Holding up cardboard signs with messages saying,“Help us feed the homeless,” Rainwater,director of the new film “Sugar,” and actor Corbin Bleu,of “High School Musical” fame,asked passersby for money. After a half hour of panhandling,at the city’s train station and a busy Metro stop,they had raised enough to provide a meal to 10 homeless young people,about $30.
“Sugar” is a film about homeless teens and pre-teens based on Rainwater’s experience living on the streets of Orlando,Fla.,in 1990.
“I was in the Navy,and my mother got cancer so I had to get out early. By the time I got out,she had already lost her place,was in a hospice,and I spent the next nine months on the street,” he said.
After those nine months,Rainwater was able to rent a room and get a job as a production assistant on a television show,thanks to the help of a friend.
“She helped me get my life together,and she’s still a good friend of mine,” he said.
The “Sugar,” team was in Washington to show the film to members of Congress,thanks to an invitation from Rep. Karen Bass,D-Calif.
Rainwater said he hopes to give back to young people in a situation similar to his own.
After the screening Wednesday,he launched a campaign on Indiegogo to raise money to feed 10,000 homeless children. The fund will give half of every dollar to a meals program. The other half will go to promoting the film and campaign.
Indiegogo allows people to raise money for causes through crowdsourcing. Most deductions are not tax deductible.
Production on the film was an immersive experience for both the crew and the actors. Bleu,one of the film’s lead actors,spent time sleeping on the streets of Venice Beach to research his character. He said he befriended the homeless people around him,and the experience opened his eyes to their struggles.
“You hear their stories,and you hear their backgrounds,and so many of them just do come from abusive families. Some of them just come from situations that them being on the street is a better situation than where they were at,” he said.
Rainwater said young homeless people are not always as strong as they appear.
“ The biggest misconception about homeless youth is that they are tough and don’t need anybody. It’s a façade that they put on,” he said.
The film’s title character does just that. Played by Shenae Grimes,Sugar is a young homeless woman who appears tough at first,but has a dark past. Grimes was in the remake of “90210.”
“Every child who is on the street is there because they were hurt in some way or another,and all they need is a little bit of love,” Rainwater said.
While in they were in Washington,the crew also met with the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness to discuss plans to aid homeless children.
The film premieres in theaters Sept. 6.
Reach Caleigh Bourgeois at [email protected] or 202-326-9866. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.