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation, the Trull Foundation, Humanities Texas, the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the Fund for a Just Society, the Graham Foundation, the Joan Hohlt and Roger Wich Foundation, the Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund, the Lucius & Eva Eastman Fund, the Houston Arts Alliance, and individuals.

This is a unique opportunity to preserve an important story of local and national history. Such stories, especially ones that focus on the lives of low-income African American residents, have rarely been told. By providing support for Location, Location, the Dudley T. Dougherty will allow this story to be shared with a wider audience, allowing more people to benefit from the lessons it teaches. The Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation will be listed as a major underwriter in film credits and in all resulting publications at outreach screenings and film festivals.

Project Description:
How long can a scrappy citizens’ group keep HUD and Houston’s Housing Authority at bay in order to save their homes from the wrecking ball ?

Location, Location takes viewers deep inside the nitty gritty of a complex and messy political process that occurs everyday in American cities, when citizens who lack power and money struggle to be heard in the policy decisions that affects their lives and communities. The process is amplified in Location, Location, through the story one of the most tenacious battles to save public housing in U.S. history.

Filmed over the course of eight years, Location, Location chronicles an epic struggle to save a New Deal era public housing project and the historic African American neighborhood surrounding it, long coveted for its prime location in the shadows of Houston's steel and glass skyscrapers. The 37-acre complex sits on the border of the Fourth Ward neighborhood, home to poor, mostly black renters. The area, also known as Freedmen’s Town, was originally settled by former slaves and is a designated national historic district. For years in the community there was talk of a conspiracy to clear blacks out of the neighborhood, as the city’s Housing Authority, through neglect and attrition, emptied out the Projects. While row after row of nearly identical apartment buildings sit abandoned and broken, 25,000 people languish on the city’s waiting list for affordable housing. Only 29 of the 1,000 units are occupied. But those residents who remain are determined to stay.

Location, Location tells the dramatic story of how a handful of citizens carried a local issue to the highest reaches of national government, how they fought to get a seat at the table, and what happened when they did. What emerges is a complex drama about race, class, and the increasing marginalization of the urban poor, told through a conflict over land, money and power.

The film unfolds like a narrative drama, full of passionate characters, both driven and impeded by their own tangled motivations. Culled from over 600 hours of footage, the story is structured chronologically, building up to a standoff between the residents and the city, ultimately depicting the human costs of the decisions which led to the "revitalization" of an entire neighborhood. Viewers gain intimate access to behind the scenes strategizing, high stakes negotiations and internal political conflicts. The film uses cinema-verite footage, along with television news coverage and on-the-spot interviews, allowing the story to unfold through the words and actions of its participants.

The primary characters are: Lenwood Johnson, the loquacious African-American community activist and tenant leader who through court injunctions, picketing, and lobbying, has held the bulldozers at bay for more than a decade; Henry Cisneros, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the patrician former four-term Mayor of San Antonio and an up-and-coming Hispanic politician; Joy Fitzgerald, an African-American lawyer with an Ivy-League education, who is the Executive Director of the Housing Authority of the City of Houston (HACH) and who emerges as the cat's paw of the mayor and developers; Kevin Marchman, a bow-tied African-American Assistant Secretary at HUD with a boyish jocular personality whose role is ostensibly to give residents equal footing at the negotiating table; Wessie Scyrus, an African-American resident of the Allen Parkway Village public housing project (APV), who is one of Lenwood's most active and vocal allies. Texas Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez and Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee play pivotal roles.

Reporters are recurring characters in the story. They conduct interviews at press conferences and one-on-one with the characters, file live reports, and comment on the story directly to the documentary camera. The film shows how both sides use the media to gain public support and thereby sway decision-makers. Juxtaposed with my long-term documentation, a complex portrait of a community grappling with neighborhood redevelopment emerges.

Outreach and Distribution:
A primary objective of Location, Location is to move the affordable housing crisis out of the shadows and into the broad daylight of public discourse. The film gives a human face to affordable housing policy debates and community development struggles. At present, over 1.2 million households reside in public housing—they are largely the elderly, and African American women and children. Nationwide today there are over one million people on housing authorities’ waiting lists for affordable housing, and in many cities the lists have been closed for years. The film gives a face to the chronically disadvantaged and marginalized, presenting them as real people with hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

This film will appeal to a broad audience - cutting across racial, class, and economic lines - given that most urban, suburban, and rural communities are now confronting an affordable housing crisis directly tied to a real estate development trend favors the affluent and undoes decades of progress in trying to meet the housing needs of the working poor. At the same time, the film will engage audiences through its ability to depict these ideas and the complex political and bureaucratic drama that took place in Houston in an entertaining way. It also introduces us to captivating, passionate characters that are caught up in a timeless, high-stakes conflict.

For broader audiences, Location, Location breaks down stereotypes about public housing and the people who live there, showing them to be articulate, intelligent advocates for change rather than passive recipients. While public housing is faced with serious and complex challenges, it is also a place where families live, strive, and actively participate in our society.

The film will be screened in community venues and at universities across the country. Faculty from the University of Texas, the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs have already indicated an interest in using the film in their classes (please see their letters). Television broadcasts and community screenings will facilitate discussions about difficult issues like race and class that often arise and create conflict between stakeholders in public land use disputes. Co-sponsored screenings will also promote dialogue and collaboration between staff of the housing industry, policymakers, and housing advocates.

Ms. Felton will create an interactive website that will include film reviews, screening schedules, and links to outreach partners and organizations. The website will have a talkback section for viewers to collect responses on the effectiveness of the film and promote dialogue about the film’s issues. The website will also provide links to organizations concerned with housing and community development issues and provide information on the historic role of the Public Housing program, and on legislation and regulatory issues. In addition, success of the film will also be measured by viewer response to PBS and through Nielsen ratings.