Sixteen years ago, while still in film school, Richard Fitzpatrick of Port St. Lucie, Fla., wrote a screenplay loosely based on the life of his younger brother, Martin.
Richard Fitzpatrick said his brother hated police. "But then it was law enforcement who reached out to him and saw what he needed. What he needed was to redirect that rage."
His rage stemmed from Martin's guilt, thinking that he was responsible for his mother's death. She died shortly after his birth.
"He never really knew her," Richard said. Then the boys' father left their lives, "so he didn't really know him either."
By joining the boxing league at the Police Athletic League in Port St. Lucie, Martin soon turned his anger into something positive.
"He was mentored by the very people he distrusted," Richard Fitzpatrick said. "This film opens the door for many other youth around the country to make the same connection." The police "are not our enemies. They are here to do their job, but they are people, too."
That film, Heart of a Champion, is the tale of a young man whose life was changed when he joined the Police Athletic League boxing team.
"The events in this film run parallel to my brother's life, but there are some tweaks as well that we have added," he said. "The film is faith-based."
Richard Fitzpatrick, who had been an investment broker before venturing into the film industry, was in Lexington last week to drum up buzz for the film, which is about 40 percent completed, he said.
Plus, he wanted to visit as many Police Athletic League operations as possible to get a feel for the impact it has on youngsters who might be vulnerable to negative behavior that often springs from frustration and discouragement. Nationally, PAL is promoting the film.
In Lexington, Fitzpatrick selected two young boxing champions to be cast in the movie. Savon Edmonds, 18, of Lexington is the 2012 Kentucky Senior Open boxing champion and the Arnold Schwarzenegger Sports Invitational boxing champ, both for the 152-pound weight class. Robbelle Rogers, 24, living in Lexington but originally from Flemingsburg, is the 2012 Kentucky Senior Open champion and the 2012 Schwarzenegger Sports Invitational champion, both in the 165-pound weight class.
Edmonds and Rogers will travel to Florida in September to be filmed.
Another Lexington connection is that clothing created by local designer Chris Hudson will be included in the movie, said Lexington Police officer Connie Rayford, who is assistant secretary of the national PAL board of directors.
The movie's premiere is planned for early next year in Florida and Lexington.
Richard Fitzpatrick was away at film school when his brother invited him to one of his sanctioned boxing matches at PAL.
Richard said he was surprised.
"You do know what PAL stands for, right?" he asked his brother.
The match made front-page news in their local paper, and at 26, Martin Fitzpatrick had turned a corner.
Tragically, he was diagnosed with leukemia three weeks after production began on the film. Martin Fitzpatrick died three years ago.
Work on Heart of a Champion was suspended and Richard Fitzpatrick prepared to become a bone marrow donor for his brother, but time ran out.
Stops and starts are all a part of independent filmmaking, said Fitzpatrick, who was the executive producer of the award-winning film Love Trap, which was released in 2005. That's why many of the strategic scenes featuring the film's core group of actors have been filmed and are featured in the movie's trailer. Now, work with the supporting cast and extras is being added, he said.
If filming is completed in September as planned, the premiere could be as early as January, Fitzpatrick said.
He said he is hoping that people and corporations will donate to help finance the completion of film.
"There is something in this film for everybody," he said. "I am thankful that my brother had the opportunity to find an organization that gave him hope, helped him to change his direction and find a new purpose.
"If we have more officers involved with children in PAL, it is the equivalent to having the beat patrolman back in the neighborhood."