As Prince Sprauve puts it, you can’t move people unless you can move their hearts.
On Saturday, the Schenectady filmmaker hopes to do just that with the premiere of “Cradle.”
Through gritty and intense storytelling, as well as original music created by local teens, the movie reflects a realistic view of teen pregnancy today.
“My concern is how do I change these people’s lives. I think over the last few years, Schenectady has come around to that. That’s why I think this project is so perfect for this time. If I would have put this project out in 2013, it would have been too controversial. We didn’t hold back,” Sprauve said.
The film “Cradle” has been a long time in the making. Sprauve started working on it six years ago, shortly after he founded the non-profit Told By Us Productions, which works to explore social challenges from the perspective of youth through the production of film and music.
“Originally, it got to me through the kids. I asked the kids, ‘What do you think we should do a movie on?’ They said ‘Sprauve, honestly pregnancy. It’s out of control,’” Sprauve said.
It’s an issue he was personally familiar with. “My mom was a teenage mom. She had me at 15,” Sprauve said.
However, at the time, he didn’t realize how prevalent it was in Schenectady.
"When I did the research and Ellis Medicine came out with their research with the ‘U Matter’ Team in 2013. They identified the top five reasons why people in Schenectady are unhealthy. One of those reasons was adolescent pregnancy. That gave me the momentum,” Sprauve said.
At that time, Schenectady county had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in New York State, outside of NYC. In the last six years, Told By Us has been running workshops, teaming up with Planned Parenthood to talk with students at the high school and to start conversations about the topic.
Recently, teen pregnancy rates have fallen nationally — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017 saw a record low for the second year in a row. In Schenectady County, rates have also fallen in the last few years. However, according to Sprauve, it’s still a problem, one that “Cradle” reflects through the stories of teen moms and dads.
“I interviewed 19 teenage moms and dads, got their in-depth stories,” Sprauve said.
He wove those into a full-length film (running time is 1 hour and 57 minutes).
“That’s what I stay focused on in the movie, the family structure. There’s six different storylines and all these storylines collide because that’s how a small community like this works,” Sprauve said.
“Cradle” starts with one of the main characters (played by Mahogany Akita) waiting at a clinic for her boyfriend. He arrives late, with bruises and cuts on his face, and they get into a fight in the parking lot because they have completely different ideas of how to support each other and their child. Things escalate when her water breaks as her boyfriend drives away.
“That first scene was so important to me,” Sprauve said.
It points to the feeling of chaos in the lives of these teens and brings up some of the contributing factors to the problem, including poverty, mixed societal messages, social media and problems within the family structure.
Then, the film goes back in time, giving viewers an understanding of how the main characters, Chante, Clara, Hector, Vivi, Shawn and Layla are impacted by unexpected pregnancies.
Sprauve said that the majority of the film follows the real-life stories of Schenectady teens, but he took artistic license with the ending, giving viewers a taste of what could happen if the topic of teen pregnancy isn’t addressed by the community.
“It’s about getting everybody in the same room because I feel like this community is split between the haves and the have-nots. You can go ride over here to Hamilton Hill and to certain places and then you can drive five minutes and get a totally different feel of Schenectady. So there’s even a line in how we live here. But this is one of those projects that gets everybody in the room,” Sprauve said.
At a black-tie pre-screening event on Saturday at Proctors, several teen moms and dads, as well as people involved in the film will talk about their stories. There will also be performances by some of the students who worked on the film and helped to write the soundtrack.
Sprauve has also planned a red carpet entry, complete with limos and photographers, for the 100 cast members attending the event.
The event is part of a culture change that Sprauve hopes to bring.
“I feel like Schenectady, the 518, is behind in the arts,” Sprauve said, adding “People in LA and NYC are not more talented than people in the 518. The culture is built there. The culture is not built here.”
While most of the cast members are from Schenectady, in order to master the film and make it ready for streaming services, Sprauve had to outsource that to other companies, which added to the expense.
“We could have got this project done in a year and a half if we had the budget,” Sprauve said.
Trying to make a film like “Cradle” while running a non-profit can make it difficult to have time and the resources to fundraise. However, as Sprauve puts it, he and his team of people from across Schenectady make crumbs into cake.
After the premiere, he hopes people come together and have conversations about teen pregnancy and the roles that each person in the community has in it.
“I’m telling you that you are just as responsible for helping out with these issues as anybody else in this community. If you live here in Schenectady, you are responsible.
We have a responsibility to each other and we’ve lost that,” Sprauve said.
In the near future, he hopes to hold a workshop with parents to talk about how to better communicate with their teens about safe sex and other issues.
The pre-screening VIP event kicks off at 4 p.m. in the GE Theatre. Tickets are $100 and black tie is encouraged. The screening starts at 7 p.m. on the main stage. Premium seating is $30 and regular is $15.
“Cradle” is rated R for language, violence and drug use. For tickets and more info visit proctors.org.