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Scorsese Endorses NYU Grads' Film, "Jackson Ward"

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Student films can get a bad rap, but Henrico County native and New York University graduate Matthew Petock has something that just might set his team apart.

His senior project, a 15- to 20-minute short film called "Jackson Ward," comes armed with a letter of support and a cash donation from none other than Hollywood producer Martin Scorsese.

Petock worked on "The Departed," which won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director last year.

The group of recent college grads descended on Richmond last week for six days of shooting. Scenes for "Jackson Ward" were shot in that neighborhood as well as Fulton Hill, Church Hill and Pony Pasture Rapids on the James River.

Alexandra Fredericks, Petock's assistant producer, says Richmond-based hard-core band Strike Anywhere inspired the script. Petock, who graduated from John Randolph Tucker High School in 2003, absorbed the band's lyrical assault on police brutality. He spun a story about a white cop trying to do the right thing in a small Southern city, a task that becomes more difficult when he solicits a prostitute and befriends her younger, drug-dealing brother.

"It's a struggle between good and bad," Fredericks says, "and both characters have both."

The cast includes actors who have appeared in episodes of "Law and Order" and "The Wire." One cast member, Marc John Jefferies, appeared as the younger version of the character played by rap star 50 Cent in "Get Rich or Die Tryin'."

The filmmakers are back in Brooklyn for postproduction and editing, and hope to have the film ready for the Sundance Film Festival in September. S

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