Timeline : A Year in the Shelter and Beyond


2010

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Brendan Fraser as Tom Fitzpatrick

Brendan Fraser, who plays Tom Fitzpatrick, the father Apple has never met, contacted Krauss after reading the script. “Brendan said he wanted to do the film, but he understood that he might or might not be the right person,” Krauss says. “He was the right person because he really believed in the project. He was always very gentle, considerate and compassionate, not just toward me as a filmmaker, but to everyone at the shelter. He even helped with the babies. On the last day of shooting, he quietly told Kathy that he was donating his salary to the shelter, so he actually did the movie for nothing. It was a complete surprise to all of us.”

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The real heroes

But it’s the young women from the shelter who are the real heroes here, says Dawson. “Violence and abuse carry a lot of shame in our society, so people often keep quiet. It was such a brave thing the girls did by exposing themselves like that. It’s a big deal this film is getting distributed and allowing their voices to be heard almost documentary-style. It’s a very powerful and beautiful film” says Dawson.

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Rosario Dawson plays Apple’s street-weary mother June

“Rosario herself had a tough childhood, says Krauss. “She grew up in an economically challenged situation, in poverty really, so she knows these characters. It’s another incredible performance.” Hudgens personally asked Dawson to play June. “She’s such a rad chick,” the younger actress says. “She’s down for anything. We both went to the most unattractive places women can go.” Dawson responded strongly to Krauss’ gritty screenplay and told him it was something she felt audiences needed to see. “I was blown away by the intensity from the first scene,” she says. “I knew that it wouldn’t be an easy job, but it would be interesting. The shoot was pretty rough. June is really tough and emotional and angry. There weren’t a lot of fun days at work because it was so intense.”

Vanessa also became very close to the girls she was living with, especially when they and their children joined the cast. “Having some of the real people on hand added that extra vibe of authenticity" Vanessa says.

"In the end, all the pieces of the puzzle fell together in a beautiful way.” Vanessa Hudgens

~ Ron Krauss

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Hudgens prepare for her role as Apple

To research the part, Hudgens eventually moved into one of the Several Sources Shelters, living side by side with the young women there for several weeks. “The girls really opened up to me and made me feel like I was one of them,” Hudgens says. “At first, it was a little rough; it was unlike anywhere I’d ever been. There are a lot of rules, like no cell phones were allowed. But I felt very welcomed by the girls and I love kids, so playing with them was heartwarming".

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Vanessa Hudgens as Apple

Krauss didn't think a Hollywood actress could pull off this role, but after meeting Vanessa he began to reconsider. “Vanessa was a little different from anyone else I met,” he says. “There’s a lot more to her than just the Disney star. And she was hungry to transition out of being the girl from High School Musical.”

“I wasn’t sure anyone would care. In fact, there was enormous interest. Almost every teen and 20-something actress in Hollywood wanted to take a meeting with me. They were fighting for the role of Apple. There aren’t a lot of meaningful roles written for young female leads, and many young actresses saw this as a showcase for their talent. The character is in virtually every scene and goes through so much.”

~ Ron Krauss

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“script nights”

To ensure the film would be as authentic as possible, Krauss began to involve the girls themselves in the writing process. He scheduled “script nights” where they would read sections of the movie and share their thoughts on the story as it developed. “They helped me find the reality of their lives,” Krauss says. “They shared their deepest emotions about what it is to be homeless, to not know where you’re going to be tomorrow.”

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“When she heard there was room for her, she grabbed me and hugged me so hard she almost knocked me over. That hug was the inspiration for the movie.”

~ Ron Krauss

“The shelter began to seem like holy ground to me,” he says. “As I became close to several of the girls and heard their stories, I began to write this screenplay based on their lives.”

~ Ron Krauss

Ron Moves into the Shelter

At the shelter, Krauss met pregnant, homeless teenagers as young as 15 who had been turned out of their homes with nowhere to go. His initial thought was that he had found the perfect subject for his next documentary. Moving into the shelter to get an up-close look at the lives of these young women, their babies and the dedicated workers who support them, Krauss stayed a year and recorded close to 200 hours of interviews with the shelter’s residents.

“I was immediately intrigued ... I arranged to visit one of her shelters and I was awed by what I saw.”

~ Ron Krauss

Ron & Kathy Meet

At the United Nations Ron was introduced to Kathy DiFiore, a remarkable woman who was being honored at the UN for her work with teenaged mothers.