As seen in CRAIGSLIST JOE, a film by Joseph Garner. Picture courtesy CLJ Films. All rights reserved.
- Ben Russell
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Craigslist Joe (2012)
Opened: 08/02/2012 Limited
|Sunshine Cinema||08/02/2012 - 08/02/2012||1 day|
|Music Hall 3||08/03/2012 - 08/09/2012||7 days|
Trailer: Click for trailer
When the country's economy and sense of community was crumbling, one guy left everything behind to see if he could survive solely off the goodwill of America's new town square: Craigslist.
America is a wealthy, diverse and technologically sophisticated country - yet some say we've lost the sense of community that used to carry us through tough times. Today it's every person for themselves. Have we become so caught up in our own lives that we don't notice life outside of our bubble? 29-year-old filmmaker Joseph Garner decides to find out. He cuts himself off from everyone he knows and everything he owns, to embark on an adventure. For 31 days and nights, Joe will live entirely off the alms of America's new town square: Craigslist. From transportation to food, shelter and companionship, Joe depends solely on the generosity of people he meets through this massive digital swap meet.
The idea for "Craigslist Joe" first came to me while I was working on the movie "The Hangover". We were filming in Las Vegas and I was living at Caesars Palace. It also happened to be during our country's worst economic crisis of my lifetime. I would watch the news reports of people losing their homes by the hundreds of thousands, entire life savings gone, families struggling just to get by-- a widespread panic. The country was crumbling around me, and I was isolated in the world of excess and bright lights of Vegas. But growing inside of me was a feeling of disconnectedness and isolation. I began to wonder what would happen if I lost everything? How would I get by? The truth is I would probably be okay. I have a loving, supportive family and a network of friends I could rely on. But what if I didn't? What if I woke up tomorrow and didn't have a home, or a job, or my car, or any of my things, or my family and friends? What would I do? Are we at a place in our society where we can take care of each other? Does this modern world of iPhones, laptops, social media, and technology help us connect with one another or are these devices isolating us and taking away our sense of community? I wanted to find out.
I didn't want to just leave my apartment and go down the block and ask people around me. That would be too easy. If I really wanted to see what people were going through during these hard times, I needed to let go of my daily comforts that make me feel safe, and put myself out into the world with no idea of where I'd end up or who I'd meet. I also wanted to incorporate technology and social media and experience how that changes the way people interact with each other.
I selected craigslist to be my online portal. Unlike Facebook or Twitter where you have a built in network of people you already know, craigslist is a place you can go with anonymity and interact with complete strangers outside of your social circle. I did a little research and found that craigslist is available in over 700 cities in the United States and 70 countries around the world, generating over 50 million unique visitors every month. Clearly this was a thriving online community that I personally knew very little about. I've had limited experience with craigslist before, mainly for small stuff-- looking for an apartment, trying to find a job, scoring a few concert tickets, a cheap coffee table, but not much else. So I posted an ad on craigslist and found a camera guy who would document my little experiment.
For the next month, I was going to leave my apartment with a laptop, a cell phone, (with a new phone number that nobody had), a toothbrush, and the clothes on my back-- and live entirely off craigslist. No money. No contact with anyone I knew. No comfort blanket. Could I get by? Could I find meals, shelter, companionship, travel the country? Would I find a community out there? For the next 31 days and nights, I would find out. What happened next would change my life.
-- Joseph Garner, Director
CRAIGSLIST JOE tracks 29-year-old Joseph Garner on a bold social exploration. Joe sets off on a 31-day trek in which he must live exclusively off the generosity of strangers he connects with on the Craigslist website. From transportation to food, from shelter to companionship, Joe's very survival depends on the goodwill of people who have never even laid eyes on him and whose sole association with him is through a giant, virtual swap meet.
The film opens in Los Angeles where Joe begins his journey. Armed with only his laptop, cell phone, toothbrush and the clothes on his back, Joe leaves everything else behind -- including any food or money. Shot in a single-camera guerrilla style, CRAIGSLIST JOE positions us right alongside Joe from these first tenuous moments of his adventure. Joe will be our eyes and ears throughout the journey, as he speaks directly to the camera sharing his impromptu reactions and observations, and also as he reflects more broadly with narrative voice over.
There are no planned interactions or produced segments, and the viewer quickly realizes: anything can happen. Joe's first day is spent alone in a park in Hollywood. We watch as he scours Craigslist for someone to connect with -- someone who might give him a ride, offer him a place to sleep, someone to interact with. As Joe's unscripted and spontaneous road trip unfolds, we experience Joe's frustrations; his hunger, his loneliness... and ultimately we revel in his successes, his rewards, and his newfound friendships.
We sympathize with Joe when he spends the night on the side of a freeway after his offered ride in a '85 Volkswagen van breaks down... and when he finds himself alone in New York City in the middle of winter. We rejoice with Joe as he dances with Orthodox Jews on the first night of Hanukkah... and as he makes Christmas ornaments with children of incarcerated parents. We laugh along as he delivers an impromptu set at a Chicago comedy club... and as he dances in a drum circle in Juarez, Mexico.
