The city’s school district swiftly distanced itself from a film shot inside of Eastside High School on Thursday afternoon, just hours before the film would premier at the downtown Paterson theater.
“Under my leadership, this district will not support the use of our school buildings or our students in any films with violent, substance abuse or sexual content; nor does my administration support the use of any current school names or school apparel in such videos or movies,” said acting superintendent Eileen Shafer in a statement.
The film, “Fourth Quarter,” was shot inside of Eastside High School in December 2015. It was approved by the previous administration, according to the district. Taping was done prior to the controversial Fetty Wap music video that heavily featured drug use, alcohol, and sex. The hometown rapper had to issue an apology to the city for using the school building to film a music video that promoted an anti-education message.
Wap’s music video was heavily criticized on social media and in the community. However, the film directed and written by Elizabeth born actor Jahmar Hill received little notice or backlash from any quarters.
“I just found out from our district,” said school board member Emanuel Capers. He blamed the administration of Donnie Evans for allowing the filming of the movie inside the Park Avenue building.
A trailer for the film was posted on YouTube in February 2016. It depicts violence and sexual content. To date, the trailer received just 5,571 views.
The film was referenced in the July 2016 investigation report by former New Jersey Supreme Court justice John Wallace that looked into how Wap managed to film his music video inside of the high school. His report placed the blame on Zatiti Moody, principal of operations at Eastside High School.
Moody was suspended while Wallace conducted his investigation for allowing the rapper to film inside Eastside High School. He was later reinstated after the investigation and a warning letter was placed in his personnel file at the district.
The district has put in place new policies and procedures that address use of school facilities by outside groups to prevent a recurrence of the Wap episode. There’s also a formal approval process in place since May of this year, said Terry Corallo, spokeswoman for the Paterson Public Schools.
“There has been a tremendous amount of work over this summer to ensure a smooth start to the school year. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our students and staff; and I am not going to let any distraction not related to the academic success of our children get in the way of a successful school year,” said Shafer.
Capers applauded Shafer for her “proactive” handling of the latest situation that had a chance to turn into another controversy. “I think it was a great move. She’s very proactive, very hands on instead of reactive,” he said.