Home #Hwoodtimes Thomas and Jillie Simon speak up for child hunger with their film...

Thomas and Jillie Simon speak up for child hunger with their film “Hungry”

By Valerie Milano

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 9/14/23 – Each day, across America, upwards of 9 million children go hungry. That is because our nation’s Conservative lawmakers (aka Republicans) at both the state and federal levels continue to make cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) while pouring funding into programs that benefit corporations, making it difficult for low-income families to eat.

Click below to see our exclusive interview:

Most of us would agree that this is shameful, but we’re not quite sure what we can do as individuals to change that reality. It is a big problem and we’re just intimated by it and the process by which it could be repaired.

Not Thomas an Jillie Simon.

The husband-and-wife filmmaking team saw a problem and put their considerable talents to work toward finding a solution. The result is Hungry, an award-winning family friendly short film with messages of caring, sharing, participation, taking action, facing challenges, and government participation.

“I kept reading all these little clips in papers about teachers who were paying out of their own pockets for the lunch programs for the kids,” said Thomas Simon, who co-directed and co-produced the film, as well as scored the film and performed the soundtrack music.

“Instead of giving hungry people the ability to eat, (politicians) were giving more money to the wealthy corporate farms,” said Jillie Simon, who wrote and starred in the film, as well as co-directing and co-producing with her husband.

The film was first conceived and shot in 2015, when the Republican Party first set its sights on cutting entitlements and made ending SNAP a primary goal. Subsequently, those initial cuts had thrown 230,000 children off the free-lunch program, and this spurred the Simons to action. Inspired by her own mother, a teacher who paid out of her own pockets to help her students, Jillie penned the screenplay, and she and Thomas set out to produce and direct it.

“I thought it was a great idea to make a film and spotlight hungry children in America,” Jillie Simon said, adding that more must be done.

Jillie Simon,
Actor @ Central Artists Talent Agency/ Filmmaker/Singer-songwriter

In the powerful 20-minute film, Allison (Jillie Simon), is an idealistic primary school teacher in Brooklyn, who has a fear of speaking in public. When asked to lead a teachers’ meeting, she shies away from speaking in front of other adults. But when she goes to get her brown bag lunch, finds two children from her class have taken it. Upon questioning, they reluctantly reveal that they both have a negative balance on their accounts, so they can’t get lunch and are very hungry.

When Allison goes to the lunchroom to see what she can do, she comes across the lunch manager throwing out another child’s food because that child is also in arrears. Going to the principal, she is told that thirty-five other children are also going hungry in their school. Compelled to help them however she can, Allison uses her debit card to get all of the thirty-eight children’s lunch accounts back to balance.

But she doesn’t realize she cleaned out the entire account she shares with her husband (Alex Emanuel) – until she meets him after school to buy groceries for dinner. That evening, after discovering her Congressperson (Eric Roberts), who’d voted for the cuts, will be in town for a fundraise, she decides to practice what she teaches and rise above her fears to seize the opportunity to take action. The result is a powerful lesson in bravery and social commitment.

After the Simon’s put out a casting call for the role of Congressman Thicke, Eric Roberts’ representatives reached out to them because of Eric’s interest in the topic of children’s causes, and after reading and loving the script, he came on-board and masterfully played the antagonist.

“When we do speak up, change can happen,” Jillie Simon said, noting that her character struggles to talk to people in positions of power, but not to talk to her students. “I think a lot of people have that (problem), but major change can happen when all of us people speak up.”

Thomas Simon said the film also is a lesson that we need to step out of our comfort zones to make things better.

“If you go for the things that scare you, you can create something really great,” he said. And this is exactly what the Simons did!

Prior to making Hungry, the pair, who perform together in the band, the Thomas Simon Vortex, has made just three music videos. This was their first narrative film, and they found success with it. The film has been screening at festivals around the world for the past seven years, along the way capturing more than a dozen awards.

It has also helped bring awareness to the problem of world hunger. It is being spotlighted now as September is Hunger Action Month, with September 15th designated as National Hunger Action Day, focusing on the issue of food insecurity in the U.S. and the need for free breakfast and lunch programs in every school in America.

Thomas and Jillie Simon also collaborated on the film’s closing song, “For All the Children,” as well as two other tunes that comprise the soundtrack for this amazing film.

Among the Simons’ current projects, The Thomas Simon Vortex will be performing on Saturday, September 23, at the renowned Viper Room.  The band performs a “rock ambient soundtrack” that Thomas Simon said springs from the film’s soundtrack as well as his own days as a rock musician.

The band’s Viper Room gig begins at 9 p.m., with the doors opening at 7 p.m. The Viper Room is located at 8852 West Sunset Blvd., in West Hollywood.

Hungry is currently streaming for free on Amazon Prime through IndiePix Unlimited in North America and is available worldwide on Vimeo OnDemand.