By Alexandria Woolfe
The Film Department’s own Professor Todd Chandler released a documentary with PBS titled “Bulletproof” on Feb. 14, where he intended to put a more productive spin on the aftermath of school shootings.
Though he previously taught at high schools and the College of Staten Island, Chandler has been an adjunct at Brooklyn College since 2015, teaching students about the post production stages of film including editing and cinematography. His experience in the field comes from his graduate schooling where his thesis was in documentary film, as well as various jobs on sets.
“Bulletproof” came to fruition after Chandler overheard students in one of his classes back in 2015 discussing yet another instance of gun-related violence in public spaces like schools and theaters. Chandler expressed to the Vanguard the stark difference between his work and other documentaries/films of the same caliber, noting the main difference being “no real mention of a particular shooting or act of violence.”
The decision to make “Bulletproof” a documentary rather than a feature film didn’t just rely on the fact that Chandler is a documentarian – his intent was to showcase reality.
“Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction,” said Chandler.
Though the release date coincided with the fourth anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Chandler had begun making this film and building the concept for it from 2015 to 2017. After working on funding, production began and it was finally finished by 2019 and submitted to PBS’ Independent Lens program.
Chandler explained that the documentary is not necessarily about surviving school shootings, but what safety can mean for students and faculty alike. Furthermore, he feels that the documentary should be viewed through an eye that is trying to be “less investigative and more meditative.”
While researching for “Bulletproof,” Chandler attended school security trade shows where he observed the commercialization of school security with his own eyes. Chandler noted the world of school security is now, “high tech and expanding in response to or in conversation with mass shootings.”
An especially heartbreaking but crucial scene in the film was a conversation with a young woman who made bulletproof hoodies after her neighbor was mugged and murdered in front of her young kids. The woman sews kevlar, a material commonly used in bulletproof vests and equipment for law enforcement, into the hoods and body area of the sweaters.
This moment really illustrates what Chandler wanted his documentary to be about, not just school shootings, but gun safety in America.
Bulletproof is currently available to stream on the PBS website through Mar. 14.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article misquoted Prof. Todd Chandler saying, “The problem is bullets and the solution is something to stop the bullets.” Chandler was quoting an engineer he spoke with for his documentary. Through “Bulletproof,” Chandler aims to undermine these narrow definitions of problems and solutions by looking at broader systems rather than single issues.