Private Project

American Life

17-year-old Michael uses boxing for moments of escape
from his violent Chicago community. But, when a gang
won’t stop using his brother Tray 14, he leaves his gloves
behind and does what he feels he must to protect his family.

  • Emily Harmon
  • Emily Harmon
  • Calisto Lemashon Ololngojine
  • Calisto Lemashon Ololngojine
  • Leslie Lawrence
    Key Cast
  • Jabari McCoy
    Key Cast
  • Pierre Washington
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Short, Student
  • Genres:
    Drama, Thriller
  • Runtime:
    9 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    November 9, 2018
  • Production Budget:
    15,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Boston Film Festival
    United States
    September 21, 2019
    World Premiere
    Won Best Short Film
Director Biography - Emily Harmon

Emily Harmon is a filmmaker dedicated to depicting powerful human stories that explore issues we must address for a better world. Her goal in highlighting these stories is to lift up voices that are often deemed insignificant, thus silenced. She has worked with several non-profits in their efforts to empower communities to fight injustice, locally and globally.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

The City of Chicago remains one of the most segregated and
economically unbalanced cities in the US. A result of this is gang and gun violence which disproportionately impacts youth coming from the city’s Western and Southern neighborhoods, mainly Black/African & Brown/Latin American Children. American Life doesn’t tell an unheard of story, but it is one many choose to ignore. It’s not an easy story to digest or tell. I’m a white woman from Des Moines, Iowa. This story is far from my own experience so figuring out how to tell it in an authentic way took a long, long time. Research, research, research, interviews with folks involved with Chicago gangs, and a fantastic story consult named Julian Walker made conceptualization possible. This was the fourth short film I’ve written and directed and by far the most intensive. We had to work with a tight budget and manage multiple locations, stunt choreography, and the 10-hour day mandated for working with child actors. But we did it! Our cast and crew were all amazing and pulled through some intense challenges, like getting stormed out of our last day of production. Because of Chicago’s stormy skies, we had to wait a month to complete principal photography. It
was difficult but worth it. I truly believe this is a story that can
inspire conversation. No child should have to choose violence in order to try and feel safe and that is the world for many right now. We all have power to change that, but first, we have to talk about it. Then, we have to demand policy change.