Jon Brick talks about Uncommon Allies, his urgent new documentary on East Side violence

LUCAS WETZEL

 MAY 9, 2017 1 PM

Rosilyn Temple is part of a club she never asked to be in.

After her 26-year-old son, Antonio “Pee Wee” Thompson, was fatally shot, in 2011, she decided to take a stand against the violence that had caused so much pain for her and others in her community.

She also realized she wasn’t alone — that many other mothers in Kansas City had lost sons to gun violence and would also do anything to prevent others from suffering that heartbreak. 

In 2013, Temple founded the Kansas City chapter of Mothers in Charge, a group of grieving mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters that serves as a liaison between the community and law enforcement by responding to homicide scenes, comforting families, holding vigils and advocating for violence prevention. In 2015, Mothers in Charge received the FBI Kansas City division’s Director’s Community Leadership Award, and The Kansas City Star’s editorial board named her Citizen of the Year.

But while the efforts of KC Mothers in Charge are well known in Temple’s East Kansas City neighborhood, they remain mostly unseen by the rest of the metro. Jon Brick — a filmmaker and video producer who moved back to Kansas City several years ago — is working to change that.

Brick was first introduced to Temple when asked to help produce a 5-minute video to help Mothers in Charge gain nonprofit status. Two and a half years later, he’s on the verge of completing a feature-length documentary.

During his initial 45-minute visit with Temple, Brick says, he found himself speechless. “The more time I spent with her, the more I realized how important her role is,” he says. “Very few people have that kind of credibility in the community with that level of trust from the police.” That relationship provides the film with its title, Uncommon Allies.

Temple is a dynamic presence in the film, embracing families, joking with small children, laughing with police officers. Privately, we see her shedding tears when recalling the trauma of her son’s murder, which remains unsolved. 

Because Mothers in Charge works so closely with the Kansas City Police Department, Brick began accompanying officers and sergeants on ride-alongs, walking rounds and even a pair of high-speed chases. What emerges in the rough cut of his film is a much more nuanced view of law enforcement than what you’ve seen on, say, Cops.

“The police are just a microcosm of society,” Brick says. “I don’t want to make it sound like I’m goo-goo over the police, but the police in Kansas City are a very diverse group, and I think they’re making a unique effort to brand themselves.” 

A key to their success, Brick adds, is an effort to be “more human” — handing out baseball cards and teddy bears to kids, staging a flash-mob style electric-slide dance at the Westport St. Patrick’s Day parade, or throwing their support behind citizens like Temple.

One of the most charming sequences in the film depicts an officer walking around Concourse Park, in the city’s Historic Northeast, talking to teenagers, kids and parents, pretending to be terrified of going down a big slide, cracking jokes that even he knows are terrible. It’s a winning, self-effacing performance — unscripted, Brick insists — that could have been lifted from a sketch on late-night TV. 

That fuzzy feeling is fleeting, though. In another scene, the same officer appears alongside stunned family members gathered at a homicide scene — the third that day. Brick was there, too, and the experience is one he’ll never forget. 

“That changed my life,” he says. “I couldn’t sleep for days. Hearing that first scream from the family members as they find out what happened ... that was the most emotional experience of my life.” 

Temple was at all three homicide scenes that day, hugging family members, talking with officers, asking young men on the scene when enough would finally be enough. The situation reinforced to Brick how critical her role is. 

“I asked her how she does it, and she said she was just running on adrenaline at that point,” he says. “She’s such a beacon of strength and hope for these families. There’s no one else like her.” 

As a self-described “white boy from Johnson County” who now lives in Brookside, Brick says he’s troubled not just by the violence on Kansas City’s East Side, but by how oblivious people are to it elsewhere in the city. “I’d wake up and expect to read in the paper about what I’d seen the day before, but none of it was in the paper,” he says. “If the shooting doesn’t involve celebrities, young children or a police officer, media outlets often choose not to cover it.” 

Brick is quick to admit that his film does not offer solutions. And while it avoids making any overtly political statements, Uncommon Allies features dozens of police figures, politicians, media experts and ordinary citizens discussing topics such as education, guns, law enforcement, blight and media bias — chronicling Temple’s own experiences and past hardships as a way to explore a wide range of issues. “No one has an answer to fix this,” he says. “What the film does do is make the questions feel more urgent.” 

