Friday, August 12, 2011

"From Bars to the Stars"

That's the goal of former Michigan prisoner DeWayne Wilkerson, and this enjoyable article describes his efforts to become a filmmaker.

Wilkerson was one of many state prisoners who benefited from FAMM's reform efforts in Michigan, where we convinced the state legislature to give drug offenders parole eligibility (read about our Michigan reforms here).  While in prison, he began writing screenplays, and he is now turning one of them into a movie:

In 1998, Wilkerson was sentenced, under Michigan's harsh mandatory minimums, to 15-to-120 years for selling less than $400 of crack cocaine to a police informant. He got an added 4 1/2 years for attempting to escape after leaving the courthouse.
"I snapped and bolted down the stairs," he told me. Handcuffed and wearing belly chains, Wilkerson ran about 200 yards before a deputy sheriff tackled him. Fortunately, the Legislature changed the state's mandatory minimum drug laws five years later, making Wilkerson eligible for parole in 2009. ...
Wilkerson, who's on parole until November, hopes to release [his film] "The Greatest Gift" this fall -- and then make more films. He's working on a red carpet premiere in Detroit.
Last Saturday, I watched Wilkerson and his crew work in the basement of the Arthur Lesow Community Center in a hard-knock section of Monroe. Wearing a black T-shirt that reads "I'm the Impossible," Wilkerson called for quiet and the cameras started to roll. Even in the stillness, a basketball thumped on the court above.
Handcuffed actor Tommy Ealy, playing a death row inmate, wore the prison number Wilkerson wore for more than 11 years: 206658.
No matter where Wilkerson's dreams take him, it's a number he'll never forget.
We love these stories.  These stories are why we do what we do.  Happy weekend.