When he stayed at Randy Sams' Outreach Shelter in Texarkana, Texas, Jamar Bruce may not have thought his life story would inspire a successful short movie, one he wrote himself, but it's done just that.
Bruce, a Texarkana native who grew up on the Arkansas side of town, saw firsthand the troubles domestic violence brings to a home. Having witnessed his mother endure its trauma, he found an out by briefly living at a homeless shelter here, but the seeds of a more successful future — fueled by his perseverance — were being sown.
Eventually, this thoughtful youth made his way to the Dallas area, where Bruce now lives and studied at the Kim Dawson Studio and Conservatory College of Film and Dramatic Arts, learning moviemaking skills like cinematography and editing. He then turned his life's experience into a screenplay, the filmed short now getting notice by at least two film festivals.
In the film, the main character Michael is in a situation similar to what Bruce says he found himself in. In the movie, Michael confronts the abuser and also sets out to find his biological dad.
Called "No Escape," the 17-minute film directed by LaMarcus Tinker (acting roles in "Friday Night Lights," "Cougar Town" and "Glee") explores the teenager's difficult life at home with his mother, whose husband, Michael's stepfather, is an abusive alcoholic. Bruce also co-produced the film.
The movie dramatizes what may happen if someone doesn't leave the relationship and the repercussions felt by family. It blends what Bruce saw in his life and what he's seen others experience.
He started studying film in Dallas about a decade ago, mentored by people in the industry like a second director on the Keanu Reeves movie "The Devil's Advocate," he says.
"The professors had actually been in the industry and hands-on with the industry, so we got to learn a lot through the motion picture production program through them," Bruce said.
Fast forward a couple years and he participated in a march against domestic violence in the Dallas area because the numbers were so high. The intent was to get men to start talking about the issue.
"From there I decided that I wanted to do a film about domestic violence because it's something that needs to be talked about, it's something that goes on every day, and it's something that's beginning to get out of hand," Bruce said.
He then started work on the screenplay for this short, but he's also worked on a feature film with an aim to start production work on that next year.
"No Escape" was shot a year ago in October and it was just released this year. "So far I have been selected into two film festivals," he said. They include the First-Time Filmmaker Sessions, plus the S.E. Manly Short Film Film Showcase at the Black Hollywood Education & Resource Center in Los Angeles.
He's working on getting involved in more film festivals with the short, hoping to get a buzz and inspire people to get out of bad situations in their life.
"We're excited about what it's doing so far, and we're definitely looking forward to getting a feature film next year, which we plan on either doing in Atlanta or in the Houston, Texas, area," Bruce said. His production company is JB Motion Pictures and he plans to work with the same people for the next project.
He says he met Tinker in the Houston area via a production company.
"We connected then. He's a great person to work with, a very great director to work with. He's all about quality, all about professionalism, so I really enjoyed working with him," Bruce said.
As a youngster born and raised in Texarkana, he admits, he wasn't the type of kid to go venture outdoors. Instead, he had more bookish concerns.
"I did a lot of writing when I was young. I wasn't the ordinary kid that would actually go outside and play a lot. I watched a lot of news I was seeing a lot of things that the world was going through," Bruce said.
They were things ranging from homelessness to terrorist attacks, events that damaged people.
Sitting in his room, he'd jot down in his journal what he'd do to make the world a better place. He imagined he'd write stage plays and movies.
While here in Texarkana, he left home because things were so bad, and he stayed in a homeless shelter for a little while. He slept in his car, too. However, he was determined to not let it get him down and he latched on to work via the AmeriCorps program, working with senior citizens through the R.S.V.P. program at city hall. It was something he always wanted to do.
"I just never let it deter me and just continued to want to help people because I knew that something good was going to come one day regardless of what I was going through," Bruce said.
Ultimately, he was able to move to the Dallas area, where he's now made a short film that reflects his commitment to helping others.
(On the Net: Movienoescape.com.)