A film revisiting Erin “Tiny” Blackwell, 30 years after the making of the Academy Award nominated documentary Streetwise.
Mary Ellen and I are very excited, grateful, and overwhelmed for the support that has allowed us to reach our initial goal.
We still have over a week left in the campaign and we wish to expand the scope of the project.
Further funding would allow us to spend more time in Seattle and to include other memorable characters from the film Streetwise: Rat, Shadow, LeMar, Patrice, and others who have survived the streets. Seeing these characters in their current lives would give depth and insight we could not have initially afforded to include.
Reaching $85,000 will allow us to hear these additional characters’ reflections on their journey from the streets.
Again, our sincerest thanks to you all.
Martin and Mary Ellen
About the Project
Over the years, my wife and co-producer Mary Ellen Mark and I have worked on many projects together. We work on the concept and production, then Mary Ellen shoots the still photographs and I make the film. Our first collaboration was the film Streetwise in 1983. It was a life-altering experience. The documentary followed the lives of eight teenagers surviving on the streets of Seattle, and was nominated for an Academy Award in 1985.
Martin tells the story of Tiny at the Academy Awards.
Music by Glenn Patscha
Photos by Mary Ellen Mark
In 1983, Mary Ellen, and magazine reporter Cheryl McCall, were assigned by LIFE magazine to document street children in Seattle. They met many characters with street names like Lulu, Rat, Dewayne and Shadow, but no one was more memorable than Erin Blackwell, known as Tiny. Tiny was a 13-year-old street prostitute.
Mary Ellen first saw Tiny hanging out in the parking lot of the Monestary night club, and immediately knew Tiny was a star. When Mary Ellen approached Tiny, she ran away. She thought Mary Ellen was a cop.
Mary Ellen telephoned me with a daily update on all of the characters she was meeting on the street. But mostly she talked about Tiny.
On Labor Day of 1983, after the LIFE magazine article was published, Cheryl, Mary Ellen and I returned to Seattle to make Streetwise. We spent every day on Pike Street, between 2nd and 1st Streets, where I filmed many of the characters who Cheryl and Mary Ellen met during the original assignment. Tiny remained, as Mary Ellen predicted, the central character who became the heart and soul of the film.
In 1984, after the film was released in the cinema, Streetwise was nominated for an Academy Award. Tiny became a cult figure. Fans wrote to her. She was offered a part in a Hollywood film.
Over the past 30 years, Mary Ellen and I have kept in close contact with Tiny. We were there when she was pregnant with her first child, Daylon, and also when he was born. I filmed her when two of her children were taken away by child services. We were there after Tiny got out of drug rehabilitation and had Keanna, her third child. She promised herself then that she would never turn to drugs again. We watched the children grow in age and number. The last time we were there, Tiny had nine children.
Tiny now has 10 children—ages 5 to 27 years—and she’s a grandmother. Though she still deals with addiction, and some of her children have been in trouble with the law, Tiny has not been homeless for many years and has learned to read and write. She’s married to Will, the father of her five youngest children. It is still a constant struggle to make ends meet.
Streetwise Book and Exhibition
In 2015, Aperture will publish a new edition of their original Streetwise book with additional photographs taken over the past 30 years. Aperture is raising money separately to make the book and a traveling exhibition.
Making the film Tiny Revisited
Mary Ellen and I will return to Seattle during the next year to photograph Tiny and her family again for this book.
I feel this is an important opportunity to make another film. This new film will focus on Tiny and her family, and will include footage shot during previous visits over the past 30 years. We hope to raise money through Kickstarter to enable us to make this film. We plan to launch the book and distribute the film at the same time.
The film will be an intimate look at the unending and relentless battles of America’s urban poor as mirrored through the life of Tiny and her family.
The film Streetwise touched many people’s lives. We built lasting relationships with everyone we met through the film. Audiences throughout the world reacted strongly to the film. We still get letters and e-mails asking about all of the characters, especially Tiny.
With your support through Kickstarter we will have the opportunity to revisit Tiny and show how her life has changed from 13 years-old to 44 years-old.
I hope you believe in this project as much as we do. I can assure you we won’t disappoint you. The film will be a fascinating and intimate look at Erin Blackwell, who has survived against impossible odds.
We need your help to make this film.
Thank you for your consideration.
$75 Poster Reward
Vintage Streetwise Poster Reward
Silver Gelatin Print Rewards
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
In documentary work, there are always risks and challenges. Over the past 30 years we have always managed to navigate through those challenges: weather, illness, technical problems etc. We’ve worked on several projects, both alone and together and we’ve never failed to deliver.
Documentary films always face the uncertainty of obtaining footage for the project. In this case, Martin has filmed several times with Tiny and her family over the years; so much of the material already exists.
In this particular project, there is a risk because the family is in continual transition. But, we are in constant contact with them and they always grant us full access, no matter where they are or their situation.
One of the other risks that documentary films face is with finishing the film--all the post-production aspects like editing, music, sound, etc. Martin does his own editing and works closely with an extremely qualified post-production team that is also committed to this project. They have worked with him for years on several projects.
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