Peter Cooper filmmaker takes aim at gun violence

Jamie Kirkpatrick

Jamie Kirkpatrick

By Sabina Mollot

Jamie Kirkpatrick, a Peter Cooper Village dad and an editor and filmmaker, was a college student in Boston when he and a group of friends were held up at gunpoint.

The perps were a pair of teenagers who demanded cash from Kirkpatrick and his friends as they had walked down the street. Seeing the gun in the older teen’s hand, which looked more like a toy or, as Kirkpatrick put it “a fake Hollywood gun,” the students initially ignored the muggers’ demand and kept walking. That’s when they heard the deafening blast of a warning shot being fired into the air. The gun, Kirkpatrick would later learn, was a semi-automatic assault pistol, “not your typical street gun.”

But, he added, “Part of the problem is that it looked like such a toy.”

No one in the group was hit, but at that point, they stopped in their tracks and were subsequently robbed.

The teens were later caught, however. The younger one, who was 15, did some time in a juvenile detention center and was later transferred to an adult jail, while his partner, who was 17 and had a previous gun conviction, was tried as an adult and sentenced to eight years.

“It was really sad. They were just two young kids,” said Kirkpatrick, who, two decades later, plans on making a short film about the lax gun laws in many areas of the country as well as irresponsible gun use.

The film, titled “Squeeze,” isn’t a documentary but rather a fictional story on the consequences of the aforementioned issues. It focuses on how a gun that’s owned by a convicted felon and father winds up in the hands of all the different members of his family.

The writer of the screenplay, Don Dillon, is a Vietnam veteran, who in a statement on the film’s website, said he hopes audiences will respond to the need for “sane gun safety laws.” He added, how in the line of duty, he’d experienced firsthand “the horror that firearms can cause.”

However, Kirkpatrick insisted that “Squeeze” isn’t a call for banning guns or an attempt to highlight any particular gun related legislation.

“As filmmakers, we want to tell an engaging story that we hope will reignite the conversation,” he said. “It was written really as a response to the constant stream of stories (on gun violence), especially the accidental shootings.”

While in New York City, the gun laws are actually pretty tough, he noted how in other areas, pretty much anyone with a driver’s license can purchase a gun off a table at a gun show and another problem is the behavior of the some owners who leave their weapons in unsecured places.

“There are many instances where a kid finds a loaded gun in a handbag, a glove compartment, in a dresser drawer,” said Kirkpatrick, “all the places you shouldn’t be leaving a loaded weapon.”

Along with his experience as the victim of a gun-related crime, Kirkpatrick said his own interest in the issue was rekindled once he became a father of twin daughters, who are now pre-school age.

Kirkpatrick, who’s directing, said he expects “Squeeze” will be about 15 minutes. Currently, he and Dillon are working on raising the funds to make it happen, via a Kickstarter page with a goal of $12,000. As of Wednesday, the page had it exceeded its goal, with over $13,100 pledged.

Kirkpatrick is an 18-year veteran of the film industry, the first eight years having been spent in Los Angeles as an assistant editor on various films and then later as an editor. He’s lived in Peter Cooper Village for the past 10 years. More high profile projects he’s worked on include the films “Lost in Translation” (2003), “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” (1999), “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete” (2013) and the TV movie, “Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band” (2001).

Kirkpatrick branched into directing with a short firm called “Regular” that made the festival circuit and even had a screening at the now-closed Oval Film center in Stuyvesant Town. “Regular” was a comedy about being a regular customer at Planet Rose, a karaoke bar on Avenue A near Stuy Town.

“I used to be a regular there myself, pre-children,” he noted.

Kirkpatrick was also a regular presence at Oval Film, where, for over a year he hosted a monthly film event.

With “Squeeze,” Kirkpatrick said he hopes to bring the film to festivals around the country, focusing on Middle America and any area where gun owners make up a significant part of the population.

“We want to have the conversation in places where people are proud gun owners,” he said. “No one is pro-gun violence.”

For more information, visit the website.

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