Just Us Three

Denver, Colorado | Film Feature


Christopher Beeson

1 Campaigns | Colorado, United States

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This campaign raised $3,200 for post-production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

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"Just Us Three" isn’t a simple story about being mentally ill, physically disabled, addicted to drugs, or being in abusive relationships. It is all of those things, woven together into a single fabric. This family's story is representative of millions of people that survive on disability.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

Mental and physical disabilities are not always easy to see in people that live marginally between being functional members of society and being fully disabled. Their struggles and motivations are easily misunderstood. My sister and her two sons are among those people, and this is their story.

The Story



Heidi is a single mother of two teenage boys, and this family of three have survived on social disability and welfare benefits for almost twenty years. Cole claims to have multiple personalities, Jake is a quiet loner who doesn’t understand money, and Heidi is crippled by knee and back injuries. They tell us stories of addiction, abuse, abandonment and homelessness as we watch home movies from their childhood and present-day interviews. The more they tell us, the more we wonder how they made it this far. Whether or not we understand or believe the self-reinforcing stories they tell each other, it becomes clear that a kind of stubborn family pact holds them together and keeps them moving forward.  






In 2017 I lost track of my sister Heidi, who had moved across country and then became temporarily homeless. A few months later we reconnected via text and Skype.


I had recently converted a bunch of old micro-VHS tapes and found that they contained hours of home movies from when her sons were young and living with our Aunt. Our Aunt was their legal guardian during the six years Heidi spent in and out of mental facilities, sometimes homeless, and trying to extract herself from an abusive marriage.


In the time between, all of the other members of our family had died, and Heidi and I became estranged. When we reconnected, I told her about the home movies and asked if she would tell me her story. Long Skype interviews led to a cross-country trip where I conducted more formal interviews with her and her sons using real film equipment.


The rural town we grew up in, Quincy, Illinois, serves as the visual backdrop and another character in the film. We see the Mississippi, bridges and barges, abandoned Maine Street storefronts, riverfront project houses, old churches, corn and soybean fields, and the country house in Ghost Hollow where Heidi and her sons landed, all living with her new fiancée’s boyfriend in his parents’ basement. She is pregnant with another child.


This isn’t a simple story about being mentally ill, or physically disabled, addicted to drugs, or being in abusive relationships. The more I interviewed Heidi and her sons I began to understand that their situation is all of those things, woven together into a single fabric.


The reason I want to tell their story is because there are a lot of people just like them who live on the edges of society. These people who live on the margins aren’t choosing that life. They’re riding this fine line between homelessness and just barely getting by, and that dynamic becomes their whole life. Welfare becomes their job. They get good at navigating government systems and understanding the rules, but they still can’t work full time. They are often misunderstood, marginalized, and sometimes even rejected by their own families.


As I interviewed my sister and her sons I began to realize that none of the judgments I made about them were true. This film is my attempt to let them tell their story to the camera without judgment. 




At this point "Just Us Three" is in the rough cut stage. Around 15 hours of source material was logged, separated into themes, and then blocked into chapters. That 8-hour assembly was cut, chapter by chapter, into a 2-hour cut, and finally into a 1 hour, 40 minute rough. Chunks of the rough cut have been reviewed by various people including other filmmakers and editors, and refinements continue to be made to the story.


There is a good bit of work yet to do on sections that will be partially animated through a rotoscoping technique that I've used on various other projects. There are also bits of public domain film acting as interstitials. The rougher-looking interview material is going through a process of stabilization and noise reduction refinement. Since the film consists mainly of faces telling stories, it's important that the different visual styles of the material reinforce specific themes in a way that threads the entire story together and keeps it interesting to look at.


Post-production coloring and sound will also play a huge part in refining the material. A good colorist will be able to match material sources and create an overall look for the film. Professional post-production sound is crucial to keeping the narrative crisp and clear while creating the right balance of music.


I've also enlisted the help of two seasoned documentary filmmakers to act as advisors on the final cut and help put the word out for fundraising. My team for this film is a core group of filmmakers I've been working with for the last few years on dozens of different documentary, narrative and commercial film projects. We've been fortunate to have some of those projects aired on PBS, local and national television advertising, private screenings and fundraisers for educational and political groups. 




I plan to continue showing finer cuts of the film to other filmmakers and people whose opinion I trust, refining to picture lock in the next 3 months. Another month is planned for post color and sound. At that point I plan to organize an invitational screening at a local independent theater. Depending on feedback, further refinements will be made. The target completion date is end of June 2019.


There are a few major doc festivals I want to shoot for as well as the usual suspects. My intent in the festival circuit is to promote and generate feedback, media, exposure, etc. Ultimately "Just Us Three" is meant to be seen by as many people as I can get to watch it. I began making films about animal, social and welfare issues as a way of contributing to the conversation, not primarily as a means of income. That said, I'd like this little film to pay for its own modest budget with some left over to start the next one. Ultimately I'd like "Just Us Three" to end up on a streaming platform and live a long, happy digital life.








Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Color Grading

Costs $1,250

This project requires a professional colorist with documentary experience.

Sound Finishing

Costs $1,250

This project requires an experienced post-production documentary sound finisher.


Costs $500

Invitational screening of the film for a select audience to gather notes on additional editing.

Festival Run

Costs $1,000

Entry fees to a handful of major doc-centric film festivals.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

About This Team

I am the Director and Editor and provide all music and animations. My post team includes Matt Baxter and Aaron Koehler, two members of Indie Denver, a local film production company. I've worked with that team for the past three years, collaborating on various documentary projects, some of which have been aired nationally and on local PBS stations.



I have also invited Dick Alweis, a seasoned documentarian, to provide counsel and advice for the final cut as well as marketing and distribution expertise. Alweis helped establish The Denver International Film Festival. In 2011, Alweis completed a multi-part series, “Rebels Remembered,” documenting the civil rights struggle in the Rocky Mountain West. 



"Five Dreamers" is a documentary that features five DACA recipients from the Denver area who represent a range of home countries and experiences. The film was Directed by Alweis, Produced by Indie Denver (I contributed graphics and art), and has been screened on Rocky Mountain PBS and widely around the Denver area.


"The Last Bill: A Senator's Story" was Directed and Produced by the Indie Denver team of Matt Baxter and Aaron Koehler for Colorado Senator Linda Newell, and has been screened widely throughout the Denver area.


Indie Denver and I have also been mentors at a summer film camp for several years; we are in post production on a documentary featuring students from the camp who are all first-gen and low-income, with English as their second language.


Current Team