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Homeless Folks Welcom To The Film World
by Lynda Carson (lyndacarson [at] excite.com)
Friday Oct 26th, 2001 4:12 PM
The edited version of the story below, plus
a number of photos shall appear in the November issue of Street Spirit. This full un-edited version of the story is being released for the readers of the IMC.
Tenderloin Acting Workshop Receives Star Recognition

By Lynda Carson 10/14/01

Oakland, Ca-The Tenderloin yGroup, an improv acting group with their free acting workshop that welcoms the homeless located in the heart of San Franciscos Tenderloin District at the Faithful Fools Street Ministry, were well received at the Mill Valley Film Festival Friday October 12, for the screening of their latest film SCHEME C6 during it's World Premiere at The Rafael Film Center, downtown San Rafael. SCHEME C6, directed by Rob Nilsson, the Cannes-winning director of Northern Lights, is an improvised, Cassavetes-like film about a homelessman and his family, with their schemes and dreams of life in an urban setting of San Francisco, with the cinematography done by Steve Burns. It features Cory Duval, Monica Cort'es Viharo, MC Mars, Gabriela Maltz Larkin, and other members of the Tenderloin yGroup. After the film, there was a question and answer session between the audience, cast, and the director Rob Nilsson. Among the evenings audience of many loyal fans and supporters who showed up for the screening of the film, were such notables as Lars Ulrich (drummer of Metallica), and actor Sean Penn (Dead Man Walking/Falcon And The Snowman). Ulrich and Penn, then joined Rob Nilsson, members of the Tenderloin yGroup, and others afterward, for a Premier Party a few doors away at the Broken Drum for food and drink. It was here at the Broken Drum that Sean Penn told me that he loved the movie Scheme C6, and that he plans to go through the Rob Nilsson collection of films to see what the others are like. Sean Penn was gracious enough to offer his best to Street Spirit when I mentioned that I was writing this story for their paper, and audience of readers.

As for the film, SCHEME C6, Cory Duval, Monica Cort'es Viharo, and MC Mars gave it their all in a stunning portrayal of their characters, to bare their heart and soul, with strong performances given by Ciara Arnette, Gabriela Maltz Larkin, and many others that backed up the main characters as the schemes unfolded, and got underway.

It was a good sign to see such support for the Tenderloin yGroup and their free acting workshop which is open to the homeless during a very repressive time period in San Francisco for the homeless, poor, and low-incom renters, as the City vows to clean up the streets in an effort to rid itself of it's homeless population. San Francisco has the highest rents in the country, and times are not the best for those making less than $35.00 per hour. Worse yet, whats a person to do when their down on their luck, homeless, disabled, elderly, or feeling left out of the mainstream of life in the Bay Area? At the least, one can become a member of the Tenderloin yGroup/acting workshop, located in the Faithful Fools Street Ministry of San Francisco, and participate in the creation of the 9@NIGHT Films.

The Faithful Fools Street Ministry, founded in 1998 by Sister Carmon Barsody and the Reverend Kay Jorgenson, who sources say; are friends of Sister Helen Prejean, known as the Angel on Death Row, is a safe haven for the homeless. In their own words: In 1998 the Faithful Fools Street Ministry was created to be present with and address the existence of poverty in the midst of a booming economy as manifested in homelessness and the deterioration of the quality of life in San Francisco. They offer numerous projects working directly with the homeless, in a safe haven away from the oppressive aspects of a society that has no use for the homeless population other than as a means to scare the middle class into working their butts off so as to avoid becoming a part of the homeless population...The Faithful Fools Street Ministry value the artistic qualities of expression that the homeless have to offer. This is the location where you will find the Tenderloin yGroup, and their mentor/director, Rob Nilsson.

