“When housing on the lowest rung of the American Dream is being devoured by the wealthiest of the wealthy, whose dream are we serving?” This is the question documentary filmmaker Sara Terry seeks to answer in her latest film, A DECENT HOME. A DECENT HOME is a feature length documentary that addresses the urgent issues of class and economic inequity through the lives of residents of manufactured home communities. Sara Terry joins the podcast to talk about her career, the film, her experiences visiting a resident owned community (featured in the film!) the documentary film festival circuit, and more.
Episode: A Decent Home with filmmaker Sara Terry
Welcome to the Ownership Matters podcast, where hosts Paul Bradley and Mike Bullard of ROC USA highlight the stories of people at the heart of the manufactured housing and resident-ownership movements! In this episode, Paul and Mike welcome guest Sara Terry.
0:24 – Today’s episode introduced
Filmmaker Sara Terry is currently touring the Documentary Film Festival circuit with her third documentary A Decent Home which she directed, filmed and produced. The film takes a close look at manufactured home communities, the people who live there, the risks of big money trying to buy communities and questions how this is happening all over America. Sarah is an award-winning documentary photographer and filmmaker best known for her work covering post conflict stories. A former staff correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and magazine freelance writer, she made a mid-career transition into documentary photography in the late 1990s.
2:01 – Sara shares about her background and career.
Sara’s long-term position with the Christian Science Monitor led her to public radio. She went on to do freelance work for magazines including the New York Times, Times magazine, the Boston Globe and Rolling Stone. Circumstances led her to photography and documentary filmmaking, which continues to be her biggest passion in life.
3:12 – Sara discusses her previous films.
Sara’s first film grew from a photography project about forgiveness traditions in post conflict African countries. She earned a Guggenheim Fellowship for the still photography in the project and the film, Fambul Tok, debuted in 2011. It shows the story of post-conflict Sierra Leone and the rebuilding of a tradition of resolving conflict through conversation. Her second film focuses on the subculture of American folk music.
5:20 – The process of getting a small film off the ground.
Sara shares how A Decent Home was entirely funded by grants and donors. At the beginning she was just a one-person film crew, and it took being willing to work on her own to make it happen before any grants came in.
8:37 – What sparked Sara’s idea to make a film about manufactured home communities?
It was a Guardian story about Mobile Home University which first piqued Sara’s interest in the subject. She learned that billionaires own more mobile home parks, manufacturers, and lenders than anyone else. Learning that the Carlyle Group was starting to buy mobile home parks is what ultimately pushed her over the edge. To this day, she believes that the wealth gap is the biggest issue facing mankind.
11:14 – Challenging the stigma of mobile home parks.
One of the first goals of the film is to challenge the stereotypes regarding manufactured housing parks. Sara speaks of the need to open class discourse in America. For the general public watching the film, her goal is to expose them to a different way of life and living.
12:30 – Sara’s experience visiting Baker and Birch Cooperative.
Baker and Birch is the smallest ROC and is located in New Hampshire. Sara describes the positive environment of the community and the intentional homes the residents have built for themselves. She also shares her findings that people in manufactured housing communities are most generous.
15:40 – The story of the Denver Meadows.
The film highlights a special story in Aurora, Colorado about the fight to save Denver Meadows. The owner of Denver Meadows, a largely Spanish speaking, low-income, community, had just rezoned the park to appeal to redevelopers. The park once sat in a true meadow in the outskirts of town, but soon found itself surrounded by an interstate, a light rail station and a large medical campus. Over the course of three years on film, we see the community fight to try to save the park, the failure of the American civic government, the local reaction to the case and more.
20:30 – The impact of the film during its festival circuit.
Sara has put a wrap on A Decent Home and the film is now showing in festivals all over the country. Each time the crew is in a city for a film festival, they reach out to local activists to discuss how the film can help with local legislation and encourage activism. The focus of their impact work is Colorado and Iowa.
24:40 – Where and when can listeners watch the film?
The first availability of the film will likely be on iTunes before it hits other streaming platforms. The film will be available for viewing at the virtual Better Together Leadership Program, where Sara will be participating in workshops discussing storytelling and how it can be used as a tool for social change.
27:02 – Thank you to Sara for joining us today!
Learn more about A Decent Home here.
Watch Sara’s first film Fambul Tok here.
Find out more about Sara’s film Folk Documentary here.
Learn more about ROC USA through our website.
Thoughts? Questions? Stories? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.