Don’t Shoot Guns, Shoot Cameras (DSGSC) is a program that’s working to keep youth away from gang violence by teaching them to shoot cameras and not guns.
The Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) based program was founded in Washington, D.C. by comedian and filmmaker Rodney “Red” Grant, who used his 20 years of experience in the entertainment industry to create the immersive 2-week camp that teaches camerawork, film production, and creative writing.
“Our mission is to develop the social and emotional skills of Washington D.C.’s underserved youth by introducing them to the fundamentals of filmmaking, equipping them with a healthy and creative way to express themselves and positively impact their communities,” DSGSC’s mission statement reads.
Students between the ages of 12 and 17 who join the program are taught fundamental camera skills while also learning principles of self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, social awareness, and relationship skills.
“Students will complete DSGSC having gained technical skills to creatively express themselves through film, as well as valuable emotional skills to positively impact their everyday lives,” DSGSC says.
Grant decided to create the program after the death of his nephew Keaway (Kealo) Ivy, an aspiring rapper as well as a talented and passionate filmmaker. Ivy was killed in 2015 during the filming of a music video when a gun that was being used as a prop discharged.
While Grant originally planned to partner with local area schools, he shifted gears and launched a smaller pilot program last summer due to distance learning in the COVID-19 pandemic, Grant tells the Washington Post. The program selected kids who didn’t have the same programming opportunities at school and who couldn’t afford to attend a camp.
“These kids don’t deserve guns in their hands,” Grant tells CBS Evening News. “They don’t deserve people not believing in them. They got to have more people believing in them.”
The six D.C. teenagers who participated in the DSGSC pilot program collaborated over Zoom on a 10-page script and then got to work shooting (with assistance from celebrities that included actor Anwan “Big G” Glover and former NBA player Matt Barnes). What resulted was a short film titled “The Store,” which premiered to a limited audience online.
DSGSC is also in the process of raising $50,000 in donations to spread its program to Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta. Donations can be made through the website.