The Tenderloin yGroup, a drama improv acting group of local residents, homeless folks, ex-homeless, volunteer filmakers, and others gather for a free workshop Wednsday nights on a weekly basis at the Faithful Fools Street Ministry. It's a free acting workshop (donations accepted) that allows people from all walks of life to participate. The workshop, directed by Rob Nilsson, allows the participants to hone their improv acting skills in the setting of a safe space to open up their emotions. At times, there may be as many as 30 participants in one evening, entering the circle of expressivity in search of the characters sought after in any given moment. It's very demanding, Nilsson knows what he is looking for, all must participate, and voyeurs are not allowed. For those in the circle; to some it feels like a form of therapy that allows them the freedom of being who they really are, to others it's a frightening experience to unleash emotions that have been pent up for years in a society that demands conformity. Either way, it's a safe space to explore your inner self in a group setting, to nurture those emotion's such as fear, joy, fierceness, arrogance, humility, rage, shyness, despair, etc... Some of these same participants later go on to be cast in the 9@Night Films, portraying characters with these same emotions coming through the medium of film to hit the audience on an inner level of conciousness. On a deeper level, the purpose of the workshop is to allow the participants to develop as individuals and artists, as they are immersed in sessions meant to explore and bring out inner feelings of a higher conciousness. It's a means to access emotional accessibility, says Rob Nilsson a co-founder of the group along with Rand Crook and Ethan Sing, who started the workshop 11 years ago. Nilsson a risk taker, stuck it out
with the group through thick and thin all these years later, for what many claim to be the most exciting, and vibrant acting workshop this side of the Mississippi River.

Members from all walks of life include some from the Screen Actors Guild,
Industrial Light and Magic, too those stage performers on a live stage, or
the drama student seeking more than a college may offer...

The Tenderloin yGroup's, SCHEME C6, made it's debut screening October 12, 2001, at The Rafael Film Center for the 24th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival during an 11 day showcase of splendid outstanding independant international cinema. It was here that this film received the attention of Sean Penn, after meeting director Rob Nilsson, and Cory Duval, who was featured in the film. The secret ingredient of SCHEME C6, was the fact that the main character of the film portrayed as a homeless fellow named Bid, performed by Cory Duval, was actually filmed in it's entirety during a period that Cory Duval was really homeless, and living out of a truck.

How little people actually know about the homeless that they see all around them who are stereotyped as little more than some loser dope fiends on SSI, is a revelation in itself. So much talent out there, with so little recognition, caught up into all the intricasies of the working class homeless lifestyle.

A day before SCHEME C6 played at the Rafael Film Center, Rob and Cory were making the rounds to make sure that their brochures were layed out, and that all was set for the October 12, screening of SCHEME C6, at the theatre. During this moment, a Tribute at the theatre to Malcom McDowell (clockwork orange/Stanley Kubrick fame) was letting out, and Rob ran into his friend Peter Coyote. Apparently, Peter Coyote told Rob and Cory that he wanted to introduce a friend of his, and that turned out to be Sean Penn, who happens to be a fan of Cassevetes Films. After a chat for a bit, Penn, who resides in Kensington, stated that he would return a day later to check out the film SCHEME C6, which happens to be a Cassevetes-like film. He kept his word, and the following night he brought along his friend Lars Ulrich, the drummer for Metallica, to watch the film SCHEME C6 unfold onto the silver screen before them.

For Rob, Cory, Monica, Mc Mars, Gabriela, Kevin, and all the others that worked on this production, it was a high night emotionaly to find that they had the recognition and respect of Penn and Ulrich joining them afterwards for some food, drink, and a chance to get to know one another. Many of the group sitting at the table's within the Broken Drum were excited by the film which culminated in the nights gathering, and Cory Duval found himself sitting with Lars Ulrich who was telling him how much he liked the film, and who was asking Cory, how long has he been an actor, and other questions. As a kid, Cory
loved the band Metallica, and had the songs memorized in his mind, he says.

During a long discussion with Cory Duval, he was very candid with me about landing in the world of the homeless while making this film, his choice to remain so during the duration of the time to wrap up the film, and of his many feelings regarding life on the streets. He wants the readers of Street Spirit to hear his message loud and clear, regarding his feelings about homelessness.

Cory, has wanted to be an actor ever since a child, says his mother, who was so proud to see her son on the big screen at the film festival. She says, he was the sort of kid who wanted to know where in the world do people go to sword fight, shoot bows and arrows, or to fire weapons, such as guns. This was the world of the silver screen, that always had so much excitement happening at any given moment to Cory, and it was this world that Cory was searching for, says his mother Michele Duval, who also happens to be his best friend. Knowing her son better than anyone, years ago, she rented a few films one day and had her son sit down to watch them. Afterwards she pointed out how a few of the characters reminded her of who Cory is, and they decided right then and there, that an actor Cory shall be someday.

Cory joined up with Rob Nilsson and the Tenderloin yGroup around 3 years ago,
after paying big money for acting lessons in one group after another, trucking from the Bay Area down to Los Angeles/Hollywood, seeking a way into the film world, and back up again to San Francisco after having a bike accident. Beside's acting lessons, he even took lessons in the martial arts which helped to build up his confidance, but nothing as of yet seemed to work to get him to what he was really looking for.

