Video Postcard: An unscripted moment in Brillian’s journey home

By Brett Renville, documentary filmmaker and guest blogger for Compass Housing Alliance

Back in October, I started to follow the journey of Brillian and Dion, two brothers who left the streets of Seattle to become residents at Compass at First Presbyterian, an enhanced, 24/7 shelter. As a documentary filmmaker, I was drawn to their story, one that has become increasingly, and tragically, common in our city. They were working hard, trying to get on their feet and find a place to call home, all against the overwhelming challenges of Seattle’s affordable housing crunch.

I sat down with Brillian and he told me about his new job at Denny’s, his hope to live the American dream, the struggles of being homeless. He also talked about his love for music and his desire to be a musician. Then, suddenly he did something unexpected. He started singing a Kanye West song.

It was stunning, and I even felt a little awkward at first. But that was over in a moment, and it quickly felt good and natural. I thought, “He is really singing to us in the middle of an on-camera interview.” This marks the first time in my 13 years of shooting documentary films that a subject has ever burst out singing during an interview!

Confidence and Aspirations

As a salsa dancer, who has been performing for a couple of years, I had a few more thoughts cross my mind when Brillian started singing. Thoughts that reminded me of myself. First of all, Brillian was singing to a couple of strangers! When I perform, I still get nervous when people watch me. Brillian not only lacked nervousness but he had confidence too. He knew he was good. He has the confidence I wish I had, the confidence I still struggle finding as a dancer.

What amazed me most was this was all coming from a 24-year-old homeless man struggling to survive in this city. For me this really humanized this homelessness crisis.  Homeless people are just like you and me. They have stories and aspirations we all can relate to.


About Brett Renville:
Brett Renville is a documentary and commercial Cinematographer and Director, based in Seattle, WA. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Brett developed a love for the natural world, and in his work, transferring the essence of a subject – be it human, of the animal variety, the environment, or a simple moment in time – is Brett’s passion and craft; drawing meaningful stories into focus through the lens of the camera. For more info about Brett please visit: