Sample Some of Hal Samples' Homeless Documentary

Brian Harkin
Hal Samples is trying to finish his documentary Dreamtown, about Dallas' homeless, and he could sure use your help.

Whilst trolling through the usual YouTube trash heap this afternoon, I came across a gem you really should see; the video is after the jump. It was identified only as "ScrapIron - More Exerpts from Dreamtown," with the explanation that it's "part of a documentary piece on the homeless in Dallas, TX." I noticed that the person who posted it, "cashproductions," had also posted some other pieces about the local homeless--one, an August 2006 WFAA-Channel 8 story about photographer Hal Samples, the subject of a 2004 Zac Crain-penned cover story in the paper version of Unfair Park. Well, wasn't hard to put two and two together, especially with a little help from Merritt Martin, who also knows Samples. Yeah, she said, Cash Productions is Hal; Cash is his dog's name. So there ya go.

Samples, who for three years has been working on a documentary titled Dreamtown, posted the footage to his MySpace blog yesterday. It was shot Friday, near the Dallas Homeless Stand-down at the Dallas Convention Center, where the photographer reports that he "finally came across a man (who I've been searching for two years) named Ford." (The annual event, Samples tells Unfair Park, drew about 2,000 people who showed up to get clothing and food, sign up for on-the-spot AIDS testing and get mental-health assistance, among other things.) Ford also goes by the moniker "Scrap Iron," Samples writes, "due to a life altering experience he had after a man gave him a harmonica three years ago."

In the eight minutes of video Samples posted to his blog, Scrap Iron performs ZZ Top's "Tush" and "Amazing Grace" (or "Amazing Grace Done Right," as he calls it). But Samples writes, "This would be the first time he had held a harmonica or ever thought about playing one." He adds:

"I'm grateful to have these experiences captured on film. It is my desire to share 'Scrap Iron' Ford and all of the other beautiful souls I encounter on my journeys through the streets with the world. Because to my opinion...the world doesn't have enough of this energy floating around in the main stream media. It's typically poverty pornography when it comes to the homeless, with flies and cardboard houses being shot from a van across the street."

Samples tells Unfair Park today that the film "is coming along fabulously," but that he's having trouble finishing it; he desperately needs the assistance of a trained editor willing to work for no money on a documentary about the homeless. "There's a preconceived notion I have more resources than I have," he says, "but I run more on faith than money."

He's had a few folks come and go, but they've left the project for various reasons: "the reality that interferes," Samples says, "like a job, a girlfriend, migraines or whatever, something that relieves them from the commitment."

If you want to help Samples finish his movie--and he'd desperately like to get a 30- to 40-minute cut finished by the holidays, and a feature-length version finished by the summer--you can contact him through his MySpace page. Only serious applicants need apply. At the moment, Samples figures he has about 30 hours worth of footage, with more on the way.

"Dreamtown's not a Dallas-bashing movie, but it allows the unseen to be seen and compares it to the glam image Dallas has," Samples says. "We haven't evolved to a fraction of what some other major metropolitan cities have in terms of their care of the homeless. I want to encourage, challenge, motivate and hold accountable people who do have the resources here to do something. The purpose of this is not to make money, but to share the humanity. If it makes money, it will go back into the community. I just want to allow people inside the relationships I encounter. I don't look at this as being just my project." --Robert Wilonsky

Bonus Video: An excerpt from Hal Samples' work-in-progress Dreamtown