Once completed, Brick hopes to license Uncommon Allies to high schools and universities as a way to spark discussion. The rough cut has already been shown at an event hosted by ArtsKC, which awarded Brick a grant in 2016, and at a criminology seminar at Central Missouri State University in April.

Documentary directors don’t have an easy time finding money, but Uncommon Allies recently gained fiscal sponsorship from the International Documentary Association, which allows organizations and individuals to make tax-deductible contributions to the film. (Details and donation information are at documentary.org/film/uncommon-allies.)

 

In spite of the film’s often dispiriting subject matter, Brick says Temple’s story is one that can inspire hope and positive action. “If someone like her, who grew up with next to nothing, can make such a difference, imagine what someone from a more privileged background can do,” he says. “It only takes one person to change the herd mentality.” 

ABC News profiles “Mother In Charge”

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —The story of a Kansas City mother who is putting aside her personal tragedy to help people in pain could soon be coming to the big screen.

Filmmaker Jon Brick is working on a documentary of Rosilyn Temple, founder of the Kansas City group Mothers in Charge.

“I’m over halfway done. Maybe three-quarters,” Brick said. “I am editing while shooting.”

The documentary will chronicle the epidemic of gun violence and murder in Kansas City through the eyes of Temple, whose son was killed in 2011. Temple decided to focus her attention to helping other families who are going through similar heartbreak.

Temple travels to every homicide scene in Kansas City to counsel grief-stricken families. She also works side-by-side with victims and city leaders, taking a stand against violence.

“We’re going to get to know her better in the film and see different sides of her,” said Brick.

Temple said sitting with filmmakers has been therapy, finally allowing her to grieve her son.

“This is the best thing for me, where I can be able to let go and release some of this pain and frustration and anger that I was holding onto,” she said.

In Temple, Brick said he sees a film and a woman that just may change a city.

“There’s not a day I’m not inspired by what she’s doing and working on this film,” he said.

He said he hopes to complete the film by the end of the year. He needs to raise about $35,000 to finish production and has launched a Kickstarter campaign.

http://www.kmbc.com/news/filmmaker-works-to-bring-story-of-kc-anticrime-advocate-to-big-screen/38028704

 

New-fashioned Kansas City video features old-fashioned butcher shop. -Kansas City Business Journal Article- 

 

Today, I want to write about a new-fashioned Kansas City business that introduced me to an old-fashioned Kansas City business.

Jon Brick, a very bright, innovative graduate of Shawnee Mission East and the University of Wisconsin, began his business career on the West Coast with Yahoo! He recently came home and founded Jack Elvis Productions, a company that monetizes videos. Specifically, his company showcases cities’ attractions to get local residents to patronize them and to lure visitors from outside the cities. To date, Jon has focused on Kansas City, Minneapolis and Madison, Wis. He has partnered with the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association. Attractions featured have included Extra Virgin, Justus Drugstore, The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, Manifesto, Quixotic, The Hearts of Darkness and Local Pig. His goal, which I find so worthy, is “to promote the cultural renaissance in Kansas City and to showcase Kansas City as a city on the rise.” To accomplish this, he has created compelling travel-video content. He definitely has connected people to places that they would not find on their own.

A prime example for me was learning about Local Pig on one of Jon’s videos.  Local Pig, at 2618 Guinotte Ave. in the East Bottoms, is as old school as Jack Elvis Productions is new school. It is an old-fashioned butcher shop, called a charcuterie by its principal owner, Alex Pope.  After three trips there to buy amazing sausages, pork chops, bacon and hamburgers, I set up a meeting with Alex to discover what charcuterie means. He explained it is a French term for the craft of salting meat.

Alex is an Eau Claire, Wis., native who, like Jon, graduated from Wisconsin. He then obtained a degree at New York’s Institute of Culinary Education. He came to Kansas City for a job in the kitchen of The American Restaurant. He founded Local Pig in March after a stint as chef at R Bar.

All of Local Pig’s meat is locally produced at carefully selected farms. His Campo Lindo Farms chickens come from Lathrop, Mo. His pork is from Arcadia Farm in Stockton, Mo., and Marker Farms in Richmond. His beef is from Lewis Farm in Helena, Mo.  Local Pig makes more than 15 types of sausages, using basil, rosemary and chilis grown in the store’s backyard.  Alex chose the “great old building” that once housed a bar, hotel and probably a brothel because of the space for the garden and because he thought “it was a better fit for his business model than space in some slick shopping mall.”

