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Interview: A Discussion with Laura Hand and Tom Sebastian About ‘The Tent Mender’

With the release of the series The Tent Mender on Amazon and IMDb TV, director, Laura Hand, and executive producer, Tom Sebastian, sat down to talk with Awards Radar about their project and its impact.

The docufiction series follows a character named ‘the tent mender’ as he navigates the tumultuous nature of living on skid row. He interviews various inhabitants of the city of LA in an effort to create awareness and share their stories.

Well first of all thank you for having this interview with me. I’m gonna congratulate you on the release of The Tent Mender on Amazon and IMDb TV. That’s great. I just wanted to ask you guys a few questions regarding the project and how it sort of came to be. What interested both of you in taking on a topic like homelessness on skid row?

Tom Sebastian: Laura do you want to begin?

Laura Hand: Sure, it was honestly never something that I was seeking to do, but just from spending so much time at the downtown women center and listening to the stories of the different women there and being so personally moved by them. I just felt like these are too powerful not to be illustrated. And is there a way that we could illustrate them where they would move people from that sort of inside perspective that I personally felt while being there. So that’s really how it started, it wasn’t like seeking out to do a documentary about homelessness.

Tom: And I think just to build on what Laura’s saying. Laura invited me to go down and serve at the women’s center. And when you’re down and see a place like skid row, your immediate reaction is utter disbelief. You just never see anything like that. And when you look up and see the skyline of one of the largest cities in the country, if not the world and you’re in that desperation and poverty, you’re motivated to want to do something.

And to tell those stories is very important, watching it myself, I was quite moved by Jocelyn’s stories in mostly episode 2. It’s a very human story. How did you guys seek out these stories or did they come to you?

Laura: Jocelyn was truly fate. I mean I had recognized her at the women’s center by serving just in the kitchen and seeing her pass and get her meal. But I had never really spoken with her. But it was through another woman, who I started telling, “there’s this project and we’re looking for individual stories, do you anyone that would be interested?” And she said “you should meet and talk with my friend Jocelyn.” She introduced me and she’s incredible. I was blown away by her the moment I met her. She’s just like you saw. Her story is so unexpected.

Tom: To build on what Laura is saying. I think the film is a testament to the fact that everybody has a story. Every single person that you bump into on the street has a story and if you take the time to sit down and ask some questions, you’ll find things out about people that will mesmerize you. You’ll find out about things from people that you thought you didn’t have anything in common with that you have everything in common with. It’s almost like you could pick any particular street corner or any tent and sit down and introduce yourself and you would have a story.

And that goes into my next question a little bit, you interviewed quite a few people. What made it fitting for a streaming service to take it on as a docufiction miniseries versus a shorter form documentary?

Laura: That would have required cutting out so much. It already felt like I was having to kill babies in the editing room. It’s like “no that’s such a powerful moment.” There were just so many moments that I felt we’ve gotta keep this.

So, in that sense, what does putting this on a streaming platform like IMDb TV or Amazon mean for your guys’ project?

Tom: I think our partners at Amazon and IMDb. What really was such a huge innovation is the audience being able to participate through e-commerce provide donations to the midnight mission. It was something we were really proud to be part of. It’s very exciting where this go with the future of content. As you’re moved by content and these stories that do command your attention, the very next thing is what can I do? And so being able to have a mechanism, a commerce mechanism, to support something in a very tangible way is a very exciting innovation. Certainly for this film, but what we’re hoping this is going to propel other filmmakers that want to tell important stories like this and provide a sense of action for the viewer. That really the opportunity here.

It’s a pretty moving story that you guys have told here. I was really taken in to these stories. Now that you have taken part in this project, what’s next for you?

Tom: What we found out is there are all these amazing stories that need to be told that affect communities in such a profound way. And how we can tell more of these stories and how we can find these stories and show people something that they might not have experienced before. And have a positive impact. I think were looking for the types of stories like The Tent Mender and taking on issues that are important issues of our time that affect so many people and do it in such a way that we can bring some positive impact.

Laura: I think it’s not only the stories that we tell, but how we tell them. With The Tent Mender, it being a docufiction series, this fictional character allowed us a deeper level of empathy and it allowed us to connect more. I think that’s the key to storytelling is how can you get us to connect more? How are you going to get us deeper and deeper and deeper? So, I think that’s the opportunity as storytellers, cause I mean every story really has been told, how are you going to tell it in a way that people are really going to connect to it and connect to one another more. And I think that’s the great opportunity with the next project.

Well, thank you guys so much for talking with me. I hope this gets a large platform for people to see it on. And congratulations!

The Tent Mender can be seen streaming on IMDb TV and Amazon Prime Video now.

