SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Central High School Juniors Daniel Huinda and Shyam Rama created a documentary based on Rama’s childhood home, the Springfield Inn hotel.
The hotel was recently sold at the beginning of this year to be turned into one of the three Whataburger restaurant locations in Springfield.
As a school project, Huinda and Rama were tasked to create a documentary on any subject they wanted. Although assigned in January, the filmmakers procrastinated until around spring break.
After a few rounds of texts, the two decided to tell Rama’s story about what it was like growing up in a hotel and dive into the housing crisis and homeless issues of Springfield.
“It was mostly a project, but then we … really liked how it started turning out and so we let it become more than just a school project.”
Rama describes his childhood home as similar to the premise of Disney’s The Suite Life with Zack & Cody, where the two protagonists live in a hotel.
“My brother and I … we didn’t really live that “house life”. We mostly lived the “hotel life” where we’d see our parents constantly working in the office and doing housekeeping stuff like that. And so my brother and I would just either play on the– we didn’t really have like a, I would say “yard”. We kind of had the parking lot to ourselves,” says Rama.
Rama says his parents built an apartment on to the hotel where the whole family could live in.
In the documentary, Huinda follows Rama through the ruins filming his real first reactions to the state of the hotel.
“I felt it was necessary to kind of make it as like a perspective. Because if you kind of think with a doc, it’s just kind of like this walkthrough and you’re kind of following Shayam as he kind of explains his childhood and then kind of works in this bigger story,” says Huinda. “So in terms of how I feel about his childhood and what I grew up in, I tried to integrate as much of that comparison into the cinematography as I could.”
Rama’s parents, Jaishree and Shailesh Rama–also known at the front desk as Jay and Sam– purchased the Springfield Inn in 2001. After selling the property 21 years later, the vacant lot was apparently still being used.
The doc also talks about housing and homelessness in the country. Rama believes a lot of the issues that the family business had to deal with such as break-ins and theft, stemmed from the lack of housing and shelters for those in need.
“I feel like in their shoes, I would also do the same where I try to find somewhere to live if I really had if I really didn’t have anywhere to live and I’d try to get some food if I had to, because those are things that are essentials to anyone. And so I feel like the issue that we try to bring up in the documentary is that we need to fix this by, you know… talking to state officials and like higher officials to kind of solve these issues because personally, I don’t want anybody else to feel the same way my family’s business felt. I kind of want everybody to feel equal and… it hurts to see other people suffer.”