When I began thinking about this project, the idea of tent cities was hardly futuristic. It was already happening. My downstairs neighbor, a photojournalist, told me about the growing tentopolis on the eastern edge of town. He had gone out there to take some snaps but was greeted with a volley of rocks.
I’d seen tent cities before, those clusters of the homeless in downtown Los Angeles. But this one was different. It was made up of the losers of the middle class; losers because they had lost their prized possessions — their homes — during the subprime mortgage crisis. It felt like the final nail in the coffin of the American Dream. It felt like the future.
At that time the economy was in freefall and nothing seemed unimaginable. The financial crisis could very well snowball into a global depression. I began to imagine what might happen in a few years time. What if it was not just a few homeowners but a majority of people living in tent cities? My story began to emerge, the tale of Matthew Ochoa, a graphic novelist who has been forced to abandon his career during the economic meltdown. To save his family from the fate of living in Tent City, he takes a job with a Residence Eviction Squad, an armed team of men who evict others from their homes.
I didn’t, however, want to create another dystopian vision of the future. My view of humankind is oddly optimistic. Since Matthew is a graphic novelist, I wanted the resolution of his dilemma to come out of his storytelling. I conceived of a game to be played between Matthew and his son, in which they concoct a parallel story, a pulp science fiction that would illuminate Matthew’s situation in the main storyline. Once this structure fell into place, I felt right at home. It’s the kind of story-within-a-story conceit that I love about The Arabian Nights and the short stories of Borges.
Ultimately, Tent City isn’t about the housing crisis as much as the ethical choices we all must make in periods of financial duress. We think we have a grasp of who we are. Our identities are firmly in place, in terms of family, career, and status. All it takes is an economic catastrophe to strip us clean of all that, leaving our self-image in tatters. We are forced to make the kinds of choices that would have been unthinkable just months before. Tent City is about a man who suffers just such a shock to his persona, and who must use the skills of his former life — as a storyteller — to piece together his true self.
— Aldo Velasco
Aldo Velasco, Director
Aldo Velasco is a filmmaker and playwright born in Guadalajara, Mexico. His short films have screened at the Sundance, SXSW, and Los Angeles Film Festivals, among others. His play The True History of Coca-Cola in Mexico has been staged at numerous theaters across the country. His short film Infitd was selected by UCLA Professor Chon Noriega as one of the 100 Best Chicano Films of all time. Currently he is in pre-production on two feature films, Scuttlebutt and SuperMacho.
After receiving his MFA from the UCLA Film program, Aldo took a detour from the film world and worked for a time as a private investigator. His investigation of the Mario Rocha case was featured in the film Mario’s Story, which has aired on Showtime and won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2006.
Jasmine Jaisinghani, Producer
Jasmine Jaisinghani is an independent producer in Los Angeles. Her professional background began at historic Capitol Records and George Harrison’s label, Dark Horse Records. Jaisinghani also manages and curates for film festivals ranging from AFI Fest to the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. While working with the Indian Film Festival she has showcased the talent of the Bombay Dub Orchestra, Cheb i Sabbah, L Shankar of Shakti, Gingger Shankar and Taal Dance Company. In addition to Beholder, she has also produced Tent City for FUTURESTATES Season One, which made its premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in 2010. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University in drama.