Life on the streets

What’s it like to be homeless? This film gathers together a collection of stories direct from those who – through circumstance – have wound up living on the streets.

From riding the buses, to dodging rats and coping with ill health, find out about just some of the challenges rough sleepers face each day and those they overcome with the help of a homeless charity in London called The Passage.

  • Simon Waller
    The Bliss of Ignorance
  • Simon Waller
    The Bliss of Ignorance
  • Simon Waller
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    8 minutes 4 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    October 1, 2014
  • Production Budget:
    0 GBP
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    United Kingdom
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • A night under the stars
    Royal Festival Hall, London
    October 9, 2014
    United Kingdom Premiere
Director Biography - Simon Waller

Simon has filmed and directed shoots in a number of international locations such as India, Malaysia, USA and across Europe. His work includes promos and music videos and a series of short films about Homelessness which have been screened at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Simon also directed The Bliss of Ignorance, which through first-hand testimony investigates South Africa's complex relationship with one of the country's most abundant resources: coal.

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Director Statement

The Passage is a homelessness charity based in central London. The Passage helps get people off the streets and back into housing and work. The charity provides food, clothes, shelter, showers, a laundry and a walk-in medical centre. They also teach basic life skills like cooking and cleaning and also offer computer courses so their clients can create CVs and apply for jobs.

This is the third film I have made for The Passage and was keen to highlight solutions to homelessness, rather than focus solely on the problem itself. This film throws a positive light on the issue by speaking directly to those affected by homelessness and ultimately helped by The Passage. I wanted my audience to see my “homeless” subjects as people - not just as rough sleepers – and understand that no one starts life on the streets. The people I spoke to had jobs and homes like the rest of us.

I decided to shoot the interviews on a white background to isolate the subjects, removing everything around them, including the street in order to avoid creating a cliche of a homeless person. The questions I was going to ask – to understand how their circumstances changed - would be very personal and sensitive and no doubt tough to confront especially on camera and in front of an audience, so I made the decision to do the entire shoot alone without multiple camera operators, a boom operator or an interviewer. Despite the stress of assuming all these roles myself, including monitoring the recording on headphones and checking LCD screens while interviewing, this approach worked incredibly well.

I set up a white paper background and blasted it with lights to completely over-expose it. I then locked off two cameras in order to cut between two angles and aimed my key, fill and hair lights. I set up a boom to handle the sound so I would be free to concentrate on the questions and answers.

I was well rehearsed and made sure I could steer the interviews where I wanted them but also to allow the flow to be conversational. In my experience this always helps people relax and ultimately delivers a much better interview. Being quizzed about the challenges of homelessness by a film director with a heap of expensive camera equipment and lights pointing at you could be a fairly horrible experience so I knew I’d have to use all of my skills at being as personable, sensitive and understanding as possible to get the best results.

I shot the interviews in colour using a Canon C300 and a 5dMk3 and later graded them in post to black and white using a Fuji black and white LUT with Filmconvert. This helped me isolate each subject and allow the audience to see the person, rather than their circumstances.

I was able to speak to a range of subjects from a variety of backgrounds and all regions of the UK, which gave the film good variety. I have created both subtitled and non-subtitled versions to ensure every word was understandable to all. The film was screened on the eve of World Homeless Day on the 9th of November 2014 at a fundraiser at The Royal Festival Hall in London and helped raise £135,000 for the charity.