Upon arrival back to San Francisco around 3 years ago, Cory ran into his friend MC Mars who tipped him off about the acting workshop of Rob Nilssons, and told him to give it a chance. It's free, what do you have to lose, recalls Cory Duval, when reflecting upon the words of MC Mars.

Cory tells me, that the first night he stepped into the group at the acting workshop, he looked around at some of the homeless people and other folks, and immediately thought that he just entered a world of misfits and losers.
To his chagrin, the ultimate shock occured as one after another in the group
entered the circle on command, to portray the characters that Nilsson had just summoned up out of the moment. It was electrifying exclaims Cory Duval, to suddenly come to the realization that there was more character in that one room than in all of the rest of San Francisco. You could see it in their face, in every line or crease upon the brow, and see it in the depth's of their eye's.
He's goes on to say, that this was no normal acting workshop like the others he has been to, with all their pretty faces, and perfect bodies. This was the real deal, and everyone, along with the director Rob Nilsson, were willing to take the risks to go to places others never imagined possible, deep into the heart and soul of ones whole being of exploration into the world of emotions.

As time passed, and the ideas for the film SCHEME C6 started to surface in the acting workshop, Cory found himself in transition when they started work on the film, and the money he had set aside for housing costs, instead, went to cover expenses for some past traffic tickets as he prepared for his future character role as Bid, in SCHEME C6, and he landed in a hotel room (SRO) for a while during the making of the film. In time, he even lost his meager living accomodations in the hotel room, as he worked ever harder to bring the film to life as he took the risk's to find his future. No employer was willing to work out a schedule with Cory that was flexible enough to allow him the freedom to work on the film with Rob Nilsson, and the rest of the yGroup. Cory's character had the major role throughout the film to make it happen, and it was so demanding for him that he became homeless in the process. He made the decision to remain homeless until the film was finished sometime over a year later....

Like so many others out there, Cory found that by becoming homeless and giving it his all to pursue his hopes and dreams, he found himself in a world
that was not as frightening or forebodeing as the media hype made life on the streets out to be. He gave up just about everything he had, slept on one couch after another for awhile, spent weeks sleeping in cars, and finally bought a
small truck to live in while working on this film.

He found himself in that world of people who end up at the YMCA or the local Fire Department in search of a shower to clean up in. He lived in the world of cold wintery rainey nights, sitting in his truck all alone listening to the rythem of the drops of rain, trying to make the best of it, and not let the loneliness of it all get the best of him. He learned to live in the world of people who knew what it was like to awake, cold, hungry, pennyless, and needing some food, as they at times wandered through some convenience store, eating their way from one end of the store to the other hopeing that no one would notice them. A world where bathrooms are at a premium, and privacy litterly non-existant. Being homeless, exposes one to some of the harshest elements of society, and one learns quickly that you have to do what ever it takes to survive.

Cory say's; homelessness is nothing to fear, and that you become fearless. He goes on to say that you end up with a stripped down version of yourself without the frills, and you end up with a greater understanding of who you really are once all the un-needed stuff in your life is gone. Being homeless actually aided Cory in his acting skills, he believes, and he told Rob Nilsson, that he shall remain homeless as an option so that they can complete the film.

Cory Duval wants society to know that some of the homeless people he has met along his journey through life, have had a much better understanding of reality than the grasping ones seeking pecuniary gain will ever have. Most homeless folks he met were very intelligent, educated, and many are the veterans of the past who were never the same after having a traumatic experience during war. So many are out there who have had a disaster in their life that occured, and they were never able to pick up all the pieces again, and now wandering around out there trying to avoid going to jail. The hard part about being poor is the part of dealing with a society that criminalizes you for being poor, says Cory. For those driving around who can afford insurance, registration, smog checks, license tags, and maintenance on their vehicles, life appears much different than it does for the poor who land in jail because they cannot afford to pay off the tickets when their paper work is not in order. During the making of the film SCHEME C6, Cory landed in jail a for a few weeks due to non-payment of past traffic tickets, and he lost 20 pounds while there due to a lack of food. He said, that the part in the film where he wanders around the store eating food while trying not to get caught, was filmed right after he got out of jail, and he was looking thin. Cory is hypo-glycemic, and needs food all the time he says, just to keep going. He suddenly exclaimed that, homeless people can see through all the bullshit, say's Cory, and his experiences being homeless make him all the stronger as he goes through the struggle of day to day life.