Beyond these exhilarating and often humorous encounters, Joe's wandering month does much to reveal the dynamic pulse of America's community spirit. From California to New York, and Washington to Florida, Joe finds strangers with unique stories of hardship and personal pain. And yet each character Joe meets is a genuine community giver. These are people who are more than happy to offer Joe a sandwich, a beer, or a bed for the night. But beyond that, what Joe finds is that these are people who are devoted members of larger groups and people who selflessly donate their time and energy to those around them on a daily basis.
While in Seattle, Joe meets Mohammed, the director of an after-school program for refugee children from all over the world. Mohammed invites Joe to help at the program, and also includes him in an evening of emotional bonding with his Iraqi family. The family shares with Joe the painful memories of their four years spent in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia, and talk with him about the repercussions of racial profiling in America after 9-11. Mohammed and his family know hunger, deprivation, and discrimination - and they are doing what they can to make sure that the next generation of Iraqis will grow up with a stronger support system and sense of community.
In Harlem, Joe meets Fran, a middle-aged former actress who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Fran needs someone to organize her apartment, and offers Joe the chance to volunteer. Working together, Fran shares with Joe the difficult personal challenge of facing limited options for cancer treatment: chemotherapy or radical surgery. She has instead decided to follow the path of holistic medicine, and in doing so, has discovered a previously unknown community that exists in America of herbal medicine users and suppliers. This network both supports her and enables her to support others -- and has miraculously kept her alive.
Once Joe reaches New Orleans, he meets John, a local artist and social activist. Despite the clear failure of the local and federal government to provide support for the rebuilding of the city, John maintains a positive outlook. He reminds Joe that regardless of the desolation they see around them, "every death brings a rebirth." In New Orleans, this has meant the rebirth of local community collaboration. John creates artwork for the Fundred project, an organization that aims to raise awareness, support, and $300 million for the reconstruction process in New Orleans.
Entering the communities and lives of each of these characters, we gain insight into the spirit of teamwork and unity that remains in America in spite of today's social and technological landscape. In this way, Joe's Craigslist exploration provides certain answers for the audience about who we are as a nation and also potentially raises hope for larger questions about where our country is headed. Will we be able to come together to battle and prove victorious over the challenges we face? Will we be able to heal each other's wounds and rebuild as a united force?
CRAIGSLIST JOE presents a unique story of survival -- the survival not only of Joe, our penniless nomad, but also the intriguing survival of American community in this modern and dark time. Revealing the cooperative spirit of myriad characters throughout the country, the journey creates a rich and varied portrait of America that will appeal to a broad audience. And in all of us, CRAIGSLIST JOE will reawaken our optimism and faith in the strength and resilience of American goodwill.
Joseph Garner (Director)
Joseph was born in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. His love for filmmaking started at a young age when he discovered his parent's old camcorder in the basement of their house. Prior to moving to Los Angeles, Joseph received his B.A. from San Francisco State University with a degree in Cinema. During his senior year, he created the West Coast Student Film Festival, which featured student films from over twenty-five countries. Joseph got a job in the film industry working as the assistant to director Todd Phillips on the blockbuster hit, The Hangover. Since then, he has continued working with Phillips, as the associate producer on such films: Due Date, The Hangover Part II, Project X, and the upcoming The Hangover Part III. Joseph has also won numerous awards as a filmmaker including, Grand Prize at the Script Pipeline into Motion Pictures Screenwriting Competition, "Top This TV Challenge" for a commercial he wrote and directed, and finalist at the Tribeca Film Festival Short Film Competition. Craigslist Joe is his first feature-length film.
Zach Galifianakis (Executive Producer)
Originally from western North Carolina, Zach moved to New York City to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. Zach got his start performing his brand of humor in the back of a hamburger joint in Times Square. He garnered mainstream attention for his role as Alan Garner in the comedy film The Hangover and earned the MTV Movie Award for the Best Comedic Performance. He enjoys touring the country, performing in coffee shops and universities. When not performing stand-up, Zach spends time at his home in the mountains of his native North Carolina, where he hopes to open a writer's retreat on a completely self-sustained farm.
Uday Sehgal (Executive Producer)
Uday is Principal of Vine Street Partners, a boutique investment management firm. He recently advised on the restructuring of shareholding interests in Viceroy Hotel Group, the acquisition of the Tides Riviera Maya resort in Mexico with AJ Capital Partners, and on international development and programmatic capital raising for Auberge Resorts. Uday is a founding and current partner in Wood & Vine, a 140-seat cocktail bar and restaurant in Hollywood.