He summed up Local Pig’s rationale for being by saying, “I want 25 percent of the people in Kansas City to eat local meat, not meat produced by the four giant beef, chicken and pork producers.”  His business has prospered because folks like me tell friends about Local Pig’s unique qualities.

Jon Brick’s new concept and Alex Pope’s old concept are equally appealing 

 

Michael Braude has been a longtime columnist for the Kansas City Business Journal

 


"Here's what to expect while working with Jon: A mature and focused creative path that's full of innovative story-telling and a playfulness that keeps work from feeling like work. There's not one part of "script to screen" that Jon isn't prepared for, and it's that kind of practical experience that allows his projects and ideas to expand into areas you never even thought of. But that's the thing...he HAS thought of it and he knows exactly what needs to be done to get that tale told. I'll always look forward to the next thing he can bring my way..."                

Paul Neumann is the Marketing Production Manager at CTechnologies/servicevirtualization.com  Paul worked with Jon at Jack Elvis Productions November 15, 2012 and Yahoo from 2005 to 2008.

"I have know Jon for a long time, and he has always been a very forward thinker. Jon likes to look for a niche, no matter the industry, and works diligently to create a marketplace for said niche. If you are looking for a detail oriented, passionate, forward thinking, Director/Producer, for your next video project, Jon is the first guy I would recommend calling. The end result will always be a clean, professional, well edited, project, that will make you want to continue to use that medium for all of your marketing needs."

Michael Vitale is the Business Development/ Partner at Fasone & Partners.  November 26, 2012, Michael was Jon's client.

"Jon is incredible at all facets of production. He knows how to work a camera, knows how to edit and is very good at adding little items (sound, music, graphics) to make what you are watching an impressive visual experience. With his highly creative mind coupled with his technical expertise, Jon's work is the real deal."

Ryan Malone is the President at Youngstown Glove Co.  November of 2012, Ryan was with another company when working with Jon at Jack Elvis Productions.

"Jon is great to work with... Dedicated and hard working, always with an eye on the prize."

Nick Cohen is the Story Editor at Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory - Season 3.  In August of 2012, Nick worked with Jon at Jack Elvis Productions.

"I've enjoyed working with Jon on several projects at the Local Pig and at R Bar. He always brings an excellent energy to his projects and casts his subjects in the way they want to be seen."

Alex Pope is the Butcher/Co-Owner at Local Pig.  In July of 2012, Alex was with another company when working with Jon at Jack Elvis Productions.

"Jon is a great addition to any creative assignment...i highly recommend him. HIGHLY."  

Michael Eastman is a Photographer.  In May of 2012, Michael was Jon's client.

 

"I had the pleasure of working with Jon on several occasions during my time at Yahoo!.   In a production environment that was busy and often unpredictable, Jon was the calming force on the team. His great attitude and professionalism were contagious. He is one of the rare producers that understanding not only what it takes to get a project off the ground creatively, but is also tech-savvy enough to know how to get the best results in a cost effective and labor efficient manor."

James S. Sullivan is a Freelance Director of Photography.  In 2007, James S. worked with Jon at Yahoo.

"Jon Brick came to our project adventures.yahoo.com after it had started, but he quickly added great value to the team and our results. As both a Yahoo-savvy and media-savvy employee, he brought focus and effective project management skills to the video side of our content delivery, and when he joined the field team he produced professional results at once. I'd recommend Jon for any online media project going forward."

Christian Kallen is a Web Producer.  Christian worked directly with Jon at Yahoo from 2005 to 2007.

"Jon brought both creativity and technical expertise to his role of Sr. Producer. His job required producing webcasts under the pressure of tight deadlines in both a studio environment and at international locations. His sense of humor and relaxed, but focused, personality made him enjoyable to work with. I highly recommend Jon as a producer and would have no hesitation working with him again in the future."

Mike Vogel is a Writer and Director at Transmedia.  Mike worked with Jon from 2002 to 2004 at Oracle.

 

"Jon was a great talent to partner with at Organic. I found him to be energetic, creative and excellent at partnering through design problems. We worked on many large scale projects together at Organic and Jon was always a team member that provided contributions that lead to project successes. It was always a pleasure to have him on the team. I have maintained contact with Jon since Organic and I continue to find him to be enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and a creative force. I recommend Jon without hesitation."

Greg Bertoldo is a UI Design / User Experience Professional.  Greg worked directly with Jon at Organic from 2000 to 2002.