Hotel 22

a film by Elizabeth Lo

The access you had (as a filmmaker) was really remarkable. How long was pre-production on Hotel 22?

The pre-production on Hotel 22 took about a month – I rode the bus on nights and weekends before the 6-day production window to acclimate myself to the environment, the rhythms of the week, to observe the dynamics between the passengers and the drivers, figuring out how people reacted to the presence of the camera, etc.

Did you face any hurdles during production?

Every night at least one person, usually drunk, would yell at me for filming – which was understandable on some level since I was filming a very private act (sleeping) in a public space. ​But because I had spent time riding the bus before production and getting to know some of the drivers and guards and riders, they would come to my aid when I was being yelled at, and I would of course not film with those that were resistant to it.

Has HOTEL 22 had any impact on advocacy in the Bay Area?

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation saw the film on New York Times Op Docs and decided to host a community panel that brought together the bus company, myself, and homeless advocates. At the end of the panel, a very effective homeless advocate was able to work with the bus company to set aside a large sum of money to hire a case manager that would work on the bus at night to connect homeless people in need to housing.

Any advice for emerging filmmakers?

Watch lots of films and make films that you have full creative control over – whose failure and mistakes are fully yours – to me that was the quickest way to learn.

Elizabeth Lo is an award-winning nonfiction filmmaker who seeks to find new, aesthetic ways of exploring the boundaries between species, class, and states of personhood. Her short films have been showcased at festivals across North America and Europe, including​ ​Sundance, True/False, SFIFF, Hot Docs, and DOK Leipzig.