Video takes aim at teens Guns: The message to Maryland youths in "Think It Through" is to solve everyday conflicts by using their heads and not resorting to guns and violence.

August 21, 1996|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

A fight between two teen-agers escalated into a shooting yesterday in a shady garden on the Boys' Latin School campus that was witnessed by a dozen youths -- and a video crew.

The participants were young actors from Baltimore-area high schools, cast in a video with a message aimed at teen-agers across Maryland to solve everyday conflicts without resorting to guns.

"I really think this will help get the message out about guns," said Alex D. Scott, a Boys' Latin senior taking the role of Jared, who is paralyzed after being shot during an argument with a childhood friend.

The video, titled "Think It Through," is being produced by Blair Associates of Baltimore for the locally based National Association of Emergency Medicine -- and for eventual distribution to middle schools throughout the state and perhaps beyond.

"Many of these kids are not afraid to die," said Gail B. LeCompte, manager of programs at the nonprofit association that has spent $100,000 on the project and needs to raise $50,000 to complete it.

"What they see on television is someone who is wounded and back to work the next day or is killed and gets all the media attention," she said. "Nothing prepares them for how their lives, their family's lives will change if they survive and are in a wheelchair with a ventilator."

The shooting scene took place in the seniors' garden, which is dedicated to Charles H. Willis, 21, a Boys' Latin alumnus who was fatally shot three years ago by a stranger in a Severna Park doughnut shop during an argument over a ballpoint pen.

In the video, the shots are fired by Boys' Latin senior Christopher T. Formant.

He portrays Lenny, who confronts his once-close friend Jared in a schoolyard over petty jealousies and a rivalry that have gotten out of control, producer Tom Blair said.

Lenny, because he is scared, brings a gun that he thinks will give him an edge.

The youths are surrounded by other students who -- yelling and gesturing, even laughing -- goad the two into a fight.

"This is a flashback scene," Blair tells the actors. "We are presenting it to the viewers as a nightmare. So exaggerate as you feel you have to, because that's the way it is when something like this happens and you replay it over and over in your head."

A nightmare it is. Lenny pulls the handgun from the back of his pants and shoots Jared in the chest. The laughter becomes screams, and the crowd runs for cover. And as Blair said, it is replayed over and over -- for the cameras, at every conceivable angle. Jared collapses half a dozen times, his grimace ever-changing.

As envisioned by Blair, the finished video will have an upbeat MTV style with popular music and teen jargon to get and keep students' attention.

Three scenes will involve fictional encounters with guns and interviews with real victims, all children, who are in rehabilitation centers recovering from gunshot wounds.

"We really need more things like this," said Jerrill M. Adams, a senior at Randallstown High School who plays a student in the crowd. "I do peer mediation in my school, and I am really going to pump this up at school. Kids need to learn more about gun violence and how to prevent it."

The video -- which will be accompanied by a curriculum guide for teachers -- is expected to be ready for distribution by the end of November. LeCompte said the association must submit it for approval in each school district.

Barbara H. Willis -- who was unable to attend the taping yesterday in the garden named for her slain son -- approves of the project and its message.

"We have the laws that take guns out of criminals' hands and make it difficult for kids to get guns," she said. "Now we need to educate the well-meaning public about guns and that they are not safe in the house."

Pub Date: 8/21/96

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