A drug dealer attempts to seize control of a small neighborhood by shooting a young girl's closest friend. As Faye tries to make sense of what happened, the thug and his entourage arrive at her doorstep and threaten Gran, the community's matriarch. The drug lord won't hesitate to kill a stubborn old woman or a frightened child if that's what it takes to maintain his control, yet Faye and Gran are all that stand between him and their six-block world. "Six Blocks Wide" takes on the difficult choices left when the enemy holds all the cards.and the guns. The neighborhood is small, but it is where Faye was born and has lived all her life and where Gran has rocked in peace on her front porch and kept the raveled edges of the world from fraying. The only weapons left to Faye and Gran are wisdom, courage, and love.
Written by T. K. Thorne, a writer in Birmingham, Alabama whose previous publications include short stories, essays and poetry in "Aoife's Kiss," "Synergy," "Alabama Anthology," and the "Birmingham Arts Journal." Her work has won awards at the Alabama Writer's Conclave, Magic City Writer's Contest, Del-Rey's Online Writer's Contest, the Sidewalk Film Festival's SideWrite Contest, "On the Premises" mini-story contest, the Eugene Walters Writers Festival William March Short Story Competition, and the Eugene Walters Writers Festival Termite Hall Screenplay competition. She has just finished a science fiction novel, Snow Dancers of Veld. Shape Films is very enthusiastic in promoting Birmingham's support for independent filmmaking. We believe that this film will not only promote a powerful message for the community but also be beneficial in projecting an image of Birmingham as a city that embraces new, ever changing possibilities for art.
Suspicious eyes tracked us as we drove through the tightly clustered apartment complex on the Northside of Birmingham, Alabama. Without a word spoken, we heard the question in those eyes: Outsiders, what are you doing here? The answer lay there as well: Nothing good for us.
Narrow concrete walks sectioned the yards where bits of glass and trash wove inseparably into the grass and dirt. Yellow vinyl siding identified every unit and bleached them all into a blur of sameness. One apartment, however, seemed different. Beneath an ancient tree, chairs and a swing-bench sat on the tiny yard that had seen the trod of so many feet, it was bare of any grass. A pot of flowers perched atop a protruding window air conditioning unit. It was home to Miss Kitty. Miss Kitty was the neighborhood's Central Station. Her fingers rested on the twines of gossip that crisscrossed the community like the tangled back of an embroidery. Miss Kitty listened to what we wanted to do and her eyes lit, especially when we identified her yard as the perfect spot.
We knocked on doors and talked to the apartment residents, explaining what we wanted to do and inviting them to be part of it. I expected some rejection, even hostility, but heads nodded. Some smiles even emerged, but with tentative energy, as if the mouths had learned that reality too readily crushed enthusiasm and hope.
In that apartment complex, over a beautiful November weekend, ShapeFilms shot an independent short film from a script I penned. In SIX BLOCKS WIDE, Gran, a spunky old woman with a mouthful of chewing tobacco rocks on her tiny porch in a poor neighborhood and demonstrates what it means to be rich in spirit. Tonea Stewart, of "A Time to Kill," "In the Heat of the Night," and "The Rosa Parks Story," slipped into Gran's skin as if she'd been born there. Ms. Stewart's sister confided that their own grandmother had provided a perfect role model for the character. Rising film star, Lauren McClain (Daddy's Little Girls), played Faye, the young girl raised by Gran. Downtown's CAP, Thomas Pams, became Thomas, the simple, gentle man with strength no one ever expected.
In the film, Gran and Faye stand up to a drug dealer who holds the neighborhood in a grip of fear. The old woman and young girl know that even when the cost is high, there is a time to draw the line. As Gran says, "The world may only be six blocks wide, but it's our world."
As the crew and cast assembled in predawn light, I marveled at how all these people had come together, almost all of them without promise of a penny, to make this story come to life. Even the police officers who guarded us, were there out of a partnership with Weed & Seed, a program that assists targeted neighborhoods become stronger and healthier.
What was it like to see characters and a story created from the soup of my mind actually take place in front of me? Even a writer is sometimes lost for words. The best I can manage is that magic happened when Tonea Stewart sat in that rocking chair and became Gran. Even in the swirl of people, cameras, lighting filters, sound equipment, interruptions from airplanes and trains, barking dogs, and constant retakes, the story unfolded, piece by piece, captured forever on film.
Little by little people ventured from their apartments to watch, nervous at first, wary perhaps of the police officers. But when it came time for their part, when the community in the story came out and stood up, they came out and stepped forward. They became part of the story.
By the next day, children were sitting in our laps and begging to take pictures with the stars. Miss Kitty had requested to keep the rocking chair in her house overnight. People asked when the film would come out and were excited when we promised they would get to see it first. After award-winning Birmingham director, Yuri Shapochka, finishes his own magic putting it all together, we plan a special showing for them. We hope it will stimulate discussion, and from that will emerge a sense of community and a new understanding that they can determine their own fate. The Weed & Seed Program will be there to help.
After that, we hope we can find other ways to spread the story's message, and that Sidewalk Film Festival and many other festivals across the country and possibly, the world, will be in the stars. Whatever happens, we have been part of something special and definitely ... magic. For more information, more photos, and the story of Six Blocks Wide, vist www.TKThorne.com