When you’ve lived in a place long enough, you become familiar with its stories – not all of them positive. A story that folks in Amarillo continue to tell centers around the death of teenager Brian Deneke.
In 1997, Deneke and his friends – self-described “punks” – faced off in a parking lot with a group of high school jocks. The fight took a deadly turn when football player Dustin Camp arrived on the scene and began to use his 1983 Cadillac as a weapon. He drove at Deneke and crushed him with his car, killing him. A jury found Camp not guilty of murder, despite testimony that he described himself as a “ninja” in his Caddy before mowing down Deneke. Instead, Camp was convicted of manslaughter and given probation.
Jameson Brooks and Sheldon Chick grew up with the story. They’ve turned it into a feature film called “Bomb City.” Bomb City is a nickname for Amarillo – a nod to the fact that the city is home to a nuclear weapons plant. The film mostly sticks to the facts, though some names are changed and much detail is invented.
Brooks is co-writer and director of “Bomb City.” Chick is co-writer, producer and composer.
Brooks and Chick grew up in Amarillo. They were young teens when Brian Deneke died, attending schools within a few miles of where the incident took place. Chick says they chose to tell the story through narrative, rather than as a documentary because it gave them a way to connect with the audience.
“For us, there’s a lot of power in a narrative story that I think you really don’t get out of reading an article or so much watching a documentary,” Chick says. “When you watch a movie, there’s an emotional connection…you get to relive those moments with the people.”
Brooks says the film’s Amarillo premiere sold out a 1,300-seat venue.
“The reception was amazing,” Brooks says. “We were really nervous. We didn’t know what to expect. It’s almost like peeling the Band-Aid off a wound.”
Brooks says the filmmakers wanted to spread a message of love and unity, even though their film recalls a violent chapter in the city’s history.
The movie ends with the voice of artist Marilyn Manson that refers to Deneke’s death.
“The theme of the movie was always ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ and we…wanted to put the audience in a place to let Manson talk,” Chick says. “He sounds so smart, and he’s so well-spoken. He sounds like a politician or a psychiatrist. I think a lot of people, if they see Manson first, they may not listen to him talk. They may write him off.”
Brooks says he and Chick themselves bridge the seeming divide between punks and jocks in Amarillo. Both played sports, and Chick played in venues where Deneke had performed with punk rock bands. They say they wanted Deneke’s life to be appreciated.
“Bomb City” is playing in select theaters, and on-demand.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.