‘Give Me the Gun’ targets changing youth behavior
Award winner filmed in Youngstown
YOUNGSTOWN — Judge Theresa Dellick of Mahoning County Juvenile Court is hoping an award-winning, grant-funded short film created in Youngstown will make an impact on the choices young people will make when faced with violence.
The professionally filmed video, called “Give Me The Gun,” follows a young man named Trey, whose older brother was killed by gun violence and who nearly made the decision to take revenge. But the persistence of an uncle and Trey’s friends help Trey let go of his anger and move on with his life.
Trey is played by Dominic Patterson of Youngstown, who won best actor in an awards program hosted a week ago at the DeYor Performing Arts Center. The awards program was sponsored by Operation Keepsake, the company that produced “Give Me The Gun” and short films for seven area schools. All eight films were entered in Operation Keepsake’s 10th annual Friends for Friends Film Festival.
“Give Me The Gun” is a joint project through Operation Keepsake that included the juvenile court and the Boys and Girls Club of Youngstown, which provided some of the actors, including Patterson and Edna Edmonds, project manager at the Boys and Girls Club, who plays his mother.
The uncle who talks Trey into giving him the gun is played by Paul Greer Jr., an employee of the Mahoning County Juvenile Detention Center, who won the award for best male adult role. The extras performing in “Give Me The Gun” also won first place.
Dellick plays herself in a scene filmed in her courtroom, and the neighborhoods of Youngstown were the setting for the home where Trey lives and the neighborhood where Trey’s uncle finds him and convinces him to “give me the gun.”
The film can be viewed on YouTube.
Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, who saw the film, said, “The video is an excellent example of what our young men and women go through in our community. This is a great outreach tool for our community.”
Dellick has known and worked with Peggy Pecchio, executive director of Operation Keepsake Inc., for many years and hired her company to write the script, film and produce the 12-minute film.
A competitive Ohio Department of Youth Services RECLAIM Ohio grant paid to produce the film. Another $50,000 of the grant is being used for other types of programming through the court and Boys and Girls Club, Dellick said.Pecchio\
Dellick couldn’t be happier with the film. “They showed it to us, and we said, ‘This is it. This is perfect,'” Dellick said.
“I think it was an accurate portrayal of life — kids playing football in the street, doing homework at a kitchen table, talking with friends, driving through a gas station. It brought it all home, and everyone can relate to it,” Dellick said. “It’s not some fictitious made-up story.”
Dellick said court officials told Operation Keepsake they wanted a video that addressed gun violence. The court also has a partnership with Robert Enright and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Enright is an internationally known expert on forgiveness, and the court incorporates his work into its programs for youth, Dellick said.
The video is about making the choice to step away from violence and to choose forgiveness.
“It’s a powerful, beautiful message, and it’s one we should remember for big issues but even for the little issues in our life,” Dellick said.
The court will use the video in programming for students at the juvenile justice center, as well as out in the community, Dellick said.
“We would like for as many people to see it as possible because I think the message resonates with everybody,” she said.
OUTREACH TO SCHOOLS
Operation Keepsake also will use the video in its outreach to schools in an 11-county area of Northeast Ohio, Pecchio said.
The locations where the video was made are easily recognizable to the people of Youngstown, including the front steps of the Mahoning County Juvenile Court.
“When we watch it we know exactly where it’s taking place, but I think no matter where you view it, you are going to see the authenticity of that message,” Dellick said.
She knew Operation Keepsake was the organization she wanted to make the video.
“They are committed to improving the lives of our youth. We have been doing programming with them for years. They have been doing these videos for 10 years, and we have been with them longer than that,” Dellick said.
The other films are from Mathews High School, South Range High School, West Branch High School, Western Reserve High School in Berlin Center, Brunswick Middle School, James A. Garfield Middle School and Newton Falls Middle School.
Dellick commended Greer for his role in the film and his role in the Mahoning County Juvenile Court. He runs a cognitive therapeutic program for students and serves as a mentor for many of them.
“We asked Paul to do it,” the judge said of the acting role. “I said ‘Paul, you are a natural for this.’ He’s a very humble man. He’s a perfect facilitator. He’s calm. He’s kind and he gets his message across.”
Dellick said the storyline dramatizes the impact that will be felt if a person takes revenge — “not just one person’s life but other peoples’ lives, and I think that message was shown here when Paul said, ‘Your mom needs you.’ I think that’s a powerful message.”
Dellick said she also liked the message that Trey wanted to be a lawyer, but his thoughts of revenge over his brother’s death nearly ended that dream.
“We have all of these youth who have dreams and hope, and when you lose that because of seeking revenge, their lives are ruined, a lot of lives are ruined. It rang true for actual events we have seen over the years — for 20 years in juvenile court, we have seen acts of revenge,” she said.
FILM FEST SITE
The best short film for the year is decided through the number of “likes” given to the film on the film festival site on YouTube. That award went to the film for James A. Garfield Middle School in Garrettsville. A film academy created by Operation Keepsake that includes community partners decides on all of the other awards, Pecchio said.
In order to involve Youngstown students in the project as much as possible, Operation Keepsake talked to two focus groups of students — one group in the juvenile detention center at the juvenile court, and one group that had recently left there.
Operation Keepsake also spoke to experts in the juvenile justice field and came across interesting ideas on forgiveness.
After Operation Keepsake’s film director, Jay Brownlee, wrote the script for “Give Me The Gun,” the youths involved in the project reviewed it. “They really liked the piece on forgiveness,” Pecchio said.
“One of the things Paul Greer Jr. said the night of the film festival was, ‘You may not be able to forget, but you can forgive to move on with your life,'” Pecchio said.
“It’s about the hope of a future, even if you’ve been through trauma or something devastating like this, the forgiveness is the piece that helps you go on and lead a better tomorrow.”