American Street Kid is a feature documentary about the homeless youth in America and the movie includes several local youth.
Director, producer, writer and editor Michael Leoni committed himself to bring the issue of homeless youth to light with the goal of educating people about the causes of homelessness among kids.
“This is a problem, and people need to realize that majority of the time these kids are not homeless by choice,” said Leoni.
American Street Kid, shows the lives of young people in and around Hollywood, Venice, and Santa Monica. The film explains that an estimated 1.8 million kids are homeless in America and every day 13 kids will die. According to Covenant House, almost 40 percent of the homeless in the United States are under 18 years of age.
Leoni began working with the homeless at nineteen in New York when he found himself on the verge of being on the streets. Since then he has felt some connection to the homeless youth community.
He began traveling and meeting with young homeless individuals and learning their stories. He documented their stories and decided the best way to help these kids was to share the neglect, violence, abuse, and abandonment the youth faces. A bond was formed between Michael and two young girls, he became a mentor and a friend to them, shortly after he learned one was murdered and the other found dead with no explanation.
After that incident, Leoni said the project grew from a two-minute public information announcement to a documentary that would take seven years.
The documentary began as a mission to spread awareness and later transforms into a journey of friendship and family. He began to meet with the kid’s day in and day out, follow them around. The kids began to be inspired and showed him the life many people don’t see, the things they have to do to survive.
Leoni and his crew hit the streets of Venice and Santa Monica.
“The kids that live there are from all over the country,” said Leoni.
The documentary focuses on eight kids, but the crew worked intensely with 300, and met thousands of homeless kids. Michelle Kaufer, producer of American Street Kid, said “We went to every state, mainly focused in Hollywood, Venice and Santa Monica. The kids would show up where they slept, and how they survived.”
Leoni wanted the kids to be interactive, and gave them the opportunity to work directly with the filmmakers, directors, and more. Leoni did not stop there; he created Spare Some Change, a one on one mentoring program in Los Angeles. The hope is to enlighten and empower the homeless youth to create change in their lives. He also created The Dollar Project; the campaign video was also filmed in Venice and Santa Monica.
The Dollar Project is a national grass-roots campaign with the goal of raising one dollar from as many people as possible with the funds helping take the film all over the country and ending in Washington D. C.
The film has not hit theatres yet but the crew is showing the film in selective areas.
“At the private screenings people are giving the film standing ovations, they are bringing their families. I see people crying and offering help in any way they can,” said Leoni. “This is beyond homelessness, this is love for humanity and how to treat one another.”
Leoni would like to show the film in Santa Monica, being that Santa Monica was a crucial setting in the film. For now, the film is headed to the Hollywood Film Festival.
For more information visit www.americanstreetkid.com