By Darlene Donloe
LOS ANGELES — When Director Nikki Hevesy heard the true story about a selfless act one man did for a local kid, it stayed with her for a couple of days.
She thought the story was amazing, but more importantly, she knew it would make a great short film.
“I wrote it in a couple of days,” said Hevesy, a New York native, who also lived in San Francisco before moving to Los Angeles and earning a master’s of fine arts degree in directing from USC. “The person I wrote the film about doesn’t know I made a movie about him.”
The movie is “A Year To Life,” a 10-minute short film that kicks off its film festival circuit in the United States with its Los Angeles premiere at the 27th annual Los Angeles Shorts International Film Festival on July 28 at the Regal Cinemas. The festival, the longest-running film festival in L.A., runs July 19-30.
The film is about a Black neighborhood influencer who makes a life-altering choice for the sake of a Black pre-teen boy on the anniversary of his mother’s death.
It shows how one moment can change a person’s life. It’s a unique story of one person’s selfless act to make sure that an underserved youth has a chance to rise and thrive. It pays homage to those street soldiers who unconditionally sacrifice themselves in order to give back to their communities and make a difference for the next generation.
The short film, inspired by true events, pays homage to those “street soldiers” in inner-city South L.A.
Hevesy, a white woman, said the film embodies the spirit of street soldiers who sacrifice themselves to give back to their communities and make a difference in the lives of young people.
“This is a story about a man who is a hero in the Black community,” Hevesy said. “A role model. An extraordinary human being. I’m grateful that people allowed me to tell their stories. I wanted to be respectful and honor those who are due.”
An award-winning director, Hevesy wants to raise awareness about the juvenile incarceration rates, and how the schoolhouse to jailhouse pipeline disproportionately affects teens and young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds. She hopes the short film will shine a spotlight on the hard work that is being done in minority communities to make a lasting impact on the next generation.
Hevesy describes the film, produced by her company, Glass Productions, as “one story that represents a larger group of individuals who are trying to keep kids out of prison and change the narrative. They are making sacrifices to do that. This is unique with a new twist. It can raise awareness.”
Spending time in the inner city among the people who live there is nothing new for Hevesy, who, for many years, attended weekly meetings in South Los Angeles as a supporter and advocate of Southern California Ceasefire, a grassroots organization that has become an integral part of the community in its mission to reduce violence.
“I have become acquainted and gained respect for the amazing people on the front lines — many with criminal backgrounds, who have turned their lives around — and dedicated themselves to saving lives and rescuing at-risk kids in the inner city,” said Hevesy, who recently wrote a feature film called “Life Like That.” “Through prevention and intervention, these foot soldiers work to stop the shootings, keep kids out of the criminal justice system and break the school-to-prison pipeline.”
To ensure the movie was authentic, Hevesy involved people from the South L.A. and Watts communities where the actual story took place.
“We had consultants on the set in Watts,” said Hevesy, who has won awards that include multiple TELLY, Aurora, and CINE Golden Eagle Awards, and nabbed recognition for her work on “Joined Together,” an award-winning, one-hour special on interfaith marriages, which aired on PAX TV. “I had to make sure the right voices were there and being heard. We needed to shoot it in the community. We filmed it in Ted Watkins Memorial Park in Watts and Chucos Justice Center in South L.A.”
Hevesy said since she was tackling a Black experience, it was important to tell the story of a Black man, and a Black kid, in South L.A. and Watts where the actual story took place.
“I wanted the story to ring as being authentic,” she said. “This is a hero’s journey.”
The film features an ensemble cast, starring Lazarus Guidry (“Deadfall,” “Straight Outta Compton”), and introduces Noble B. Whitted, Tony Jordan and Nicholas Peters.
“A Year to Life” was written and produced by Hevesy and Jahmal Holland. Yabetz Cohen-Perez and Guidry served as co-executive producers, and Anise Fuller served as associate producer, respectively.
Hevesy began her career in theatre and was the founding artistic director of the City of Performing Arts company in San Francisco, and has directed more than 50 stage productions, including writing and directing two critically acclaimed musicals that premiered in San Francisco, as well as a small musical for the National Theatre of Uganda in Africa.
Next up for Hevesy is a true crime docu-series called “Inside Justice: Getting Out,” an inside look at the criminal justice system looking at one person’s experience.
“I’m trying to help someone who was wrongly incarcerated,” she said. “What I have found out about prison and the justice system, is mind-boggling.”
“A Year To Life” made its international world premiere at the Bardolino Film Festival in Italy.
It will be screened at 5:30 p.m. July 28 at the Regal Cinemas in LA Live, 1000 W. Olympic Blvd.
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at email@example.com.