Interview: Real Life Encounter With Homeless Teen Inspired Director Ron Krauss to Make ‘Gimme Shelter’

On a dark, cold night, filmmaker Ron Krauss met a young woman. She stood on the street, no coat against the January night, nowhere to stay.

Krauss was in New Jersey filming a documentary about Kathy DiFoire, a woman who invited a homeless, pregnant teenager into her home in 1981 and grew her vision into a movement called Several Sources Shelters. With five shelters, she offers shelter and a future to hundreds of homeless, many of them pregnant.

Krauss assumed the girl shivering in the cold was a resident and she assumed he was a shelter worker. He brought her in from the the cold and found her a bed.

“Something about her sent a jolt into my heart and touched me so deeply,” Krauss told me when we talked by phone.

The girl he met that night became the inspiration for Agnes “Apple” Bailey, the homeless, pregnant teen played by Vanessa Hudgens in Gimme Shelter, opening Friday. Mistreated by her addict mother, rejected by her wealthy father, left pregnant and alone by a man she met on the streets, Apple needed both help and healing when she showed up at the shelter that night.

After moving into the shelter for a year to learn about the residents there and write the screenplay, Krauss was ready to bring Apple and Kathy’s work to the big screen as director.

In the current economy, he says, the movie is relevant to our time. “The face of homelessness has changed from an old drunk guy in an alley. It’s about all of us now, trying to pick the pieces up and help each other.”

The script attracted big name talent. In addition to High School Musical princess Hudgens, the cast includes Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser and James Earl Jones.  “I think they read the script and recognized that compassion,” said Krauss.

With an unplanned pregnancy supported by a caring community, this movie has been hailed as a pro-life story. But Krauss says it’s more than that. “We get so hung up on those terms, but really it’s about people. Kathy said it’s more than pro-life. It’s pro-love. It’s about life on many, many levels.”

The film is not faith-based in the sense of aiming at a purely faith audience, says Krauss. “There should be faith in every film,” he says, “and love and respect.” He set out to make a good movie, one true to the character of Kathy DiFiore, whose mission of mercy is inspiredly her Catholic faith. “Kathy says she works for God, lives her life by God,” said Krauss.

However, he believes the film will appeal to everyone. “The greatest special effect in cinema is human emotion,” something this film offers multiple times.

“It doesn’t preach anything. It just shows. I hope it will inspire people and give hope that no matter how bad people think things are at times, there are other people going through the same thing. I hope it inspires us as a society to reach out to each other.”

Ron Krauss with GIMME SHELTER stars Vanessa Hudgens and Rosairo Dawson. Photo via IMDB.com

Gimme Shelter opens January 24. This post is part of a promotional campaign with our partner Grace Hill Media in support of Gimme Shelter. 

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey


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