Local Filmmaker Looks Through the Lens for Gang Solutions

Work-in-progress film on local street violence will be screened for community Thursday

Published : Thursday, September 13, 2018 | 5:41 AM

Filmmaker and Pasadena resident Steven Sneed wants to be part of the solution.

As a young man, he was an eyewitness to violence. He saw a young man shot and killed. He became accustomed to the pain of losing family and friends to the justice system. It didn’t take too long for Sneed to realize as he grew up that there was a life on the streets that had nothing to do with gangs.

Fast forward to 2016, when Sneed became a district-wide intervention specialist for the Pasadena Unified School District, working directly with at-risk youth and doing what he could to point young people away from the gang life.

Then Sneed was laid off in 2017 due to budget cuts.

Steven Sneed

Still filled with the need for improving his neighborhood streets, Sneed joined Pasadena’s Violence Prevention Planning Committee. It was there he was inspired to take his knowledge and street smarts and create a film confronting the ongoing gang violence in Pasadena.

His work-in-progress film, “Pasadena: Exploring Solutions to Reduce Gang Violence” will be screened tonight before an already sold-out crowd at Laemmle’s Playhouse, 673 East Colorado Boulevard.

“The film is a community conversation I feel was well overdue and needed to be had,” Sneed told Pasadena Now on Wednesday.

Sneed continued, “We’re all coming together to hear different perspectives, and I feel like the people who are affected by this issue are never at the table to share their perspective. So, this film is bringing all sides together to capture that moment where we can all learn from each other, think differently, hear the other side and feel inspired to help out and to do more.

Expounding on the theme, Sneed said, “This is a community discussion and people are offering up solutions and people who have been greatly impacted, the mothers who have lost their children, and people who have been greatly impacted are sharing and they’re offering us solutions that may be something that will cause change.

“Pasadena…” features a number of political, religious and community leaders discussing their own personal solutions and experiences, with an eye towards developing tangible remedies to an age-old problem. Featured on-camera locals include Councilmember Tyron Hampton, housing activist Jill Shook, and former NAACP Pasadena Branch President Gary Moody, as well as a number of former local gang members.

“A common theme that always arises in this topic,” explained Sneed, “is just having support and that is from parenting, but one of the largest things is mentorship. A lot of the brothers who got themselves involved in gangs mentioned early on that it was from a lack of supervision.”

Conversely, said the filmmaker, “Then we have the other side of that, where this family is two or three generations into this thing, so they’re raised in it and not even realizing that this is a gang,. They don’t realize they’re a part of the gang. It’s like they grew up in the culture, it’s locked into their family, so they grew up with that as a normal thing. To them, it’s not viewed as part of a gang. This is family.”

But for Sneed, the film is a call to action, an acknowledgement that one person could never solve something as intransigent as gang violence.

“I want to see some collaborations,” he said, determinedly.

“I think when people watch the film and we finally get to the final segment of solutions some people are going to say, ‘Man, I might want to collaborate with them, because I think if I take what I’m doing and collaborating with what they’re doing, maybe we can come up with something.’” Sneed said. “Who knows, it could be a program, it could be arts, it could be sports, it could be anything, but it may be something new and innovative that might contribute to just giving kids other opportunities.”

“And I don’t know how that’s going to play out,” said Sneed. “I just know I wanted to make sure that we can all put our ears and eyes on some new way of thinking. As he noted, “In the 90′s, gang violence was very present in your face visually. I think that now it’s not necessarily in your face, but it’s still present, you know what I mean?”

Pasadena Interim Police Chief John Perez said he knows exactly what he means, and has spoken out in support of the film, saying earlier this week, “We collectively support anyone that’s trying to do good in the community to increase the quality of life for the citizens, reduce the acts of violence on the street and we want to collaborate to further those efforts any way we can.

While not having yet viewed the film, Perez noted, “It looks like it brings up some issues, and when issues are brought to the table, we need to address them collectively, and sometimes it seems like some people will try to do things by themselves, but I’ve found in my career that if different entities are trying to tackle the same problem, we have better outcomes.”