Uday previously served as Director of Acquisitions for Kor Hotel Group, a Los Angeles-based hotel and resort developer and operator, from 2005 - 2009. His responsibilities included overseeing business development activities in the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. Uday sourced and closed the company's first venture outside of North America, an oceanfront resort development site on Vietnam's China Beach in partnership with Indochina Land and Secured Capital Japan. Uday also initiated a working relationship with Mubadala Development Company, a strategic sovereign wealth vehicle of the government of Abu Dhabi. He played a leading role in due diligence and negotiations of the transaction in which Mubadala acquired a 50% interest in Kor's hotel business globally. The deal closed in July 2008.
Prior to joining Kor, Uday was a senior acquisitions and asset management analyst for Trizec Properties, one of the country's largest owners and operators of commercial real estate properties. Uday received a B.A. in Mathematics and Economics from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and completed further graduate business coursework at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Eve Marson Singbiel (Producer)
Eve was born and raised in New York City and received her B.A. from Harvard University. Eve has worked as a producer on a wide variety of documentary projects, including independent feature films and television programming for PBS, Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. Eve has also produced a large library of nonfiction video work in collaboration with companies such as Good Inc. and Strategic Productions.
Angelique Sheppard (Co-Producer)
Angelique is a native of Los Angeles, but attended high school and college in Minnesota. She is married with two daughters and the proud owner of GreenRoots Presents, a company that began in her living room showcasing local artists and has blossomed to producing sold out concerts all over Los Angeles with artists like Bruno Mars, Aqualung and Colbie Caillat, while raising much needed funds for local nonprofits and national disasters (American Cancer Society, Joplin Tornado victims, Hurricane Katrina, Gulf Coast Relief, LA Gay & Lesbian Center). She helped put together the soundtrack with some of the best singers and musicians Los Angeles.
Kevin Flint (Cinematographer)
A film school graduate from California State University, Long Beach in 1988, Kevin dreamed of becoming a filmmaker since he saw Star Wars as a child. It wasn't until 2001 that Kevin found the story that would become his first feature film. His twin brother decided to quit his banking career to pursue a new career as a professional trapeze artist with the most elite circus in the world, Cirque du Soleil. Filmed across the globe over 8 years, the resulting film was the multiple award-winning documentary, Catching Dreams. Starting his own production company in 2008, Kevin has been the Director of Photography on numerous projects, including the feature film The Ridley Project, which he shot and directed on location in Costa Rica. He lensed the award winning feature documentary On Sacred Ground, the story of Native Americans continued struggle to preserve sacred sites in South Dakota, along with the indie homeless drama Wake-up Call. More recently, Kevin accepted a position with Aegis Film Group to head up their documentary division, directing and shooting the documentary feature, contamiNATION: America's Secret Chernobyl, about Uranium mining and its health impact on surrounding communities. Up next is the Ancient Alien feature documentary, The Anunnaki Were Here!
David Garner - Composer (Music Supervisor)
David Garner has been working in the Los Angeles music industry over the past several years in a variety of capacities. As a live performer, David has performed keyboards with top billboard pop sensations including Bruno Mars and Colbie Caillat, as well as newly signed artists, such as Andy Grammer and John West. He has toured and shared the stage with Gavin DeGraw, Train, Matisyahu, T. Pain, and Patrick Stump (lead singer of Fall Out Boy). In addition, David has worked behind the scenes writing and producing songs with pop writing sensations, including Jacob Luttrell (writer for Enrique Iglesias, David Guetta, Chris Brown, & Timbaland), Dan Book & Alexie Misoul (writers/producers for Hot Chelle Rae), Bob Tucker (Grammy Award-winning engineer who's worked with Tupac Shakur and India Arie). In addition, David has recorded piano, organ, and vocals, in studio sessions with legendary musicians including Sean Hurley (bassist for John Mayer), Victor Indrizzo (drummer for Sarah Bareilles, Chris Cornell, Avril Lavigne, Shakira), Chris Pottinger (bassist for Taio Cruz, Jason Derulo), and many more. David is also co-founder of GreenRoots Productions, which has hosted live music showcases that raise funds for nonprofit organizations in the greater Los Angeles area and South-by-Southwest Music Festival in Austin. David received his B.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.
Drew Kilcoin (Editor)
Coming from a New Jersey suburb of Philadelphia, Drew Studied film at Penn State University and Chapman University. Over the past five years Drew has edited multiple successful documentaries, as well as assistant editing on multiple feature films. Most recently he has worked on the Oscar winning Beginners and he just wrapped on Robert Zemeckis' upcoming film Flight starring Denzel Washington.
James Anderson (Graphic Designer and Animator)
Over the last decade James has lent his expertise as a 3D animator, designer, and VFX supervisor to many of the top studios in Los Angeles. He has led animation teams on a multitude of projects for a variety of high-profile clients, including: Sony, Microsoft, HP, Nike, Google, PepsiCo, Disney, Discovery Channel, HBO, Spike TV, Time Warner, BMW, Honda, Scion, and American Express. James is a co-founder and partner of Alma Mater, a Los Angeles-based visual studio dedicated to a tradition of beautifully executed and thoughtfully considered design, live action, and animation.