Even In Darkness is a narrative documentary and photo series about the San Francisco Night Ministry, a 50-year-old organization that provides face-to-face counseling on the streets between 10 PM and 4 AM. The Ministry is unique in that it emphasizes conversation rather than sermonizing.
The film eschews static interviews in favor of a vérité style that follows Reverend Lyle Beckman on his nightly route through San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Lyle, an openly gay man in his sixties, interacts with a diverse community on the street, in coffee shops, and in bars. He encounters people struggling with homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse, sex work, and mental health, as well as those who are just lonely. Punctuating these dialogues are scenes of crisis line phone counselors, open worship services, and conversations between Lyle and his staff. The photo series will include color and black and white portraits, as well as scenes from Lyle’s nightly routines.
The project gives viewers privileged access to personal interactions that would not otherwise be documented. It also offers insight into the national epidemic of homelessness, which affects an estimated 610,042 Americans per night. A recent survey in San Francisco found 6,436 people on the streets, a figure that hasn’t budged since 2005. The city is experiencing a severe housing shortage and skyrocketing rents, both of which impact tenants of single resident occupancy hotels. Lyle meets many such people during his walks in the Tenderloin, an often sensationalized neighborhood believed to contain the largest concentration of residential hotels in the country. As the gap between rich and poor widens in the Bay Area, it’s important to represent the voices of those most affected by economic inequality. This film is a portrait of that community in the words of its members.
The film and photo series investigate questions of faith, the power of interpersonal contact, and the demands of empathy. It is also, ultimately, a character study that explores Lyle’s role in the community and his unique identity as an openly gay minister. He strives to shift perceptions about organized religion and its attitudes towards the LGBTQ community.