This week, Chalkey Horenstein of Spare Change News spoke with Eric “Protein” Moseley in a follow-up from an interview in the previous year. Moseley was born in Detroit, but has also lived in Los Angeles, San Diego, Columbia, Kingstree, Miami, Tallahassee, New Orleans, Houston, New York, Seattle and Myrtle Beach. Once renowned as the first homeless filmmaker in the country to have a film featured on opposite coasts, Moseley has now retired as a homeless filmmaker but remains both a filmmaker and a homeless advocate. Recently, he was featured as a homeless extra on TNT’s Leverage, in “The Experimental Job.” He is currently in an undisclosed location working on his memoir, “Eric Moseley: From The Ground Up.”
Chalkey Horenstein: Let’s start with the most pressing news: you’ve retired as a ‘homeless filmmaker’?
Eric “Protein” Moseley: To be clear: I only retired from the homeless aspect of my filmmaking. I’m just not going to be homeless doing filmmaking — if I do another homeless documentary, I will be a normal civilian talking to the homeless. But I remain an advocate for the homeless and a filmmaker.
CH: So does that mean you have permanent housing now?
EM: I’m kind of in an undisclosed location. I want to stay on the down-low so I can focus on my book. Right now, I don’t want anyone knowing where I am, because in the book it will talk about the state of the location when I was writing it.
CH: So why did you give up the homeless lifestyle?
EM: I’ve been in the scum long enough — I wanted to remain homeless to keep the memory of what it’s like fresh, though now I think I’m at a point where I will never forget where I came from. Right now, the most important reason is that I think I can be a better advocate if I’m no longer homeless; there are things I couldn’t do before that I can now. Other things that I want to do for them.
But I will always be a homeless advocate, even though I’m ready to move onto a different aspect of my life and discover other talents I have.
CH: “Other things?” What do you have in mind?
EM: Eventually, I want to do a reality television show about homelessness — I want to get an agency and a public relations person to help me out as well. No matter what I’m doing with filmmaking or documentaries, it will still always tie into where I came from. I’ll never get so big I want to stop working with the homeless.
CH: You’ve been a filmmaker for a few years now — has your mindset changed in terms of what makes a good film?
EM: These days, I really like to be the voice of the people in terms of how they became homeless. I want the people to know: this can happen to you. No one is exempt.
As an early filmmaker, I never touched on that aspect of life before. There was ‘homeless’ and ‘not homeless,’ but that was before the economy went really bad. The more I saw people become homeless, the more I thought to myself, ‘This could really happen to anyone.’ I know a lot of people who were once doing really well for themselves, but have become homeless in recent years. And with so many more becoming homeless, I really want to educate the people on my three-class homeless system.
CH: For those who didn’t read the first article, would you mind recapping your theory of “the three-class homeless system?”
EM: Sure. The upper class homeless individuals maintain some sort of housing, probably have a job, and perhaps a relationship or two, but lost their place somewhere along the way. The lower class homeless individuals are those on the streets that do not care about finding a job, and do not care about getting back into society — many of them don’t even care about their own hygiene. Some of them won’t live a normal life again, though they probably could. The middle class homeless individuals, of course, are those in the middle ground in between.
The reason I feel I need to remind people that these classes exist is because everybody considered homeless is too easily classified as what I described as the lower class homeless. It takes years to become a lower class homeless person; you don’t just start pushing buggies around and not caring about your hygiene overnight.
These things take time. But people are so content to judge and even fear homeless, when they don’t know them at all. Not all homeless people are bums. Some are very educated, and people forget that when they aren’t homeless. Sometimes there are people who don’t consider themselves homeless but technically are — those sleeping on a family member’s couch, or really just anyone whose name isn’t on the lease — and they still judge those they see on the street. Where’s the sense in that?
CH: So at the heart of it all, your goal remains the same, then? To be there for the homeless people?
EM: Yes. I want to educate non-homeless people, but more importantly I always want to motivate other homeless people. Many have talent and the time to do something. When I see people, I encourage them to do their own thing. I always try to encourage people to get it together.
CH: Do you ever hear from homeless people that have heard of you?
EM: When I was homeless in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I knew this one girl — could I withhold her name?
Anyway, this girl just emailed me the other day saying that what I was doing was steadily escalating, and she loved it. I get people that email me all the time saying ‘I wish I could be doing that. Keep doing what you’re doing.’ Even better, there are also plenty of emails that come in that say they use me as a motivation. It’s great.
CH: Is there any way you’ll go back to being homeless?
EM: Last time we talked, I was working on my documentary, ‘A 24 Hour Challenge To Mayor Mike McGinn’ [Mayor of Seattle]. It’s almost done, and will hopefully be released in October — there’s just a little touching up left to do, like adding to the soundtrack. Anyway, the film is calling out to Mayor McGinn to try living as a homeless person for 24 hours, just to learn what it’s like. If he can do that, then imagine how his policies will change! If he ever accepts my challenge, I’d be happy to ‘come out of retirement’ as homeless and sit there next to him, taking the challenge right by his side.
CH: On that note, could you talk about what film projects you’d like to do in the future?
EM: Right now, I’m trying to get an agent so I can try to produce a reality show about homelessness. Regardless of whether I’m on the streets or in a house in Beverly Hills, I want a network to follow me around Skid Row. But I wouldn’t want to do this until a major network picks it up.
CH: Why a major network?
EM: It’s more attention to the cause. Local is great, but I want a national televised account of this economy and all it’s doing.
I also want to take the money that the reality show makes and give a portion of it to homeless single mothers. The majority of homelessness comes from them, and a lot of that is because of domestic violence.
CH: We’re almost out of time. Is there anything you want to say to the readers of Spare Change?
EM: I strongly encourage people to ask the Mayor of Seattle to take on the challenge, and I challenge the politicians to come off their high chairs. White collared, with blue sleeves — pass those bills, but do some sort of labor work. Learn what it’s like.
I also want the Mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, to consider the same challenge I set forth for the Mayor of Seattle: try to live on the streets for 24 hours and see what it’s like. Then see how your policies on homelessness change.
CH: And to the homeless readers of Spare Change, specifically?
EM: Keep your head up. Continue to struggle. Don’t let anyone look down on you, regardless of your circumstance.
To read the previous interview with Eric “Protein” Moseley, check the Spare Change News website at http://sparechangenews.net/news/qampa-homeless-film-maker-eric-quotproteinquot-moseley.