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Canyon Crest Academy filmmakers learn invaluable lessons making documentary ‘So Broke It Hurts’

So Broke it Hurts Documentary
So Broke it Hurts Documentary

By Karen Billing

Canyon Crest Academy filmmakers are telling the story of a homeless man living on the streets with his wife and children.

“So Broke It Hurts” is directed by senior Trevor Thernes, who had the idea for the film. Thernes made the documentary with help from his film crew, juniors Richard Duan and Olivia Aquilina and sophomore Alan Moutal.

“I’ve always wondered when I see people standing with signs, are they trying to scam us or are they down on their luck? I wanted to investigate what it’s like to do that,” said Trevor.

The film will officially premiere at Canyon Crest Academy Envision Cinema’s Film Festival on May 17. The Envision film conservatory meets for two hours after school three times a week and with 28 students in the program, this is the biggest group the school has ever had, according to instructor Mark Raines.

“These students are really into film and that helps,” Raines said of the students’ commitment and enthusiasm. “It’s great preparation for college and the real world and I think many of these students will pursue this career field or something related.”

The film’s title takes its cue from the words on a sign held by a homeless man named Roy. Trevor and his fellow classmates frequently saw Roy and his sign where he stood outside of Del Mar Highlands Town Center.

In the Envision cinema conservatory, all of the students pitch film ideas and then Raines and the students whittle the ideas down to the seven that they feel they can produce the best.

“So Broke It Hurts” was one of three documentaries in the mix of narrative films that are being created.

“It was a story I felt hasn’t been told before,” Raines said. “This was someone the kids all knew, they’d all seen him and we wanted to try to find out what his story was because you don’t see as many homeless in this part of the city. I think the students went in with a different idea than what they came out of with.”

Finding a subject willing to be filmed was an initial challenge, but Roy was happy to share with the students.

“Roy wanted to get his story out there,” said Olivia. “He wants things to change government wise.”

Trevor Thernes filming, "So Broke It Hurts."  Courtesy Photo.
Trevor Thernes filming, "So Broke It Hurts." Courtesy Photo.

Once they had Roy as their subject, pinning him down for interviews or filming was a challenge because his status was unpredictable. It was a lot of “hurry up and wait” because it was hard to get in touch with him.

“That’s a very real world experience so that’s great for them,” Raines said of the complications of documentary filmmaking.

The team worked with him on and off since October and did four shoots with him, one of them involved traveling down to his encampment in San Diego River near Qualcomm Stadium.

Raines advised that an adult be with the film crew when they traveled to Mission Valley.

“It was very eye-opening experience,” said Richard after seeing and hearing from Roy how dangerous the area can be.

“It just makes you appreciate where you live, especially in a place like [this],” Olivia said.

The team’s new challenge is now working with the large amount of footage to create the film that has to be a maximum of five minutes.

As Alan said, you can splice clips together in any number of ways to change the whole style or message so you really have to know the story you want to tell.

Trevor posted a rough cut on You Tube and it has already racked up 463 views.

“We’re trying to answer as many questions as possible,” Trevor said. “When people see the rough cut, they always want to know more about him.”

Out of the whole experience, the most surprising thing the students learned was Roy’s advice on how to handle the homeless: Roy said not to give them money and to call the police because many just want the money to buy drugs or alcohol.

“Roy says he’s the exception because he’s clean,” Trevor said. “What he wants is an RV so that he can have a permanent address to get a job.  He already has a spot in a RV park that he got cheaply and he wants to be able to start working.”

Roy hasn’t been at the Highlands as much anymore because the center security strongly enforces the center’s solicitation policies. The film crew hasn’t seen Roy since their last interview but they hope to share the film with him somehow once it is complete.

“This documentary I feel has a chance to change a lot of people’s viewpoints and I hope in the end Roy meets his goal and gets his life back together,” Richard said.