Here’s a press release for the series in its entirety:

Hand Made Productions Announces The Tent Mender, a Profoundly Moving Documentary Series on People Experiencing Homelessness, in partnership with P&G.

LOS ANGELES, CA. August 6, 2021 — Hand Made Productions, is proud to announce the release of a limited three-part series, The Tent Mender, a documentary film spotlighting people experiencing homelessness. Filmed entirely in the heart of Skid Row, it introduces raw, inspirational, and true stories. The series will be exclusively available to stream on August 6 on IMDb TV, Amazon’s free streaming service.  

Directed by filmmaker and founder of Hand Made Productions, Laura Hand, and voiced by Emmy-award-winning, acclaimed actor and humanitarian Peter Coyote. “The Tent Mender is a fictional character whose story of service to others helps him find redemption. Through his journey of self-discovery, we experience an intimate look that helps us see the humanity in all of us,” said filmmaker Laura Hand. Ted, Jocelyn, Dusty, and others share their personal and candid testimony illustrating hardship but also hope. “One of the things that interested me about this project was the deeper meaning of The Tent Mender,” said Coyote. “The Tent Mender is a metaphor for mending life. And if he can do that, there’s always some way we can be helpful.”

When P&G heard about the film, they saw an opportunity to help those in need, ultimately leading to creating the first permanent Tide Loads of Hope laundry room within the Midnight Mission. “Helping families in times of crisis has long been our core mission.” said Amy Krehbiel, Tide Brand Vice President. The new laundry room was built in partnership with Gensler Architecture, Clark Construction, and Whirlpool brand, bringing together companies who took the initiative to act as a force for good.  

Another great part of this program is that viewers can take action and support the Midnight Mission. They will be able to either donate essential items from The Midnight Mission AmazonSmile Charity List, which Amazon delivers directly to the charity, or make a monetary donation to the Tide Loads of Hope Fund. Viewers can also set The Midnight Mission as their AmazonSmile charity, so when they shop at smile.amazon.com, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate a portion of their eligible orders to the Midnight Mission.

The series includes original songs by Domestic Human Rights Award winner Michael Franti. In addition to BAFTA Best Original Music at Award winners Lukas Nelson and MILCK. “One of the things that really gives me the most meaning is to be able to sit down one-on-one and share a song. And I feel really blessed and grateful that Ted has entrusted me with his story,” said Franti. 

The project was spear-headed by Tom Sebastian, of the BroknWorks Collective, who brought together people with a shared vision. “The Tent Mender became the voice within us all, to be part of something larger than yourself,” commented Sebastian.  

Supported in partnership with P&G and co-produced by Emmy-nominated studio The Story Lab, the effort was led by Kimberly Doebereiner, Executive Producer and Head of P&G Studios, and Marc Pritchard, P&G Chief Brand Officer. The Tent Mender is the latest in the growing list of thought-provoking storytelling from P&G – joining the Queen Collective Films, 8:46 Films, The Cost of Winning, CODED and many others.

“We believe in the power of stories to shine the light on important issues facing our communities and inspire acts of good where our brands can make a meaningful difference,” Pritchard said. “When things become personal, empathy grows. The Tent Mender will touch hearts with a new and more intimate perspective on people facing homelessness,” added Doebereiner. 

IMDb TV, Amazon’s free streaming service, is available as an app on Fire TV and a free Channel within the Prime Video and IMDb apps across hundreds of devices. IMDb TV is also available as an app on third-party devices, including Roku, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Sony Android TV devices, Chromecast with Google TV, LG Smart TVs, PlayStation 4 consoles, NVIDIA Shield, and TiVo Stream 4K.

~END~

Partners

About Hand Made Productions

‘Hand Made Productions is a production studio dedicated to illustrating stories of purpose. These stories are crafted to move hearts and open minds, inspiring and creating tangible good in the world’.

About P&G’s 2,021 Acts of Good in 2021 

At P&G, supporting our communities, fostering equality and inclusion, and protecting the planet are embedded in how we do business. We believe we have a responsibility to make the world better — through the products we create and the positive impact our brands and company can have. Under our Lead with Love campaign, P&G and its brands like Tide and Dawn have committed to 2,021 acts of good this year. In the U.S., consumers can do even more through P&G Good Everyday, a new consumer rewards program that helps turn everyday actions into acts of good. Each activity on the website earns points that can be redeemed for rewards; as consumers report their own acts of good, P&G makes donations to causes consumers care about.

About Procter & Gamble

P&G serves consumers around the world with one of the strongest portfolios of trusted, quality, leadership brands, including Always®, Ambi Pur®, Ariel®, Bounty®, Charmin®, Crest®, Dawn®, Downy®, Fairy®, Febreze®, Gain®, Gillette®, Head & Shoulders®, Lenor®, Olay®, Oral-B®, Pampers®, Pantene®, SK-II®, Tide®, Vicks®, and Whisper®. The P&G community includes operations in approximately 70 countries worldwide. Please visit https://www.pg.com for the latest news and information about P&G and its brands. For other P&G news, visit us at https://www.pg.com/news.

