The Las Vegas tunnels
Partners: Shine A Light Foundation, Freedom House, RSA LA, Visualise and Framestore London
Deliverables: 360 interactive documentary film
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: July 2018
“The only important thing is if you’ve got heroin.
It rearranges every priority you have ever had into this isn’t that important, that’s how you accept homelessness, living in tunnels, it becomes the most important thing.” Paul
There are 300 miles of flood tunnels beneath the city of Las Vegas. There are over 1,000 homeless people who live in these tunnels underground.
Shine A Light and not-for profit organisation Freedom House, run by reformed homeless-heroin addict Paul Vautrinot helps get people out from under.
“I’ve been in there waste high, high stepping in the water. Now that I’m on this side of it, it seems crazy. 2,3,4 people a year, every year they find somebody dead in the tunnels.” Paul
In June 2018, I went underground with RSA Producer Michael Benson, Paul from Shine a Light and his colleague Robert.
We went deep into the tunnels with our flash lights, and supplies for the homeless - food provisions, batteries and socks to interview the people who live in the darkness.
“I ran about a mile down the tunnels in the pitch black, with my finger running along the walls so I knew where I was. I had done it enough, that it was easy. I spent a long time, getting to know that tunnel.” Paul
This 360 immersive narrative follows Paul.
Ex-heroin addict and dealer, tunnel dweller.
Towards the end of his time living in the tunnels, Paul weighed 8 stone, had a $300 daily heroin habit. He hadn’t seen daylight for weeks.
Paul was living daily with intensive paranoia and insanity, psychosis induced by drugs; isolation, and disconnection from society, his family, and the world.
“A false sense of altruism and companionship exists below, it’s a double edged sword. Lots of self policing and bad things -fights, someone was beaten to death with a rock, statutory rape - the tunnels are the perfect escape routes for illegal activity . .” Paul
“Everyone calls me Wheels. I’ve been living down here for 8/9 years. I did 7 1/2 years in the army, I got paralysed. I’ve got shrapnel all in my back. Down here the barometric pressure doesn’t change, so it’s less painful.” Wheels
“I’m just a nobody, just like everybody else down here.” Steve
The ambition of the 360 documentary film is to raise awareness of the homeless epidemic in the state of Nevada. It’s illegal to be homeless in Las Vegas. You get arrested if you sit on the sidewalk for too long.
I’d pass the drugs through the vents, It takes a lot of work, I would put straws through the vents.” Paul
Working in collaboration with the charity Shine A Light Foundation; this 360 documentary film will put the viewer in the shoes of someone who lives in the tunnels and work as an awareness piece to help Freedom House in their mission to get people back into ‘normal’ living and out of the tunnels.