Astoria cop-turned-director hopes film will help kids

By Nathan Duke

Cooper, who has been an officer at the 114th Precinct in Astoria for 16 years, spent the past three years writing, directing and editing “The Mission is Possible: Youth Awareness,” a feature-length documentary in which troublesome teens and their parents meet with four ex-cons in the hopes of educating the teenagers and keeping them out of trouble.Cooper, who was named Cop of the Year in 1996, made the $9,000 film with the help of her credit card, equipment donations from Best Buy and DuArt Film and Video and space donations by Kaufman Astoria Studios. She co-directed the film with Jason Scianno, who has worked as a coordinator on music videos.Cooper said she decided to make the film when she was brainstorming how to reach youths with a history of trouble.”I was thinking of what I could do to get these kids to think,” she said. “This is not 'Scared Straight' – it is more dialogue and talking.”In the film, which was shot at various points in 2002 and 2004, four ex-convicts are interviewed. Parents of at-risk teenagers then met with the ex-cons, who then meet with the teens. The film ends with follow-up interviews with the ex-cons and teenagers. Cooper said there is noticeable change at the end of the film in the teens' characters.Cooper said an 18-year-old who had already served two weeks at Rikers Island is the most noticeably changed.”He was selling drugs, messing with guns and had dropped out of school – he was the most likely to fail,” she said.By the film's end, the 18-year-old had received his GED and joined the National Guard Reserve, Cooper said.The 114th Precinct youth officer enlisted the help of popular musicians, actors and local politicians for interviews in the film. Included in “Mission” are appearances by Susan Sarandon, Sean Paul, Nina Sky, Wyclef Jean, Charlie Ward, Zoe Saldana, Patti LaBelle, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and the Rev. Mitchell Taylor.She hopes the film's star power helps get distribution. She said she would love to see the film aired on television or in theaters.”I'm reaching to get it into as many people's homes as possible,” she said. Though she enjoyed the experience of making a feature film, Cooper said the process proved to be especially challenging.”It wasn't easy,” she said. “My camera broke; I was tired 'cause I worked a day job and refused to sleep in order to do work on (the film); and the external drive on my computer with all the film clips on it crashed.”Despite the demands of working in the city's police force, Cooper said she would love to make another film one day.”Spike Lee and John Singleton, make room,” she said. “Kelli C. is coming.”A sneak preview of Cooper's film will screen at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, at IS 204's Hanac Astoria Beacon, located at 36-41 28th St.Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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