Amid chaos and ruin, heartbreak and despair, there was a man with hope — and a mission. His story unfolds in “A Bridge Life: Finding Our Way Home,” a film that director Josh Grossberg and Ohio State music professor Steven Glaser will present at 7 p.m. tonight in the Wexner Center’s Film/Video Theater.

The project began when Grossberg met Dan Sheffer, a Florida loan officer, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Both traveled to assist at the Houston Astrodome, a makeshift haven for the homeless, after watching television coverage of the catastrophe.

Sheffer’s goal was to escort evacuees back to Florida. Grossberg’s goal was to tell their stories.

“What I found out quickly was that people would come up to me,” Grossberg said. “They really felt that they needed to unburden themselves … and the best thing I could do was to listen.”

One of the only filmmakers present in the wake of the disaster, Grossberg recorded non-stop for three-and-a-half days. What he witnessed surprised him.

“Strangely enough, being in that Astrodome, despite how negative the experience was for a lot of people, there was a feeling of community, of hopefulness,” he said. “It was a really wonderful, exhilarating feeling to walk around and feel like class doesn’t matter, race doesn’t matter.
We’re all here to help each other. We’re all human beings.”

For nearly three years, Grossberg worked to inject that feeling into a film. He wanted to prove that one person can make a difference, he said. “That’s what Dan did,” he added.

To intensify the film’s emotions, Grossberg enlisted the help of OSU music professor Steven Glaser, who composed the score.

“One of the key components is the music,” Grossberg said. “He [Glaser] did a magnificent job telling the story through music.”

But the task was no small feat.

“I must have watched this film a thousand times,” Glaser said. “The music can really shape how you feel. That was the challenge, just to find the right music that would reflect the emotions that the director wanted to bring.”

Forget about happy and sad. Emotions ran deeper than flood waters, changed courses faster than a storm, and Glaser had to track them with notes.

“Sometimes the music, I’m hoping, will bring a sense of catastrophe and a sense of misery,” Glaser said. “Other times, there are some funny moments in it, so there’s levity.”

Based on the film’s positive reception since its world premiere at the Newport Beach International Film Festival in April, it seems Glaser’s and Grossberg’s hard work has paid off.

The film has also been selected to receive a Chris Award at the 57th Annual Columbus International Film and Video Festival in November.
“It’s a privilege to be able to touch people, to affect them emotionally,” Grossberg said. “I’ve had a number of people just come up to me and thank me and say that they have been inspired to go out and make a difference.”