He wants other homeless people to know that they can pull out of homelessness if they really try, and he suggests that some of the homeless can take up martial arts to help build up their confidance again, or join groups such as he has, and that it's important to build up some kind of support group to help pull them out of the quicksand which is always pulling them down ever deeper into homelessness. You have to be strong he say's, to overcome all the obstacles that keeps someone from being able to maintain all of the support system's that are involved in having your own place to reside in. Rents are so high, that to start from the bottom, it appears to be a daunting experience to put ones life back together after it all falls apart, and you find yourself on the
streets.

Becoming a part of the acting workshop with Rob Nilsson, taking the risk's involved to find one's innerself, and landing on the big screen at the Mill Valley Film Festival is still something that is sinking in deeply into Cory during the past 3 days, as he finds the rewards to be better than money could have ever been.
It's all starting to pay off on a very deep spiritual level for him. He loves it at the Faithful Fools Street Ministry where the Tenderloin yGroup meets weekly, and says that the nuns there are totally cool and offer all the help they can to the homeless with their numerous projects.

After what he has gone through during the past year or so, and to find himself
hanging out with Sean Penn, and Lars Ulrich for an evening while they were telling him that they love his work, Cory is flying high for the moment after finding that his hopes and dreams were actually in reach, thanks to the dedication and hard work of Rob Nilsson who took the risks and believed in him.

Theres so much talent in this group, that I do not know where to begin when trying to perceive who they are. Gabriela Maltz Larkin who has been a key player of the group for at least 10-11 years is the granddaughter of Albert Maltz, the academy award winner for the screenplay of The House I Live In with Frank Sinatra, who was later to become one of the Hollywood 10, and blacklisted by H.U.A.C., back in the dark days of McCarthyism. Albert Maltz while blacklisted used an alias (John B. Sherry) to write the screen play for such films as The Robe with Richard Burton, and for the film Broken Arrow with James Stewart he used a Front by the name of Michael Blankfort, and got the screen credits back in 1993. Woody Allen directed a wonderful film called the Front which pretty much explains what was going on back then. The artistic blood runs deep in Gabrielas heritage, and flows into her son Adan the youngest member of the Tenderloin yGroup.

Monica Cor'tes Viharo, is well studied as an actress, and did a riveting character portrayal in the film SCHEME C6, as the sparks flew between Cory and her. During the question and answer period after the film, when questioned about getting into character for the film, her reply was that it was "nice to get naughty". Her father in law, Robert Viharo, has been in a number of Nilssons films, including the film Romero by a different director, and he (Viharo) used to be married to an actress featured in several Elvis Presly films from what I recall. During the question and answer period, Monica revealed that the bar scene in the film was very real to her, and that they were drinking real alcohol while shooting the scenes. She says, that they were nearly drunk by the time they got to the final take.

While talking to MC Mars after the film was over, he tells me that it is still a shock to see how he appears and sounds on the big screen. MC Mars, who in the film SCHEME C6 did a serious character portrayal of Gray Briglio (a sailor) who is a straight looking white guy doing rap to get his message across at times, responded during the question and answer period with some more rap to explain his feelings. It was spontaneous and unforseen says Mars, about the live rap he did for the audience in the theatre. It just happened... Being a poet was the most the formative part of his life exclaims Mars, who is a forty something attractive person of very deep character, who was born in the Bronx. Mars tells me that he was living in a car for a while after first moving to San Francisco, but that he never felt homeless, and that he joined Nilsson's Tenderloin yGroup sometime during 1998-1999. Already friends with 3 people in the group, Mars says that he felt right at home, and as an omen of good things to come, Mars tells me how he tried to flag down a cab for the ride to get to the group that first night. The cabs whizzed by leaving him in the dust, but a big empty Tour Bus, except for the driver, pulled up and told him to hop in, and to pay what he felt was fair for the ride. He knew right then and there, that he was in for some good luck. On a spiritual journey, and a Buddhist for 20 years, MC Mars has rapped his way professionaly for 15 years from the east coast to the west coast, and drives a cab for a living. Mars got into character for his role in SCHEME C6 while driving his cab around the streets of San Francisco, as Gray Briglio, and he mentiond how living in a car when first moving to San Francisco, was an experience that allowed the creativity in him to grow. A very talented fellow, MC Mars is also writing a novel he named; Thirtythree Outrageous Cab Stories From San Francisco To New York [A Journey To Self love]. The character Mars played in the film SCHEME C6 was a major role, and may be the stepping stone to an ever deeper realm of his creativity as he explores his path to pursue his ascenion to a higher conciousness.

