‘Kids for cash’ director lives among us

First Posted: 2/4/2014

As Luzerne County’s judicial scandal hits the big screen here and across the country this week, some may not realize that the man behind the movie is a Back Mountain resident.

“Kids for Cash” director and producer Robert May, whose filmography includes award-winning documentaries and critically-acclaimed Hollywood features “Bonneville” and “The Station Agent,” lives in Dallas with his wife and children.

“I’m proud to live here,” May said during a recent interview.

May’s non-fiction film chronicles the downfall of former judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, juxtaposed against the stories of several youths and families caught up in Ciavarella’s era of “zero tolerance” when he led the county’s juvenile court.

And while the story he tells is both painful and controversial, May is quick to point out that what happened in Luzerne County raises questions about juvenile justice practices across the United States.

He is hopeful that the 102-minute film will cause viewers nationwide to question why so many youths are arrested, often for comparatively minor crimes, with the local experience serving as a catalyst for that wider discussion.

Whatever form that discussion takes, May, 56, remains loyal to the community that has been his home for decades.

A native of Hamlin in Wayne County, May is a graduate of Western Wayne High School. His first career was not film, however. He said his parents instilled in him practical, hardworking values borne out of the horrors of The Great Depression, and he went on to study electrical engineering.

May soon started his own security alarm company in Hamlin, but ultimately became CEO of Triple A Protection, a successful firm based in Wilkes-Barre.

Following the sale of his business, May plunged into a second career, making a long-held dream into reality with the creation, in 2000, of SenArt films.

SenArt is based in New York, but life and work led May to settle in Luzerne County, where he and wife Mary Lynn have happily raised two children. And where he plans to stay.

“Why stay? People have asked me that, and I would reply, ‘have you been there?’ And they haven’t,” May said.

“We have some good schools, some great schools, it’s a great place to raise a family,” May said. “And people are extremely generous.”

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