Many in Eastlake will remember the story of David “Squirrelman” Csaky, a homeless man who built an elaborate treehouse just off the north end of Eastlake Avenue.
He lived in the treehouse, which came complete with a pot belly stove, until he was forced to move by the city in April 2008 after the treehouse was torn down.
Kevin Heutink knows Csaky’s story well. Heutink worked at a nearby catering company as Csaky’s treehouse took shape. He watched the treehouse grow and eventually met and befriended Csaky. An aspiring filmmaker, Heutink decided to tell Csaky’s story in a documentary.
The film, “Out On a Limb,” is finished and will be screened at 4:15 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave. on Capitol Hill. The screening is free.
Heutink says he got the chance to meet Csaky through one of his co-workers who met Csaky when he was on a scavenging mission in the neighborhood. Csaky invited everyone at the catering company to visit his treehouse.
“I was up in his treehouse after work that very same night upon seeing his pot belly stove burning brightly overhead,” Heutink writes. “And the same story essentially played out nearly every night after that until the treehouse’s eventual demise: Get off work around 1 a.m., climb his ladder with film kit in tow and conduct fireside interviews until 2 or 3 in the morning.”
Heutink started videotaping Csaky in February 2008 and followed his story with his camera for the next two years. Also photographing Csaky at that time was Seattle P-I photojournalist Josh Trujillo, who lived with his family on a nearby houseboat.
At the same time, Heutink also began documentaries on Pete Nelson, one of the world’s foremost treehouse building experts and the author of a book on treehouses, and James French, a homeless Real Change vendor who was living in Belltown.
“When the time came to review my footage for these various projects,” Heutink writes, “I realized that I wasn’t dealing with three separate films, but rather three characters that belonged in the same documentary because their individual journeys combined to create a big picture perspective of the times we live i; i.e., global economic meltdown and the ensuing fun to be had by all.”
With the help of film school friends from England (writer Eamonn Murphy and editor James Paul), Heutink was able to weave the three stories together.
As for David Csaky, Heutink reports that he’s living with a roommate in a Mount Vernon apartment. He does various part-time, manual labor jobs and his income is supplemented with a monthly Social Security check (he has a severely damaged spine, Heutink says).
The documentary was partly funded by grants from the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, 4Culture and the Edward Mother Earth Foundation. Heutink hopes to take it on the film festival circuit and, eventually, see it broadcast on PBS.
CORRECTION: This story has been changed since it was first posted. An earlier version said Heutink was from England. He’s a Seattle native but attended school in England.