Please have a look at this six-minute trailer for my documentary feature "Angelo Unwritten." It's about an engaging teenager who spent his childhood in a series of foster homes. I'm following him from age 18 -- when he "aged out" of foster care -- through his 21st birthday. Angelo's got the love and support of his former foster parents, Laura and Phil, but he's stumbling towards adulthood and his missteps may cost him the only family he really has. This video just gives a glimpse of the stories told in the full film. I've included a synopsis below.
I've been moved to make "Angelo Unwritten" because it's an intimate, frank look at the everyday lives of extraordinary people. Laura and Phil could have had children of their own, but instead chose to welcome an older foster child into their family and love him like a son. Angelo was six when the state removed him from his mother's negligent care, and he spent the next six years in institutional foster care. Then he met Laura and Phil. It seemed like an ideal situation: they had the money, the love, and the determination to see him grow and thrive into a responsible adult. But right now he's floundering. Will Angelo pull it together? Will Laura and Phil stick with him? What could have made for a better outcome?
Angelo's currently 19 1/2, so I'm half way through filming this remarkable journey. I shoot with the family on a regular basis, and they also record home videos for me on a weekly basis, at least. I've received one production grant, from the LEF Foundation Moving Image Fund, and I feel quite certain this film will eventually receive significant grant funding.
However, funding for the arts has become more scarce these days, and funding for documentaries tends to come once filming has been complete and the entire story is clear. It is very difficult to find funders who will back a filmmaker who is filming a story as it happens. But I've made a commitment to Angelo that I will film him through his 21st birthday, and I will not become another adult who has let him down. That's why I'm reaching out to you, to ask that you help support this project so we can continue to tape Angelo's story as it evolves. Any donation you make to "Angelo Unwritten" is tax-deductible. (The film is produced through the Filmmakers Collaborative, 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization.)
I'd appreciate any feedback you may have on the video, and thanks for considering supporting "Angelo Unwritten."
"ANGELO UNWRITTEN" SYNOPSIS
Angelo Santiago has just aged out of the Massachusetts foster care system. As soon as you meet Angelo, a natural-born charmer, you want him to make it. You want him to stay in school and out of trouble. For teens who age out, the statistics are grim: within two years, one in four will be incarcerated, less than 40% graduate high school. "Angelo Unwritten" follows Angelo from his 18th to his 21st birthdays. Will he beat the odds?
Angelo lives with his former foster parents, Laura and Phil. Taken from his mother at the age of six by state social services (DCF), Angelo met Laura and Phil at age 12. They welcomed an inner city Puerto Rican kid to their rural home. They taught him to fish and hunt, and they became a family. Angelo had never been able to play in a sports league, and he signed up for every team he could. Laura became a soccer Mom; Phil became a coach.
But adolescence has hit the family hard. At age 17, DCF removed Angelo from Laura and Phil's home, stating that a group home would be a better placement. Laura and Phil tried to get him back, but he remained in the group home until he aged out.
Now Angelo's back home and tensions are high. There's lingering resentment over why DCF removed him and who is to blame. Angelo tests the limits of Laura and Phil's love. He steals their camera equipment. He throws a party with alcohol when they're out of town. Laura and Phil try tough love: Laura calls the cops about the theft; after the party, they throw him out, but then let him come home.
Intimate home video shows the raw emotions this family goes through. The viewer feels empathy for Angelo, whose behavior seems rooted in the deprivations of his early childhood. And also for Laura and Phil, whose attempts to parent Angelo bring them heartache.
"Angelo Unwritten" interweaves stories from Angelo's early years to show how his past influences the chances he has for a promising future. One prospect is his rap music. A local record producer has shown interest in Angelo, and he encourages Angelo to dig deeper, and write lyrics about his life. The producer introduces Angelo to Casey, a professional rapper, who offers to mentor Angelo. A fitness buff, Casey wants to help Angelo become more disciplined. He wants him to quit smoking, work out, and get serious about his music.
And then tragedy hits. At an all night drinking party, a teenager assaults Angelo. He is permanently blinded in one eye. Now he needs Laura and Phil more than ever. Can he overcome this latest blow? Will he stay in school? Only Angelo can write the next chapter of his life.
- (45 days)