"JT vs. the Good Guys"
2012, 12 min
A short portrait of youth through the eyes of the high school bully...
A group of high school kids meet to play Frisbee. One is JT (John Shepard), whose attempts at being a tough guy fail miserably. He's losing the popular girl to the quiet guy, and worse, the others seem glad about it. But JT does not step down without a fight.
in this photo: David Melissaratos as Wade Greene, John Shepard as JT Caparzo
WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
So it started with the title. I like the irony. It singles out JT as the lead, and at the same time, makes him not so good.
It's easy to see why some viewers feel JT gets what he deserves. He evokes in them images and memories of "that guy" back in school, the one we wanted beaten up. He's a depiction of our values nowadays: we're automatically turned off by macho posturing and idealize the restrained, artsy type, so much that we blindly and hypocritically attack the annoying jock. Most high school stories happily pander to this.
But in making JT the lead, and a victim, I wanted to ask, what does retaliation really accomplish? The easy answer -- one we've seen countless times -- would've been to show it leading to disaster and those involved feeling guilty. That's too neat and tidy, and not fair to real life. I wanted to show how people could walk away and, disturbingly, not feel that guilt, not make any motions toward empathy.
Not that JT should be sentimentalized. He threatens people, gets physical. He acts like a jerk. That shouldn’t be excused. Blaming it on childhood abuse or neglect or divorced parents or whatever would be a big oversimplification and a way to separate him from some norm. I like JT because, in a way, he could be me or you, and the only thing separating us is that label he's been assigned. He's the hero because he is who he is, while we believe we're the Good Guys we really aren’t.
in this photo: Lyra Olson as Sam "Jamma" Martin, Maxwell C. Blackriver as Kevin Monet Drake