I am writing this in response to Linda Milazzo's post "Joe Wright's The Soloist Exploits the Skid Row Community," about the actions I took while making my film The Soloist.
I'm all for a debate about the ethics of employing the homeless to work on The Soloist -- a debate that caused much fierce correspondence between myself and the studio lawyers. And if Milazzo did not like my film then that's fine. But I do feel that to state, among other things, that my intention was a "perverse...and orgiastic assault on the poor and mentally ill" is an unwarranted personal attack. To have the love that I hold dear for the community of the Skid Row residents called into question is very hurtful.
Central to the film was an attempt to understand and reach out to those that are so often ignored. This was my reason for wanting to make a film not only about, but with the participation of, members of the Skid Row community.
The 10 days I spent on Skid Row that Milazzo refers to before agreeing to make the film were not intended to help me "absorb Skip Row's nuanced layers" or "understand mental illness and poverty," (mental illness is something I've had the privilege of understanding on my own). They were intended to help me come to a decision as to whether I wanted to go on that journey. I decided I did, but on the condition that the studio would allow me to employ members of the community to work with me as extras, actors, and consultants. The scenes set on Skid Row are as much their portrayal of their lives as mine. My job, as I saw it, was simply to give them an opportunity to be heard.
As such Linda Milazzo is attacking the very people she is claiming to protect.
Ideologically, I believe that the writer and I are on the same page and fighting for the same cause. I concur 100 percent with her summary of the issues facing the local community and the abuses of power enacted by the local government under the euphemistic banner of a "Safer Cities Initiative," (safer for who?). So why wage war on your own side if not to simply get attention?
It seems a lot of middle class people like to appropriate the homeless as their own.