Funded! This project was successfully funded on March 18, 2012.

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Squatters, snowbirds and wanderers - the audiovisual chronicles of a "free" desert community.

In short

I'm headed to the southern California desert for several weeks to produce short multimedia* documentaries about a squatter community -- plus: a photo zine!

*(Multimedia: audio, video and photos - packaged for an online experience)

The Details

Slab City is home for hundreds of people during the winter season -- and a few dozen during the blistering summer season. They come for many reasons, some by choice and some from circumstances that keep them there. They often seek something different than what the city can offer: solitude, community, belonging, and escape. 

I aim to document the people who live here, as well as the wandering travelers who pass through. In Slab City, old and modern America converges: old souls run paperback libraries and Internet cafes out of dusty trailers; an empty military lap pool is now a skate park.  

Slab City is a remarkably diverse place filled with a wealth of stories. The pieces I will produce will document the stories -- told directly by the people who live there -- about why they chose to be there. 

This is a region that once thrived -- agriculture and the prospect of becoming another California leisure town. It has changed since. Many of those workers have left. And many of the farms have gone too, pushed out by rising water prices and a new dust bowl. Most of the area now defined as Slab City is the site of a decommissioned military base.

But a leisure town mentality still haunts the region. Thousands of people -- mostly retirees -- migrate south to Slab City during winter, seeking the sun and warmth of the California desert and an "off the grid" lifestyle.  It’s a place where the word “freedom” rolls easily off the tip of the tongue but in that very American way, it means so many different things: freedom to come and go, free land, free food, free love, freedom from government, freedom of speech, thought and religion. Sometimes, these freedoms clash with reality: this rogue community still deals with the problems of city life - trash, illness and crime.

My Project

I want to tell the stories of this community.

I plan on making several trips to Slab City. I've already made three trips, including a three week trip in late December through January, during which I rented an RV and lived in Slab City. I will finish gathering photos and reporting by Spring 2012 and aim to produce several portraits and documentary photographs of the people and the place, coupled with audio and video interviews to create several short multimedia documentary pieces. (Multimedia = a combination of audio, video and photography). 

I'll also create a website to house these multimedia mini-documentaries (they'll be under 5 minutes each, web-friendly). And, since Slab City prides itself on being very analogue, I will also create a photo zine featuring some of the photos and stories I'm featuring in my project.

I hope that you will consider supporting my reporting!

How you can help

With your support, I can offset the costs of my travel on my reporting trips, namely gas and rental. Your support can also help offset the costs of producing my final web pieces and printed materials. 

Update! 

I've added a 30 second trailer for my project -- just a sampling of the images you'll see in the final pieces. 

If you like the music, it's "CHASIN' IT" by Jason Shaw (audionautix.com/index.html

FAQ

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    1. It's less risk for everyone. If you need $5,000, it's tough having $2,000 and a bunch of people expecting you to complete a $5,000 project.

    2. It allows people to test concepts (or conditionally sell stuff) without risk. If you don't receive the support you want, you're not compelled to follow through. This is huge!

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Funding period

- (45 days)