Fuquay-Varina featured in web series starring kids, police
Posted February 8
Updated February 9
Wouldn't it be nice if people just talked?
That's the question that starts "The Other Side," a new web series featuring conversations between children and police officers from Fuquay-Varina.
Produced by Amazing Studios and supported by Officers Only by Bob Barker Company, both based in Fuquay-Varina, "The Other Side" aims to bridge communication between generations and highlight the importance of conversation in a complicated world.
"Our hope is to build on the value of just sitting down and talking with the other side and understanding them and where they are coming from and hopefully create more conversation where we talk to each other, not at each other," said Mike Cole, Amazing Studio's president.
Cole approached town officials in the fall about the series. Fuquay-Varina Police Chief Laura Fahnestock jumped at the opportunity to participate.
With police violence the focus of headlines and television news in recent years, Fahnestock has been working to shift the conversation with programs that get officers out into the community and meeting with residents.
Last year, for instance, police officers and kids played together in the Unity in Community basketball tournament. And they met at events such as Froyo with the Popo, which was held after school near the town's high school. Teens got frozen yogurt, met with police officers and learned what to do during a traffic stop. Cole said the town's Coffee with a Cop program influenced the web series.
"I think with everything that is occurring in the country right now about law enforcement, it's critical for law enforcement agencies to reach out and communicate in ways that we have never thought about before," she said. "Social media provides that outlet."
Cole worked with Fuquay-Varina's elementary school, middle school and high school to identify eight students for the series. Each one is paired with a police officer, including Fahnestock, for a conversation.
The kids and officers didn't meet until the day of the shoot on a Saturday in December. Each of the officers picked up the child they'd been paired with and drove together to the studio. Just before they walked onto the set, they were handed a set of cards with questions to ask each other. Cole said he didn't want anything to sound scripted.
"You get more of the raw emotion and feeling behind it," he said. "If people know too far in advance, they tend to try to rehearse their answer. Our genuine interest behind this thing was to sit down like anybody else would and just have an open conversation."
So far, four of the eight episodes have aired. They are released weekly at 2 p.m., Tuesday, on Amazing Studio's YouTube channel and social media, where it's generated some buzz. Cole said out takes from the original interviews are planned once the initial eight are posted online.
The episodes each run about five minutes, but the officers and kids talked for about an hour. Some conversations are adorable as they chat about relationships, an officer's planned wedding proposal or siblings. Others get serious.
Trevon, a high school student, shares with Fuquay-Varina Sgt. David Taylor that on a trip to Target with his brother and cousin, security guards followed them around.
"I don't know if it's because of the color of my skin or or because I had a hoodie on ...," Trevon said. "What people are afraid of is they are going to get judged by what they look like and not what they really are. And we are all guilty of it. ... Never judge a book by its cover."
When Trevon asks him what advice Taylor has for the teen, Taylor replied: "I'd say the same exact thing."
"You can't assume that the police are there to arrest someone," Taylor said. "You can't assume that what you hear on the media is every police officer. ... Make me earn the title of bad guy. Come to me like a normal person and realize I'm just a regular guy."
Fahnestock, whose conversation with an elementary school girl will be posted in March, said the series helps to humanize her officers.
"We’re showing that law enforcement officers are just like everyone else," she said. "We’re parents. We’re brothers and sisters. We were teens once. We were children once."
Both Cole and Fahnestock said they hope to continue to look for new ways to continue the conversation.
"I think the officers learned something about the youth, but I think they learned a little bit more about themselves too," Fahnestock said.
Cole said that while the series focuses on Fuquay-Varina, the issues reach far beyond the town's borders.
"It’s not just about Fuquay. It just happened to be this is a great, great example right here in front of us," he said. "We’re looking at what are some other conversations we could tie into the series. How can we use what we do to strike some positive conversations and move things in a more positive, healthy direction."
Here's Trevon and Sgt. Taylor's conversation. You can find them all on Amazing Studio's YouTube channel.