The Road to Nickelsville
Directed by Derek McNeill
Just prior to beginning The Road to Nickelsville, I was actually looking for opportunities in fictional narrative work. I was reaching out to actors and writers, looking for opportunities to direct and shoot scenes for their reels and build from there. A documentary wasn’t top of mind. On the local news I kept noticing this reoccurring story about a homeless encampment called Nickelsville that was creating a bit of an uproar whenever it sought to move from one neighborhood or another, and I had this feeling Seattle was reaching a tipping point. The homeless were no longer this nebulous collection of people in tents, or under bridges; they were organized. They were a community. And for the first time they now had these tiny house structures, all painted pink no less. When I’d catch glimpses of the camp members in the news footage and I found myself constantly wondering who they were. And not sort of who they were, but really who they were. What roads had they taken in life that had brought them to this? I felt like a moment was happening, and I needed to capture it before the moment passed. This is when the idea of The Road to Nickelsville took hold. I turned from aspirations in fictional narrative, never looked back, and The Road to Nickelsville became my sole focus in life for the next year.
Homelessness had always been a subject I had been interested in. I seem to have retained an almost childlike naivety on the subject. How is it possible that amidst such wealth, people are living in the street? Seattle is the home of Microsoft, Amazon, and in general is exploding with growth and success. I couldn’t understand how and why people were living and dying the streets of such a successful community. When I would talk to people about the subject, they would often say things like,” Well you know why they’re homeless, don’t you? They’re alcoholics,” or,” They’re lazy,” or,” They’ve made bad decisions,” or my personal least favorite,” They want to live like this.” I found it ridiculous to assume anyone would choose to suffer, and be shunned. Furthermore, I knew for a fact that people with all those enumerated flaws were living comfortably housed in suburban America, hidden from view. So even if all those things were true, so what? We are all flawed. I have to believe there’s a limit to what we’re comfortable letting our fellow human being endure, as a consequence of their personal flaws.
Through The Road to Nickelsville I have, and hope to continue, reaching members of our local and global community to humanize those of us who have fallen behind.
It could be any of us one day.