ExxonMobil Lecture Series: “Signs of Humanity” Screening

Tuesday, February 28, the Temerlin Advertising Institute hosted a public screening and Q&A of documentary “Signs of Humanity” at the Angelika Film Center as part of its 2017 ExxonMobil Lecture Series.

Professor Baronet talking to Jennifer and Jesse, a homeless couple in Seattle.

“Signs of Humanity” is a documentary film created by TAI Professor Willie Baronet. The film explores themes of home, homelessness, compassion and humanity as Professor Baronet and his team travel the country collecting over 200 homeless signs and interviewing over 100 people on the streets.

“The event on Tuesday evening really opened my eyes to the important work that Willie is doing, and how many people are willing to help him,” SMU student Dalya Romaner said. “The documentary was beautiful, and I feel that everyone watching it could connect to some aspect of it, whether it was one person he interviewed, or a reason for his project, or even a city he visited. Let’s just say, I now look up to Willie not only as a professor, but as a human being, and a change maker in a world desperately needing change.”

Each year TAI hosts lectures and events as part of the ExxonMobil Lecture Series. The series is one of many ways that TAI advocates its motto “Better Advertising. Better World.” This lectures series helps to promote advertising, media and corporate ethics by hosting events to discuss varying ethical topics that can be related to advertising.

Crowd at the screening event.

“We are so pleased to recognize the creative work of Professor Baronet,” Steven Edwards, Director of the Temerlin Advertising Institute, said. “Offering the public an opportunity to view ‘Signs of Humanity,’ recognize important supporters of the project, and create a space to spur on the conversation about homelessness is part of our larger mission to positively impact our community.”

Many TAI students, as well as faculty and local industry professionals, attended the event. The night started off with a reception and networking, followed by a brief recognition of documentary creator and producers, the screening of the film, and finally a Q&A with Professor Baronet and other producers of the documentary.

“Willie and his filmmakers did a great job of providing an open-minded glimpse into the world of homelessness nationwide,” Romaner said. “They didn’t come in with preconceived notions, they treated everyone as humans, not as homeless people, and it was beautiful to watch. I really feel that it gave everyone an idea of something small we can all do to help the homeless community around us, even as small as acknowledging that they are humans too. I think the most important takeaway from the film, the event, and Willie himself, is that we need to see everyone as people going through their own struggles, and it’s that commonality that gives us the chance to connect so the world is not made up of ‘us vs. them.’”

From left to right: Professor Baronet, Director Tim Chumley, Producer Judy Burch Gass, Producer Eamon Downey

Professor Baronet is doing important work to shine a light on homelessness. The event was an opportunity for the entire faculty and Professor Baronet’s students to celebrate what has been his two-year journey to film, edit, and showcase his project. This work has provided learning opportunities for students to reflect on the intersection of art, advertising, film-making, and creative expression in a persuasive context.

“I loved when Willie said in the film that the sign exhibit isn’t about him, it’s about the people he’s doing this for,” TAI alum Mallory Ashcraft said. “As a writer and former advertising student of Willie’s, I related to that inner dialogue, and I was so inspired by the fact that he tells the story of the homeless very honestly. I think everyone needs to see this film, because it showed me that we can all do more to emotionally support the homeless individuals in our communities and cities.”

“Signs of Humanity” is the product of a larger, ongoing art project, WE ARE ALL HOMELESS, which began when Willie purchased his first homeless sign in 1993. The project’s mission is to create a more compassionate world by creating awareness and provoking conversations about people on the streets, and inspiring others to find and implement solutions to the many causes of homelessness.

Learn more about WE ARE ALL HOMELESS and their Impact Campaign here.

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