Grand Prize Winner, Myles Kramer, director of Community by Design: Skid Row Housing Trust, was chosen by an esteemed panel of judges as the 2017 I Look Up Film Challenge winner! This was Myles’ first entry into the I Look Up Film Challenge and we’re thrilled to announce him as this year’s winner.
Filmed in Los Angeles and featuring Michael Maltzan Architecture and Brooks + Scarpa Architecture, the winning film highlights the power of design in improving the lives of those experiencing homelessness. Of the 80 films submitted, the judges gave scores from 1-5 in Storytelling & Prompt, Architectural Placement, and Technical Merit. Learn more about Myles below and check back for blogs on the First Runner Up and Second Runner Up.
AIA: How did you get into filmmaking?
Myles Kramer: I got into filmmaking when I was a kid, somewhere around 9 or 10 years old. My first films were Lego stop motion movies, and I always made movies with my brother and neighborhood friends using the home camcorder. I think I started doing more professional work in high school, when a student documentary I worked on got into a few film festivals and won an award from C-Span.
AIA: How did you find this story?
Myles Kramer: Los Angeles is in a homeless crisis, and it really shows. From parks to highways, tents and homeless communities can be found in any part of city and the circumstances are dire. Only recently did a small community of tents form down the street from my house, and it got me thinking about how large this problem really is. I was doing research in downtown Los Angeles when I drove by one of the Skid Row Housing Trust buildings. I didn’t know what it was at the time, so I went home to research and I landed on SkidRow.org. Once I learned about the Skid Row Housing Trust, their missions, and their impactful body of work, the idea clicked. I reached out to the trust, and I was lucky to be welcomed into some of the various communities that span between the buildings. There were many friendly residents and members of the administration who were willing to speak with us, and I even made a few friends during the filming process.
AIA: Did this experience change your view of architecture? If yes, how so?
Myles Kramer: I became interested in architecture in college, and I even made architecture film projects for two separate classes in school. I always felt that space and design had some kind of varying impact on my moods and my thinking, but I just didn’t know why. It was only after working on this project did I learn more specifically about how architecture and design affects people’s day to day lives. After filming in the Skid Row Housing Trust buildings, I better understand importance of natural lighting and public vs private spaces. After meeting the residents and learning about their experiences, I can see why these elements aid in physical and mental recovery, and foster a sense of community.
AIA: What was the most challenging or surprising part of the process?
Myles Kramer: The most challenging part was the post process. The production went very smoothly because I had a fantastic team to help me, but after we wrapped it was only me editing. It took me two weeks of editing to arrive at the final cut, and some of the most difficult decisions I had to make were what to include and what not to include in the film. Of course you can only tell so much story in a four minute film, and there were unfortunately a lot of great story elements that couldn’t make it into the cut.
AIA: What was one of the highlights or most moving moments of the experience?
Myles Kramer: There were many moments that were highlights for me, but I think I was moved the most during our final day of principal shooting. On our final day we filmed at the Skid Row Denim Academy for their monthly event Trust in Sound. While we were at the event and learned more about the Skid Row Denim Academy, it hit me. I was struck by the extent that the Skid Row Housing Trust goes to fulfill their mission of rehabilitation for their residents. We had been filming and learning about the Skid Row Housing Trust all week but when I learned about this partnership, it really all came together for me. The Skid Row Denim Academy produces various apparel and clothing, and aims to train and hire residents from the Trust throughout all departments and industries that are involved with the production of their clothing. The Denim Academy partners with the Skid Row Housing Trust to bring communities together and provide workforce development opportunities, as well as establish positive connotations to quite literally rebrand the term “skid row.” I was surprised to learn about how the Skid Row Housing Trust provides more than just a place to live, but a true home that incorporates community and extensive rehabilitation practices both physically and mentally for its residents. The Trust truly supports its residents in all aspects of their lives, and takes into account all factors that help people put their lives back on track. They truly care about the well-being of their residents on a personal level, and it really shows. This is was I was most moved by.
The Grand Prize Winner, along with the First Runner Up and Second Runner Up received an exclusive screening of their films at the Architecture and Design Film Festival on September 26 in Chicago and again on November 1-5 in New York City.
The public can view and vote on their favorite film to win the People’s Choice Award until October 6.