Alumna creates video to urge action on homelessness

Nine months pregnant, filmmaker and USC alumna Rachel Fleischer didn’t think that she would be doing so much work during her third trimester.

“I think my unborn baby is giving me a lot of inspiration to do more good in the world,” Fleischer said.

The good that Fleischer described has to do with her recent work directing a public service announcement supporting Proposition HHH, a bill on the Nov. 8 ballot that aims to end homelessness in Los Angeles.

Proposition HHH would provide $1.2 billion to build safe and clean housing in the city and would implement mental health and drug addiction treatment for homeless residents. Fleischer said she did not hear about this proposition until she was invited to speak at a panel on homelessness.

“When I heard about it, I came to learn more about what it offered, and how it could help the homeless community,” Fleischer said. “Then I wondered, ‘If I’m a 35-year-old woman and I haven’t heard of it, then my friends definitely haven’t heard of it.’ So I decided to put together a short film.”

The one-minute film, which was uploaded to YouTube, features several actors and actresses speaking about the importance of supporting Proposition HHH. One of the actors, Ty White, joined the initiative because of his feeling of personal connection to the issue of homelessness.

“It was close to the heart — I have friends and family who have been there,” White said. “Times are hard and life gets hard; and what Rachel did resonates with me because there are people who don’t have friends to help them out when life gets hard.”

Actress Madeline Zima said that her friendship with Fleischer was the reason she heard about the project, but that her personal desire to help end homelessness drove her to contribute.

“I believe homelessness could happen to anyone,” Zima said. “Many people were just like you and me and had a stroke of bad luck that they just couldn’t turn around. Everyone deserves a second chance at a satisfying life.”

Fleischer said she didn’t start out as a documentarian of homelessness — before this PSA, she shot a short film and had made music videos and commercial segments. Instead, she sees herself as a storyteller foremost, and an activist afterwards.

“I’m doing a lot of different things as a filmmaker,” Fleischer said. “I tend to not put myself in a box, but rather use my abilities as a filmmaker to satisfy my own impulses but to also bring awareness through my storytelling. What drives me is really the storytelling and helping make an impact.”

However, Fleischer said the Proposition HHH PSA is not her first or last experience with tackling homelessness in her work. In 2011, she released a film called Without a Home, which took five years to make. And in the future, Fleischer plans to release several short video segments of actors and actresses voicing their own personal takes on and experiences with homelessness.

“I know that homelessness will be an issue that will always touch my heart and drive me to take action,” Fleischer said. “And one way I can do that is filmmaking and storytelling.”

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