BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Daytona Beach is a globally famous destination known for its beach and attractions including Daytona International Speedway, which is home of NASCAR’s Daytona 500, Bethune-Cookman University, and more.
But a recently released documentary entitled, “Daytona Beach: The Other Side of the Bridge” shows a different part of the city.
Images of crime, poverty, drugs, murder, frustration, inequality, and more are brought to the surface. It also highlights some of the poorest and most troubled neighborhoods in the city.
The documentary was done by Jared Thompson through his media company, 100,000 Arts Productions, which he created in 2016. It was released online on YouTube on Jan. 1.
The documentary was originally released at the Cobb Theater on Dec. 15, 2020. It took four years, from 2016 to 2020, to complete.
“Being from Daytona, I feel like the people on this side of town don’t really have a voice. I wanted to show life away from the attractions which the city is known for,” Thompson, 28, told The Times.
“I was a kid with a camera. I walked around the ‘hood and recorded what I seen.”
How it started
The film started as a project to help local rappers get exposure. Thompson is a former rapper; he has done music videos for local rappers.
“It started that way, but it changed and grew. I hope it opens doors to negotiation on a bigger scale and bring real change,” Thompson said. “I hope kids see no matter their environment, they can succeed.
“It’s also a slap in the face. It makes everyone look at themselves and what they are doing.”
The documentary has explicit scenes, clips from local hip hop artists’ music videos, guns, drugs, and fights amid well-known local community locations. It pays tribute to some who lost their lives to violence.
The documentary has received both positive and negative feedback.
“I don’t really talk to a lot of people or do the phones. I see the comments on YouTube. Some are good and some are bad. I’ve gotten some calls and some offers. I hear things through my close friends and family,” said Thompson.
He isn’t worried that “Daytona Beach: The Other Side of the Bridge” paints the city in a bad light.
“I’m just painting reality clearly. It’s not everyone’s, but it is for many. If you want your reality to change, I don’t think it’s good to deny your reality.”
Thompson says more successful people living west of the bridge could have been featured.
Activists, athletes featured
“I could have interviewed more people. Most of the interviews I did, didn’t make it. When I look at this project that’s not what this means,” said Thompson.
“It’s more of what I see. My experiences. I can’t please everyone. I am not here to please anyone.”
Not all those interviewed were from the streets. Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry; activist Rell Black and local professional European football player Breon Allen are in it as well.
‘Misses the mark’
“The documentary is a reflection of the complexities and challenges of inner-city life across America. It informs us of what we need to work on as a community,” said Mayor Henry.
“However, it misses the mark on telling the whole story of Black life in Daytona and how successful and historically great our community is,” added Henry. “It tells a fraction of our residents who I hope to inspire to take advantage of opportunities.”
The documentary almost didn’t come to be due to a potentially catastrophic event.
“I lost all the footage on my computer hard drive. I had to raise money through GoFundMe to get help. I got it fixed and got the footage back,” recalled Thompson.
The biggest challenge was whether or not to release it.
“I didn’t know if I really wanted to put it out,” Thompson said. “How would people react if somebody sees their relatives in it? If they saw their kid with a gun? If they saw their aunt smoking crack?
“What retribution there would be: jail, death?”
About the filmmaker
Jared Thompson was born in Frankfurt, Germany on a U.S military base where his stepfather served in the Army. He came to America when he was a year old.
When he was eight years old, his family moved to Daytona Beach and lived in the Derbyshire area. Thompson graduated from Mainland High in 2011.
His time growing up in Daytona was mostly enjoyable.
“It was a lot of fun. This place has a weird good and bad vibe which is unexplainable. It’s hard to say,” Thompson said.
“I’ve seen the things that a lot of people see. It’s how you react to it. I wouldn’t change it for nothing. It was mostly fun.”
He now lives in Midland, Texas and works on an oil field. He isn’t sure of what he’ll do next.
“Possibly a part two to this one. Maybe some movies,” he muses.
He also plans to interview older Daytona Beach residents, specifically those who live on “the other side of the bridge.”