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Filmmaker Gone Rogue

Get to know San Francisco ambassador Josh Hayes with this first installment in our Rogue Nation Ambassadors series.


The Rogue Nation relies on its dozens of honorary ambassadors around the world to help spread the Revolution. These dedicated Rogue Nation citizens are members of an elite squad known as Rogue Nation Ambassadors. These are their stories.

“When we started, we were not the fucking kind of people who were supposed to be making a movie. We didn’t know anything about it. And we were trying to take on a huge national documentary that would easily have a million-dollar budget.”

San Francisco filmmaker Josh Hayes has been a Rogue Nation ambassador for around a year thanks to his filmmaking talents. A video he submitted for a beer contest featured Rogue and caught our attention.

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But he’s talking about a different kind of film — a documentary he’s been beating the odds to make over the last 10 years.

“It’s a crazy long process,” he explained. “When it started, we had almost no budget, we had limited resources, we had to learn to film and edit and all this stuff.”

The resulting film, The Invisible Class, explores homelessness on a grand scale: What is it? Where does it come from? What does it look like?

“We realized pretty quickly we have no idea what homelessness looks like. We just have this image of it that is almost like a caricature,” Josh said.

People facing chronic homelessness — the kind of unclean, garbage-scouring image most people conjure — represents less than 20% of the homeless population.

“If [that’s] what I think every homeless person looks like… what are the other 80%?” Josh said. “Well, now we have to find out.”

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The first year consisted of Josh researching the subject. Over the next decade, he traveled around the country working on the film, interviewing and learning from advocacy organizations, homeless people, politicians and scholars like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Chris Hedges and others.

One of the biggest — and earliest — revelations for Josh during this process? That widespread homelessness as we know it is a recent phenomenon that came about in the late 1970s and early 80s.

“We didn’t even commonly use the word ‘homeless’ until 35 years ago,” he explained. “There was nothing like we have in America now.”

Josh’s documentary film about homeless in the U.S., the first major work of its kind, has exceed its crowdfunding goals on website Indiegogo for necessary costs like insurance and sound mixing, as well as supporting the release around the country.

“In the first day, we funded the whole 30-day campaign,” he said. “At 22 1/2 hours, we raised the entire $11,000 we needed to release it.”

The support blew him away, and it’s continued throughout the month: The Invisible Class has raised just under $20,000 to date.

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Josh, a video pro with a cinema degree, worked until now as a freelance cameraperson and editor, recently specializing in filming corporate conferences — at odds with his “punk rock ideology” and past life as an MMA fighter. But documentary filmmaking has long been part of his life, even if he didn’t realize it.

“Looking back on it, I always had a camera and I was always filming everything,” he said.

With The Invisible Class poised for national release, Josh has big plans for the film. He’s in the process of setting up grassroots screenings throughout the U.S. this fall and wants to show it for free at homeless shelters and educational centers across the country.

He’s also excited to begin working exclusively in the nonprofit sector with his own nonprofit, Visual Anarchy, providing free digital services for small nonprofits to amplify their work. Before he spends the fall promoting the film, Josh will teach video production for four months in Africa. After that, he’ll spend three weeks documenting a prison in Bolivia.

“For me, the ideology is, whatever you can do, share it.”