Short film, 'Stuck,' premieres at Building Hope banquet
Friday, February 17, 2017
Three years ago, when a snowstorm kept the featured speaker from attending its annual banquet, Building Hope Community Life Center stuck a high school senior on stage to tell how the after-school academic and character development program had changed his life.
Rael Thigpen decided to accept the challenge, and his passion and poise earned him a standing ovation.
On Thursday, the 21-year-old was in the spotlight again, this time as the star of “Stuck,” a fictional film about the realities of life for many children who grow up without a father. The short film premiered at Building Hope's annual banquet, themed “A Vision of Hope.”
“Stuck,” filmed in Greenville, tells the story of a teenage boy who runs away from home when he learns his father is about to be released from prison. Darren, played by Thigpen, feels angry and bitter and is not prepared to face the man who left him fatherless in his childhood. After spending a night on the run, an unexpected encounter in a church helps him to see things in a different light.
A collaboration between Building Hope and Greenville marketing and media company Buzzadelic, the film is designed to be the first in a series. Called “Stories of Hope,” the series is designed to involve students in the process of creating short films that portray some of the challenges they face.
“There's a lot of pain and frustration,” Building Hope Executive Director James Haskins said an in interview as he described the difficult lives of many at-risk students involved in Building Hope's after-school programs. “... A lot of it falls back to this breakdown of the family environment.”
Raised in single-parent households, many students the organization serves face poverty and struggle to succeed in school, factors that can leave them vulnerable to becoming involved in gangs, developing addictions or committing crimes.
“You see a snapshot in time, but there's been a whole journey that's been unfolding, oftentimes for many years that's led to the set of circumstances that you see on the news,” Haskins said. “What we're trying to do with ‘Stories of Hope’ films is to sort of unravel the snapshot and really try to, from a theatrical standpoint, take people along the arc of fatherlessness.”
“Stuck,” which cost about $10,000 to produce, was funded in part by a Grassroots Arts Project Grant through the N.C. Arts Council. It features Building Hope staff member Nyrobi Thomas as part of its seven-member cast. Retired Pitt County District Superior Court Judge Rusty Duke plays a cameo role.
The film's producer, Buzzadelic CEO BJ Emerson, said additional films in the series will continue to explore the theme of fatherlessness in order to create awareness of the problem.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America live in a home that does not include their biological fathers. The National Fatherhood Initiative reports that in 2005, the federal government spent at least $99.8 billion providing assistance to father-absent homes.
“Stuck” DVDs, offered for sale at the banquet, include a discussion guide designed to explore issues the film raises, including unresolved anger and forgiveness.
“There are questions and moments to review. You can ask questions in a small group or Sunday school classes,” Emerson said. “That's really where we want to go with this. Let's start a discussion.”
Proceeds from the sale of DVDs will help to fund a film camp at Building Hope. During the summer camp, about 20 students will begin learning the skills they need to be part of Stories of Hope's next film project, with a planned release to coincide with Building Hope's 2018 banquet.
“We're helping people understand the context which these kids are in,” Emerson said, “the world that they live in and why they're making the decisions they are and what kinds of decisions they're faced with.”
A free showing of “Stuck” is scheduled for 6 p.m. on March 28 at Jarvis Memorial United Methodist Church, 510 S. Washington St. For more information or to purchase a DVD, visit www.storiesofhopefilms.com. The cost of the DVD and discussion guide is $20.
An outreach program inspired by Thursday’s speaker and the Building Hope Banquet, Alabama Judge Bob Armstrong, has taken root in Greenville.