Making an Impact

Aaron Stark, left, and Jonny Santana during a meeting in New York.

When Jonny Santana heard about the Parkland shooting, he was overwhelmed with emotion. His politically minded friends who, like him, had just graduated from Otay Ranch High School, were joining rallies and pushing for the government to do something about gun control.

Santana took a different route. He made a film.

“I’m a filmmaker,” Santana says. “I thought, ‘What could I do to help the issue?’ I started looking for stories and I came across this TedxBoulder Talk, ‘I Was Almost a School Shooter’ by Aaron Stark.”

Stark’s story—viewed more than 9.6 million times—is troubling. Overweight and cutting, Stark was bullied by his drug-addicted parents and his classmates at the various schools he attended to escape the darkness. At age 16, he called social services to get help, but his mother made officials believe he made up the stories. She told him next time he should do a better job and volunteered to buy him razor blades.

“He was a kid bullied by his parents and told him to kill himself,” Santana says. “He was overweight and grew up with a world full of hate. His parents raised a monster. He wasn’t thinking properly.”

That is until a friend asked him if he wanted to join him for a meal and movie. That eased Stark’s rage and need to act out. Stark is now a married father of four.

Stark, who has two other feature films under his belt, watched the TedxBoulder Talk at work and cried.

“I was like, ‘This is intense,’” Santana recalls. “I did more research and realized what a real brotherhood was. With Aaron Stark and his advisement, I made the film.”

With the help of 150 San Diego artists, actors and businesses, the 21-year-old Santana created “Just Another Tuesday,” a film loosely based on Stark. The film will debut for free to the public on Friday, November 22, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.

There are two screenings of the film—6:10 p.m. and 8:10 p.m. and both feature Q&As with Stark and Santana.

The film, Santana says, is endorsed by national suicide and gun violence organizations like Brady Buzz, March for Our Lives and Moms Demand.

“I spent all of my money on it--$30,000,” Santana says. “I worked for a start-up movie studio. I’d work 9 to 7 for them, go home and work on the film until 2 a.m. On Friday nights, I drove to San Diego, and then Monday I drove back to L.A. I did that for eight months.

“It was an intense process.”

Santana has been making movies for more than a decade, inspired at age 4 after he saw his first film. In elementary school, he began creating short films and quickly learned how to write and format a screenplay.

At 17 years old, Santana premiered his first film, “Fruit Juice,” and followed that with “The Empty Iris.” His goals are to inspire and change humanity for the better; to help support the San Diego film industry; to fund a nonprofit that teaches youth about goal setting; and live his life “at peace, knowing I did my best and worked my hardest in every area that I could.”

For “Just Another Tuesday,” he hopes it’ll find viral success like “Kony 2012,” a 2012 American short documentary film produced by Invisible Children Inc. The film’s purpose was to promote the charity’s “Stop Kony” movement to make Ugandan cult and militia leader, indicted war criminal and the fugitive Joseph Kony globally known to have him arrested by the end of 2012. As of November 17, it has had more than 102 million views.

“I want to partner with nonprofits and have celebrity endorsements,” Santana says, “I want to generate some buzz with the premiere. Next year, we’re going to drop it online and hope for a massive viewership count.

“Aaron Stark’s speech prevented three mass shootings. He has a Facebook group called You Are Not Alone and it has 2,000 members. He received three messages over the past year on that Facebook group where people told him they were inspired to turn their lives around. We hope to help that movement.”

“Just Another Tuesday” Premiere

6:10 p.m. and 8:10 p.m. Friday, November 22

Museum of Photographic Arts, 1649 El Prado, Balboa Park

Free; info at evite.com