‘Jason’s Letter’ to make film debut Sunday in Dover

Vivica A. Fox and Jamol Manigault star in “Jason’s Letter” premiering Sunday at Dover’s Schwartz Center for the Arts. (Submitted photo)

Terrance Tykeem is ready to get the conversation started. He’s hoping that process will begin Sunday afternoon.

That’s when “Jason’s Letter,” a film he produced, directed and wrote, will premiere at Dover’s Schwartz Center for the Arts. The majority of the movie, about 75 percent, was filmed in Dover in January.

The rest was filmed in Middletown and the Philadelphia area.

The premiere will be the final event held at the Schwartz Center as officials announced Thursday that the theater will close on June 30.

“Jason’s Letter” is set in the fictional town of Hayden Heights, Delaware, where 72 percent of the residents are black and members of the police force are predominantly white. In the film, nearly all of those who have been shot and killed by the police are unarmed minority men, women and young children.

After a young boy with whom he attended elementary school becomes the latest casualty, 12-year-old Jason McKey offers some unconventional solutions to the situation in a letter that is read to city council.

“Being such a powerful topic, I’m just really looking forward to people seeing the film and then talking about it afterward,” Mr. Tykeem said.

“This is a conversation that nobody seems to want to have. But people have to start talking about the problem in order to effect change.”

Mr. Tykeem said the letter, which is based on a real letter written by an 11-year-old boy after the 2014 police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, contains simple solutions such as more community involvement by police. The final proposal is one that Mr. Tykeem would not reveal but says is “controversial.”

“When they hear this, everyone is going to get a jolt. That this kid found that this is the only solution was wild to me. I’m looking forward to see people’s faces,” he said.

Mr. Tykeem stressed that the movie is not an anti-police film but one he was driven to make after reading the actual letter.

“A friend kept telling me about this letter from a little boy who lived in Ferguson, Missouri. He wrote it as a school project. I kept putting off reading it but when I got around to it, it blew me away,” he said.

“As soon as I read this two-and-a-half-page letter, the script just rolled out.”

Mr. Tykeem met with the boy and his mother on a conference call that lasted about an hour.

“I just wanted to get more insight from them into the situation. The mother was very reluctant to have this movie made. I could tell she was terrified and still is terrified by her surroundings today,” he said.

“She finally agreed to let this go forward, which I was thankful for. We really need to start humanizing these young black boys. We underestimate these kids so much.”

Mr. Tykeem said the letter read in the film is nearly identical to the actual letter that, despite tries by the family, was never really read before the council in Ferguson.

“We made some grammatical changes to it but that’s about it,” he said.

In the movie, Jason is played by the young actor Jamol Manigault. Vivica A. Fox, from the “Kill Bill” and “Independence Day” films and the TV show “Empire,” plays the city manager who rallies to get the letter read in front of council.

Michael Pare, best known for his leading role in the 1983 cult classic “Eddie and the Cruisers”; Quinton Aaron, who played the football player Michael Oher in “The Blind Side”; and Joseph Gannascoli from “The Sopranos,” also star.

The Dover location shooting took place Jan. 6-9 at City Hall, the library and a few downtown houses and businesses.

Mr. Tykeem said Dover proved to be the perfect location.

“When I talked to the mother and boy, I had them describe their small town. We scouted a few locations in Delaware and found Dover to be just what we were looking for. It’s a small town but yet has so much going on,” he said.

Actor Michael Pare also stars in “Jason’s Letter.” (Submitted photo)

Dover residents served as extras in the film and Mayor Robin Christiansen and Dover City Councilman William Hare appear as councilmen from the fictional Delaware town.

Mr. Tykeem said filming in Dover was a pleasant experience and he hopes to come back.

“I’m planning a film about post-traumatic stress disorder and I told the mayor that I’d be looking to film that in Dover as well,” he said.

Mr. Tykeem said that many in the movie’s cast will appear at Sunday’s premiere, including Ms. Fox.

“We’re not sure about Michael Pare yet. He’s filming a movie with Johnny Depp and isn’t sure if he’s going to get away. But he’s trying,” Mr. Tykeem said.

The film doesn’t have an official distributor but he said two television networks that he refused to name have expressed interest, as have three film companies.

Representatives from HBO, USA and TNT will be in attendance Sunday.

The 3 p.m. film will be preceded by red carpet arrivals.

VIP tickets are available for $30 and include a meet and greet with the celebrities after the movie, plus a bag filled with items from Delaware businesses.

Otherwise, tickets are $15 for those 16 and over and $10 for youth 15 and under.

To purchase tickets, visit schwartzcenter.com, call 678-5152 or stop by the box office at 226 S. State St., Dover.

June Jam Saturday

As we told you last week, June Jam 39 will be held on June 10 at G&R Campground in Houston. Gates open at 10 a.m. with music kicking off at noon.

The lineup includes:

Triple Rail Turn (former Philbilly)

kRUSH

Mike Hines and The Look

Wesley Spangler

Smokin Gunnz

Dirty Deal featuring Billy Meyers

Universal Funk Order

13:1

Junior Jammers

There will be games for kids and adults, raffles, and 50/50 drawings with all proceeds going to local organizations and individuals as needed throughout the year. Food will be available for purchase as well as vendors.

Tickets can be purchased at Mainstay Suites in Dover, B&B Music in Camden, Lewes and Salisbury, Md. for $35 in advance or $40 at the gate.

Explore Tech opening

Dover Public Library is one of 14 sites selected to host Explore Tech: Engineers Make a World of Difference, a national traveling exhibition that introduces the role engineers play in our lives.

The exhibit features hands-on and multimedia components that allow exhibit visitors to interact with exhibit content in a dynamic way, encouraging new perspectives about engineers and their vital work.

The exhibition is now on display until Aug. 4. On Saturday, the library will have a grand opening for the exhibit and host a STEM Makerfest; a day of hands-on science and technology activities and demonstrations.

For a calendar of other related programs, visit doverpubliclibrary.org. The exhibit is free and open to the public during the library’s regular hours.

The Dover Public Library is at 35 Loockerman Plaza.

Beach Goes Blue Saturday

The Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce and USO Delaware will hold the Beach Goes Blue – Red & White Too! service recognition day on Saturday to salute all military and first responders.

Highlights include:

•The John M. Scharp Memorial Geck-Go 5K at 8 a.m, rain or shine. The Kiddie K starts at 7:50 a.m. (10 and under free). Register Saturday beginning at 7 a.m. or online at www.trisportsevents.com.

•Military Village presented by USO DE as military personnel, demonstrations and exhibits will fill the horseshoe surrounding the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

•Displays from local and state first responder agencies including the Rehoboth Beach Police Department, State Police Scuba Team, SORT (Special Operations Rescue Team), various municipal police agencies, and more from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• “Big Red” fire truck and ladder truck displayed at the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Co. Station 86 (219 Rehoboth Ave.) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• Three performances on the bandstand by the USO Show Troupe at 1 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. The Blue Cat Blues Band performs at 9:15 p.m.

• Choreographed light show on the beach at 10 p.m.

For the full schedule of events visit www.beach-fun.com.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is Tom Cruise in “The Mummy 3D”; the horror thriller “It Comes at Night”: and the military film “Megan Leavey.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is “The Lego Batman Movie” and Keanu Reeves in “John Wick: Chapter Two.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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