Leading up to the trip, I told myself that what I've learned from working in a variety of underfunded communities is that despite the negativity and uncertainty swirling around them, there always seems to be a remarkable sense of pride, community and love - specifically amongst its youth. I hoped that Chicago would display that same miraculous vibe. But truthfully, I wasn't sure.
By the looks of the news, it was a full blown war zone. How could kids even muster up smiles amidst so much fear and unrest?
Of all the STATE trips I've taken with high pressure and stakes, I was by far most on edge for this one. Was our strategy and crew right? Would the kids we were working with be open, willing to share and display that positivity I was hoping to bring to the forefront? Would I be a witness to one of these everyday shootings? Would I be a victim to one? I've spent countless hours in some of the most violent neighborhoods in the country and that thought has truly never crossed my mind...until driving into the west side at 4 pm on our first night there. You could immediately feel the angst in the air. It was palpable.
But our mission in shooting this film wasn't to capture that feeling, but rather the opposite. To tell the stories of kids growing up in these neighborhoods who were drowning out the noise, rising above the chaos and negativity.
We weren't looking to document another sob story about Chicago and it's never before seen violence, but instead profile the exact opposite, illuminating the light of the communities - a message that would be driven by its youth.