Due to work related stuff, Edwin Johnson, the member who has been with the acting group for the longest, nearly since it's inception, failed to appear for the
screening of this film, and say's that will never happen again. Edwin, was living in a cardboard box on the streets of San Francisco when he first joined this acting group 11 years ago while managing a bookstore in San Francisco, and built up enough confidance in himself to become featured in a variety of the 9@Night Films, including CHALK. Edwin says that it was a high point of his life to join Rob Nilsson on a trip to Switzerland when CHALK played at the Locarno Film Festival. Edwin has been featured in 5 films of the Tenderloin yGroup, including the most recent film SCHEME C6.

It's amazing to hear the stories from people who have become a part of this beautiful group of artistic people, and Bridget Burch another member of the group, tells me how she loves to cook at some of the gatherings, explaining that the yGroup is her extended family.

I asked Rob Nilsson, how does it feel to see SCHEME C6 on the big screen? He replied, that it was really a high night for him and the group, and that he was
very pleased by the audience response. He went on to say, that he really appreciated the respect from Sean Penn and Lars Ulrich, for coming by to see the film, and spending time with the members afterwards at the Broken Drum.

As a follow up question, I asked Rob what it is that he is looking for in an audience that watches his films. He replied, that he is looking for adoration,
cracked up laughing, saying that he was just kidding! What he really hopes for, is that the audience will feel that they love the film more than anything that they have ever seen. He goes on to say that he believes that this group is unique to the world. He expressed his gratitude, that Sean Penn offered respect to the group and the work they are doing by showing up and spending some time with them.

Formerly known as the Tenderloin Action Group, the Tenderloin yGroup with Rob Nilsson at the helm as director, meets weekly on Wednsday evenings at the
Faithful Fools Street Ministry, located near the S.F. Civic Center Bart Station, at
234 Hyde Street, between Eddie and Turk Streets. The workshop runs from 7:30p.m. through 10:30p.m. Donations of $3.00 to $5.00 are requested for the Faithful Fools Street Ministry, but no one is turned away for the lack of a donation. People are advised to dress warmly on chilly evenings. Anyone is welcom from all walks of life, from the rich to the poor, to the young or the old. The youngest member of the workshop is Adan Faudoa at the age of 10, who was featured in the film called Attitude, he assisted in art direction for 2 other 9@Night Films called Stroke, and Scheme C6, and was so tired at the latest Premiere Party during Friday October 12, that the little guy fell asleep sitting up at the table.

As for Rob Nilsson, who has won the Camera d'Or prize at Cannes Film Festival
for his film Northern Lights, and a Sundance Film Festival Grand Prize for his film Heat and Sunlight, the collaboration of working with the Tenderloin yGroup
is solidly committed, and he believes in what they are doing despite the challenge of a limited budget. In a question I posed to Nilsson regarding the budget of this latest film during the question and answer session after the screening of SCHEME C6, Nilsson stated that it always works out to be just enough to make it happen.

Nilsson recently returned from spending 2 weeks in Jordan after the 9/11 tragedy of New York, has been working on a project for JOHUD, and also spent 3 weeks there during an earlier date helping to promote filmaking in the country of Jordan. JOHUD is whats known as the Jordanian Hashemite Fund For Human Development, and was establishd in 1977 as a non-governmental, non- profit organisation. JOHUD is recognised as one of Jordans leading national advocates in the field of integrated social development, and has a Board of Trustee's which is chaired by Her Royal Highness Princess Basma Bint Talal.

Too often the only news one sees about the homeless, or nearly so, is when society treats them with disrespect. This story is certainly some good news about those that welcom and embrace the homeless with open arms for the beauty of who they really are, and not the way the corporate media portrays them, as little more than a nuisance to be tollerated by a brutal ruthless economy that creates many prisoners, and has no mercy. In a society such as this, anyone can become homeless in a heartbeat for one reason or another,
and that it is up to the rest of us to do our part to help out our brothers and sisters during their time of crisis. Rob Nilsson and the Tenderloin yGroup have been there for years with an open door to anyone willing to step through it.

SCHEME C6 was a fine piece of artwork that thrilled the audience with some bike scenes speeding through an urban setting, and has some gritty scenes that allowed the cast to bare their heart and soul in ways never done before...

Rob Nilsson has a web site:

http://www.robnilsson.com/

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Faithful Fools Street Ministry:

http://www.faithfulfools.org/

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For more info on the Tenderloin yGroup:

Call: 415/ 474-6196

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Cory Duval may be reached @:

throughbeingkool [at] yahoo.com

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