Filmmaker Killed In Shooting, John Upton, Remembered For Saving Orphans

A filmmaker killed in an Encinitas, California shooting this week has been identified as 56-year-old John Charles Upton Jr. of Encinitas.

Police say the filmmaker killed may have been shot during the course of a “property dispute,” and neighbor Michael Vilkin, 61, was arrested after the shooting in connection with the incident.

Upton received critical acclaim in the 1990s for a film he made about teenage promiscuity, and later for his work with Romanian orphans. At the time, Upton said that he felt compelled to act on the situation in Romania, explaining:

“There just wasn’t any doubt in my mind that I could do something, that I could make a difference with these kids. But I didn’t waste much time thinking about it, I just went.”

Ultimately, the filmmaker killed in the shooting was able to transport more than 20 children in need to America in the course of his work. He said at the time:

“I went in there with the attitude of the angry American, someone who was going to right the wrongs he found. I expected heartless officials and corruption. But that’s not what I found at all. I found people who wanted to act but were handicapped by a lack of resources.”

Upton’s brother Michael Upton said that the filmmaker killed had in the past quarreled with Vilkin over property issues such as trees. The surviving Upton said:

[He] wrapped a gun in his jacket and proceeded to bait my brother and pulled out the gun and shot [him] in the head.”

Michael Upton adds that hours before his filmmaker brother was killed, their mother passed away of cancer.

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