Good Karma $1 has a curiosity at the heart of the short film. Advertising guru Alex Bogusky is fascinated by the signs that homeless people hold and wants to know what can go into making the most effective signs. Along with Jason Berger, co-director Amy Laslett was able to capture Alex’s discoveries to entertaining results. We were able to talk to Amy about her film and found out what the longer version almost was.
Heartland Film Festival: I love it when a documentary seems to have a perfect subject and story. Then I wonder how they were ever discovered. How did you guys find Alex and his interest in collecting homeless signs?
Amy: Kids at Play, the production company I work for, does a lot of video work in the branded space and had collaborated with Alex before. During one of our calls, Alex mentioned this side project and we immediately knew we had to fly out and capture it on film.
Heartland Film Festival: One of the impressive things about the short film is that in a short amount of time, you allow room for Alex to make a mistake and be embarrassed. You could have reshot him trying out his pitches, but you keep this end the film. Was this something intentional you wanted to show?
Amy: We laid out a general idea of where we wanted the film to go before we went to Boulder, and in true documentary fashion the film took and unexpected turn. We originally thought that we would do more of a test to see whether Alex’s signs would be more successful than those of the homeless. As the filming progressed it became clear that it was less about the success of the signs and more about the people making them. Jason and myself, our crew, and even Alex had this realization that was too genuine to leave out of the film.
Heartland Film Festival: You have a very defined focus in the film that is well maintained. Were you ever tempted to go into the personal stories of the homeless or more about Alex’s career?
Amy: We were! There is a lot that was shot that is not in the film and the edit process was one of the most difficult I had been in. For instance, at the end of the film when you see Alex holding up his “Good Karma $1” sign, we filmed him doing that for about 30 minutes and during that time one of his friends drove by. When Alex waved the man didn’t even make eye contact with him and continued to drive ahead. It was a moment where we all really realized that the signs make you invisible. There were a lot of great moments like that, with Alex and with the homeless, that I wish we could have included.
Heartland Film Festival: Has this film changed the way you look at signs from the homeless? Do you give more or less to them now?
Amy: It definitely has. I was nervous about the willingness of the homeless to talk to a camera crew. When we approached them they all thought that we wanted to ask them about their story and were hesitant. As soon as we let them know it was about their signs they all opened up and were willing to talk. Alex has said, and now I’ve realized first hand, that you really get a different insight into their lives talking about something other than their current situation. They were truly amazing characters in the story.
Heartland Film Festival: Are you working on a next project?
Amy: The company I work for, Kids at Play, is constantly developing new projects. We are a one-stop shop for production and creative needs in the digital, commercial, TV and film spaces. We have about 25 digital series online at the moment, and in the film arena are in development on 3 features.
Heartland Film Festival: What are some moving films that have inspired you as a filmmaker?
Amy: Too many to name! In the doc world, I always am inspired by Dark Days. Mark Singer had a great way of exposing people who fall through the cracks in a way that makes them relatable mainstream humanity. In a lot of ways, I think that’s what our film ended up doing.
You can purchase tickets for Good Karma $1 which will play with the “Interesting Individuals” shorts program, for the following days…
Saturday October 20 at 5:30 p.m. at AMC Showplace Traders Point 12
Sunday October 21 at 2:45 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14
Monday October 22 at 12:15 p.m. at AMC Showplace Traders Point 12
Friday October 29 at 3:30 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14
Interview conducted by Austin Lugar