Among the glories of film is that it can not only entertain but can also raise awareness about serious social and economic issues. The new documentary Disco’d focuses on the homelessness problem in Los Angeles and follows a number of homeless people in an immersive attempt to document the current crisis. The title of the film is a slang term for discombobulation and confusion.

ScreenPicks posed some questions to Matthew Siretta who produced, directed and photographed the film and Samuel L. Mantell who was a co-producer. Disco’d is Siretta’s feature directorial debut.

How did you decide to make a documentary about homelessness in  Los Angeles?

We were living in Hollywood, it was 2015, and there was a general awareness, city-wide, that more and more people seemed to be living on the street. More camps were popping up. It was like Skid Row was growing, moving into all parts of the city. So, we were experiencing that in Hollywood, seeing it ourselves, and were struck by it the way a lot of people were. And like a lot of people, we wondered how this could be happening. What did it mean? As filmmakers, our curiosity leads through a camera and a mic. So we used those to explore that curiosity. Everyone that we filmed with lived on the street. And what we wanted to do was tell a story about living on the street, that would be true to that experience.

Were there any special challenges involved in making the film?

There were many. We were only two people. We were filming at night, for many hours, mostly during the winter. So it was always dark, cold and wet, which are not the best conditions for filming anything, especially in an uncontrolled environment. There’s a ton of noise on the street, so we had to deal with a lot of environmental challenges.

And then, we wanted to document so that our presence was as minimal as possible. When we have to operate the equipment, and also make sure that we are safe from harm, it can be hard to capture the best images and sounds. We needed to find a balance, first. And then, from all the disparate, individual stories and footage, we needed to tell a unified story, that was also true to what happened. Doing all that on a micro-budget, then trying to crack the festival circuit, and ultimately self distribute our first film was just one big challenge.

How do you hope audiences will react to the movie and do you have any suggestions on how homelessness can be addressed in Los Angeles and other cities? 

I think collectively as a society we are recognizing that drastically reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness means addressing an affordability crisis on a macroeconomic scale, and that’s why we’ve voted on a number of measures on state and local levels to create more affordable housing and to ramp up funding to help ease the existing population on an immediate basis, at least here in Los Angeles. So we need to hold our public officials accountable and make sure that money is being spent wisely and with input from community stakeholders.

On a micro, individual level though, we can all examine and address any biases we might hold toward people who are experiencing homelessness and take a turn at practicing empathy, and see how that might change our thinking, our biases, so that we might be able to elevate our own impact on those who are living under less fortunate circumstances.

Do you plan to mainly concentrate on directing other documentaries in the future? 

We want to tell great stories. Whether it’s a documentary or narrative or something else depends on what is the best form for the stories we want to tell.

Is there anything, in general, you would like to tell audiences about Disco’d? 

See it from start to finish.