About Tide Loads of Hope

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Tide Loads of Hope program was created to provide renewed hope and optimism through the basic comfort of clean clothing for families and responders in the aftermath of natural disasters. Tide Loads of Hope partners with Matthew: 25 Ministries, who shares a mission to restore a sense of normalcy to those most impacted by natural disasters. Since 2005, Tide Loads of Hope has donated nearly 350,000 units of detergent and benefitted more than 90,000 families across the U.S. and Canada. And this year, Tide committed to expanding its Tide Loads of Hope program tenfold by 2030, providing clean clothes to millions of people in times of need, with a focus on communities most impacted by climate change as natural disasters continue to worsen.  

About IMDb TV

IMDb TV is a free streaming video service with thousands of premium movies and TV shows available anytime. Always entertaining. Always Free.

  • Expansive Catalog: IMDb TV is a modern television network, offering viewers ambitious originals and an always updating library of broadly appealing hit movies and TV shows that customers would expect to see on a paid service. IMDb TV adds new titles to the service every month across a wide selection of genres including comedy, family, romance, thrillers, science fiction, documentaries, horror and more.
  • Free: IMDb TV is free. No paid subscriptions necessary.
  • Half the Ads: IMDb TV has half the ads of traditional linear TV.
  • Instant Access: IMDb TV is available as an app on Fire TV and a free Channel within the Prime Video and IMDb apps across hundreds of devices. To use IMDb TV on Fire TV, customers can find the icon in the “Your Apps & Channels” row or using the Alexa Voice Remote, simply say “Alexa, go to IMDb TV.” IMDb TV is also available as an app on third-party devices including Roku, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Sony Android TV devices, Chromecast with Google TV, LG Smart TVs, PlayStation 4 consoles, NVIDIA Shield and TiVo Stream 4K.

About dentsu International

Part of dentsu, dentsu international is made up of six leadership brands – Carat, dentsu X, iProspect, Isobar, dentsumcgarrybowen, Merkle, and supported by its specialist brands. Dentsu International helps clients to win, keep and grow their best customers and achieve meaningful progress for their businesses. With best-in-class services and solutions in media, CXM and creative, dentsu international operates in over 145 markets worldwide with more than 45,000 dedicated specialists. www.dentsu.com

Mike Ferry, EVP Development, The Story Lab said: “Tent Mender is an innovative documentary told through powerful stories to raise awareness around one of the most critical social issues – homelessness. This collaboration with P&G Studios was a natural follow up to our Emmy nominated HBO series ‘The Cost of Winning’, and together with Hand Made Productions — we wanted to bring these untold and overlooked stories to audiences and inspire real action.”

About The Midnight Mission: Founded in 1914, The Midnight Mission offers paths to self-sufficiency to men, women, and children who have lost direction. Our emergency services and 12-step recovery, family living, job training, education, and workforce development programs offer a compassionate bridge to achieve and maintain healthy, productive lives.   We remove obstacles and provide the accountability and structure that people who are experiencing homelessness need to be productive in their communities. Our conviction and commitment to their success define us. 

“The Midnight Mission is proud to be partnering with Handmade Productions, The Story Lab, and Tide on The Tent Mender launching on Amazon’s IMDb TV to help raise awareness and assist people living on our streets who are hungry, and without a home,” said President & CEO, G. Michael Arnold. “The Midnight Mission’s goal is to restore people to self-sufficiency and combat the issues surrounding homelessness. Collaborative alliances like this serve as bridges to meaningful transformation and enable us to meet the growing needs of an ever-increasing homeless population.” The Midnight Mission will be the home of the first ever Tide Loads of Hope Laundry Room.

Gensler Architecture: Our purpose, to Create a Better World Through the Power of Design, comes to life across our 28 practice areas, client relationships, global network of leaders, and diversity of talent. At Gensler, we are one community, united by our commitment to holistically improve the human experience.

Clark Construction: Clark Construction Group is one of the most experienced and respected building and civil construction firms in the United States. For over a century, we have been transforming the ideas and visions of our clients into award-winning projects. We build with the intention of exceeding our clients’ expectations for safety, quality, functionality, and aesthetics, and deliver assets that stand the test of time.Whirlpool: Be the best kitchen and laundry company, in constant pursuit of improving life at home. Earn trust and create demand for our brands in a digital world. Integrity, Respect, Inclusion & Diversity, One Whirlpool, Spirit of Winning.

The Tent Mender can be seen streaming on IMDb TV or on Amazon Prime Video now.

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