BRIDGEPORT – For 18-year old Housatonic Community College student Leandra Brooks of Bridgeport, her lead role in the short film The 5 K Motion is both the culmination of a childhood dream and the beginning of what she hopes will be a professional acting career.
The film, which premiered November 11 at Yale University’s Sprague Hall, addresses the role young women play in gun violence, and how they should break the cycle. In the production, Brooks plays the part of Kim, a single teenage mother, pregnant with her second child, who attempts to cover up a murder committed by her drug-dealing boyfriend. Her boyfriend was using her car at the time.
“I tried to hide the gun and the cocaine he had in my parents’ house,” said Brooks, who was among several hundred people from Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford who auditioned for a part in the film. “I had been brainwashed: I thought if he got caught, he’d get life. But, if I got caught, I would get five years.”
Kim gets caught by her sister, who tried to talk her out of it. But Kim, obviously under her boyfriend’s influence, tells her sister that she doesn’t love her but her boyfriend does. She leaves the house – to encounter the police, who are looking at her car.
She panics – and runs. She’s caught. She stands trial and is sentenced to 40 years in jail, the term he would have gotten had he been tried and convicted of the crime.
Brooks, a graduate of the Bridgeport-based Creative Youth Productions theatrical program, was raised in Bridgeport, but she wasn’t a child of the streets. Nonetheless, the lesson of the film wasn’t lost on her.
“I could get 40 years in prison for sticking up for a guy that was no good for me,” she said. “This sends a positive message to young girls out there. There are a lot of females who hide stuff for the guys. They don’t know how serious the consequences are.”
Most poignant for her was the visit to the theater of 10 women convicts who could attest to the seriousness of the problem the film is designed to address. “They told the audience that what happened to Kim happened to them,” Brooks said.
What’s impressive about the performance, said Denise S. Bukovan, HCC dean of Community Outreach and executive board member of Creative Youth Productions, is that a group of young people from Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven came together to fight gun violence. The film, she said, will be shown in schools regionally and perhaps nationally to help combat this problem.
“Even as a child, I always enjoyed performing in front of my parents,” said Brooks, who began acting five years ago at the age of 13. “I would pretend to be Elvis Presley … singing ‘You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog’.”
Then, at the urging of a friend, she linked up with Creative Youth Productions director Donna Sue de Guzman who had pursued an acting, directing, and producing career in Manhattan before coming to the Bridgeport area. Working with de Guzman, who has also taught playwriting at HCC, Brooks participated in some 20 productions, stage and film, both as an actress and director.
While she was acting, she became involved in music as well. She’s written two songs under the name Coolie Brooks, and wrote, scored and performed the main song in the film. That led to her writing a second song, with an eye to writing more. “Anything I find interesting, I will continue,” she said.
Her goal is to move on to a performing arts career. When asked if she would be interested in theater or film, she answers “Yes.” “I enjoy both of them,” she added with a chuckle. “To me it doesn’t matter which one I do, as long as I get a chance to perform.”
Where would she like to go from here? Ultimately, New York. ”I’d like to get a scholarship to a four-year college or university in New York to improve my skills,” she said. “I want to see how I will do in the New York limelight!!!”
De Guzman, for one, sees this as a real possibility. “She’s very talented,” de Guzman said, “She’s at the stage now where can she do anything she wants to. Tomorrow, she could walk into an audition at HBO, Disney, Nickelodeon or any other company that produces youth programs and win a role. She’s top notch.”
The film was a collaborative effort of the U.S. Attorney’s office, the state Attorney General’s office, and local court judges, school officials, police and community organizations.