Local filmmaker documents life of Seattle panhandlers

Local filmmaker documents life of Seattle panhandlers

SEATTLE - What do you do when you encounter a panhandler? Give money or look away?

The questions posed a daily dilemma to local filmmaker Matt Longmire, so he took them on through the lens of a camera.

"My documentary 'Cardboard' is the story behind the signs of panhandlers in Seattle," Longmire says.

For two years, Longmire studied people who beg for money in Seattle. In 89 minutes, he explores their lives and why they're there. He says there are countless reasons why people panhandle - some legitimately need help, others don't.

"You're going to have liars, you're going to have saints, you'll have great people and bad people," he says. "It's the same thing on the street."

Longmire says most recent numbers show 21 percent of Seattle's panhandlers are veterans. He says people who beg in Seattle make between 10 and 60 dollars a day. Whether it's war, addiction, or financial ruin, he says everyone has a reason they turn to the streets.

"If you're going to do this - if you're going to fly a sign - you have to swallow your pride," a man says in the trailer for the film. "Panhandling is probably one of the easiest, simplest ways to make a buck, right? All you need's a hat and a good attitude," another man continues.

Longmire says the experiment has changed what he does. He no longer gives money, but says it's because sometimes that's not all they need.

"There's nothing wrong with walking up to someone with a sign and saying 'Hey, how's your day?'" Longmire says. "Watch their face light up."

The film will be playing in November at the Celluloid Bainbridge Film Festival.