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Milford’s Hollywood Connection

Executive Producer of Beyond Scared Straight, Paul J. Coyne (MHS '82), hopes his series will put troubled teens on the right path, after they see what life is like on the other side of the bars. A&E Network photo

A screening of the documentary Scared Straight when he was a student at Milford High School sparked Paul Coyne's interest in filmmaking. Two decades later, he maintains an interest in documentaries and his hometown.

Although a California resident for 21 years, Milford is still home to Coyne, who can't resist sharing stories of growing up in the town with his co-workers at the popular A&E Network show, Beyond Scared Straight. "Everyone [in the office] knows Milford as kind of a character," Coyne noted with a laugh.

While filming a recent episode of Beyond Scared Straight, several lucky crew members had an opportunity to experience Milford and reported back to Coyne regarding their experience. "They were able to call me up and say 'Oh my god, we're eating at Johnny Jack's' and "there really is this weird tower in the middle of a cemetery'." The local sights were pointed out by the location consultant, Claire Coyne. "We always enlist a local production assistant to help get our crew from place to place, so I relied on my mother," Coyne, the show's Executive Producer, said.

Beyond Scared Straight airs on the A&E Network on Thursday evenings and follows "derailed, defiant and disrespectful teens as they enter immersive jail programs aimed at deterring them from a life of crime" according to the show's website. Coyne said the show, which is starting its fourth season, has featured about 350 kids with about 80 percent changing their lives after the experience.

The often-gritty episodes are presented in two acts, with the first half of the show detailing the lives of the troubled teens that usually take part as a last-ditch effort to turn their lives around. During the show's second-act, the teens endure the typical routines of inmates at jails across the country and have close encounters with real convicts to learn the realities of prison life. "These inmates are killers and thieves," Coyne explained, "And every single one that I've met who are involved in this program, say, 'I may have killed someone but I really don't want to see anyone else [take a] life ... don't want to see one of these kids throw their life away, like I did'."

Among the students featured in a recent episode was a Milford High School student who Coyne found through his relationship with school Principal Michael Tempesta.

Coyne said he contacted Tempesta for the Beyond Scared Straight Boston episode out of necessity. One of the teens originally scheduled backed out of the episode at the last minute. "I called Mike and said 'I'm in a bit of a bind' and I would love to have someone from Milford that you think could benefit [from being on the show]. So, Mike put me in touch with four or five parents and their kids," said Coyne. He added, "This one kid really seemed to want to change, really wanted to make his life better, so he agreed to be in it."

"It's interesting to see the journeys these kids go through," Coyne said. "We never know, going into it, who's going to be affected and who isn't. We want them all to change for the better - that's why we do it." And many teens are impacted by the show. "We get hundreds of letters each week from teens across the country saying 'I saw this one program and this kid was just like me. I want to stop doing drugs - I want to stop going graffiti - I want to stop being in a gang'," said Coyne. "That's a gift that I get every day coming in to work. I know I'm changing people for the better."

Coyne, who began filming as a teen, courtesy of his mother's movie camera, also helps other teens contributing to scholarships for Milford High students interested in the Arts, writing and filmmaking. Among his staff is a former scholarship recipient, Chris Locke, who now works for Coyne as Post-Production Coordinator.


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