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Hartford Cop Drama Brings Together Career Criminals & Police

by Hugh McQuaid | Jul 19, 2011 5:00am
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Posted to: Local Politics, Media Matters, Hartford

Hugh McQuaid photo

Mark Manson, a Hartford police officer and creator of ‘The Second District’

“The Second District,” a new Hartford-based cop drama co-created by a city police officer, is exactly the kind of project Connecticut’s film tax credit program was designed to attract, former Speaker of the House Jim Amann said at a Monday press conference at the state Capitol.

Amann, now the founder and chief executive officer of L.A. Productions Entertainment, is serving as associate producer of the show, whose pilot won Best Urban Short of Spring 2011 at the New York International Film and Video Festival.

“When I was speaker of the house, here at the Capitol, I was proud to champion and sponsor Connecticut’s film tax credit program in order to move the industry in the state of Connecticut. ‘The Second District’ is exactly the type of project the legislature envisioned when we implemented this program,” he said.

Amann said the project is homegrown in every sense. It was co-created by Hartford police officer Mark Manson and career criminal Felix Soto. It will enable talented individuals and crews to stay in the region, he said.

“Not only will ‘The Second District’ bring jobs to the city but it will also increase interest and expand economic opportunities throughout our region,” he said.

Manson said for him the show represents the fulfillment of a dream but it’s also important because it will hopefully create jobs and bring the film industry into not just Hartford but Connecticut as a whole.

“I spoke with Jim [Amann] earlier and we want this to be the ‘Hollywood East.’ And we want to put that Hollywood sign on one of the mountains. Hopefully Avon Mountain so I can see it from my house,” he said.

As a police officer working in Hartford, Manson said he looks forward to working on a project that will benefit it.

“I work here as a police officer and there’s a lot of things that I see, there’s a lot of talent here. We want to dig into that homegrown talent and pull it out to the front,” he said.

Producers said they are currently looking for production funding for the project. They have been approaching potential private investors and said there has been a lot of interest.

Because of that interest producers have already obtained $500,000 from AMGTV for distribution of 10 episodes, working in reverse of the typical process, where a project is first produced and then goes after distribution funds, they said. That investment will probably help secure production funds, they said.

If he could pick a network, Manson said it would be HBO or Showtime.

Producers David Wenzel and Richard Lohman said the pilot’s success at the New York film festival has really helped get the word out about the show.

“A lot of things we heard was ‘That’s Hartford? We thought that was the insurance Capital of the world,’” Wenzel said. “We thought it showed an aspect of the city kind of ala ‘The Wire.’”

But drawing a comparison with that show raises questions. The HBO series “The Wire,” a realistic police series set in Baltimore, portrayed the state of its city in a less-than flattering light. It focused on failings and corruption on many levels of the city’s government and industry.

So how will Hartford look through the lens of “The Second District?”

“It’s entertaining, is what it is. It’s nothing about putting Hartford in a bad light. What goes on here, what I’m going to be writing about, is no different than what goes on in every big city,” Manson said adding he thinks it’s going to put Hartford in a good light.

Manson said a lot of it will be real. Much of the show will be inspired in-part by people and experiences he’s had as a cop in the city. He said he’s contacted emergency services personnel, lawyers, even gang members to act as consultants for the show, to ensure its validity.

“I’m not a gang member, so we get guys who are from the street that are actually going to come on board as consultants, as writers,” he said.

Manson noted that Soto, his co-creator for the project, is a career criminal who could not be present Monday.

“He’s incarcerated right now because of some other things he’s done after we had met and got the show going. I wish he could have been here to see this, it’s his dream also,” he said.

Just like cops, there are other sides to criminals, Manson said.

“When I get these guys in the back of my cruiser and I’m transporting them to jail, I like to talk. So I sit there and I start talking and there’s another side that people will never see,” he said. “These guys are hardcore thugs on the street and when they go home they’re sleeping with a teddy bear.”

Mike Allen, another Hartford police officer who said he was involved with the project behind the scenes, said he has been monitoring the comments section of Internet videos of the show’s trailer

“The folks that are commenting are from the North End. They’re developing a sense of pride in themselves, being proud to be a resident of Hartford,” Allen said. “They started saying that now that the TV shows and movies are coming we need to have a little bit more respect for each other. It’s elevating their level of conscience as how they treat other people.”

Manson said his co-workers have been supportive of his project but admitted the department’s brass was a little apprehensive at first.

“Hartford is not used to this type of stuff. If I’d based this out of New York City nothing probably would have been said. But whenever you’re the first one trying to do something, I’ll take the hits to pave the road for someone coming behind me to do something,” he said.

A Hartford Police Department spokesperson did not return calls for comment.

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