Online Workshop:  Using Media For Social Justice

In an unprecedented partnership between two educational organizations that believe student led classrooms are crucial in actively engaging students using a social-emotional learning approach, Bank Street College of Education and Scenarios USA have collaborated to present a four week online workshop titled: Using Media for Social Justice. Beginning February 24-March 20, 2015, this workshop will feature Scenarios USA films, curricula, activities, and utilize Bank Street’s world renowned online learning environment for a dynamic course for educators! Successful completion of the course results in 2 CEUs for participants.bankstreet finalFINAL copy

 

Registration instructions are below:

2. click register online at center of page
3. find #24 “Using Media for Social Justice”
4. click “enroll” the blue button to the right of the workshop with the price
5. go to the top of the page and click “checkout”
6. select “i will pay the total” from the drop down menu below the grid
7. to get a discounted fee of $275, type in the coupon code “susa1” and click “add” (late fee will be waived)
8. complete the information requested (i.e. address, name)
9. click “continue”
10. complete information requested (i.e. address, name, payment)
11. click “continue”
12. You are registered!

It’s a New Year and We Have a New Look

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Illustration by Vin Ganapathy

Last year was a big, ugly year. We felt angry that the deaths of black people went unpunished, that survivors of sexual violence were told they were lying, or worse, didn’t matter. Consenting people were told time and again that who and how they loved was disgusting. It was a year that forced us to realize that, for all the “progress” we’ve made, we maybe haven’t gotten all that far. We went to theaters to see a movie about events that happened fifty years ago and saw something that looked eerily relevant.

As we re-launch our new streamlined website with a focus on narrative voices, art and film for, by and about underrepresented youth in America, we bear in mind the struggle for social justice endured last year, but we also move forward with the next year in front of us. And we shine the focus on young people, because they are the ones who know what’s happening first, who are the changemakers, and who continue to fight the decades-old fight for social justice in new and unprecedented ways: harnessing the power of countless voices to help Nicole Maines win her fight against her school system or building movements like #blacklivesmatter and got people to listen.

But if there’s nothing else that 2014 taught us, it’s that the fight for equal rights is constant, complicated and nuanced with individual stories and struggles. It’s part of every day and every part of our lives. It’s calling out people you love for saying “that’s so gay”. It’s asking why mainstream media continues to ignore the notion of fully-realized characters of color, and why universities aren’t doing more about on-campus sexual assault.

So as we look forward into 2015 and beyond, we want to make the new ScenariosUSA.org a space where we’re going to keep talking. That’s what we do. We amplify youth voices, we fight for social justice, we make movies, and we keep talking. And we’re going to hear from all kinds of people within that dialog—filmmakers, writers, millennials (in all their history-making diversity as a generation)—and, of course, from young people. Welcome, have a look, stick around and stay tuned.


Through a Different Lens: This is How I See Me.

Throughout December, we introduced you to 3 remarkable teenagers. They shared who they are, they told stories about feeling invisible, and they spoke of the need to quiet the noise around them.

At Scenarios, our work creates a space for young people to be supported as they figure out who they are. We do our work in schools, out of schools and online. And when the young people are ready to speak and to lead, we give them the space to do so — loudly and authentically.

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In 2015, Scenarios continues to listen and learn from young people with these featured projects:

STORIES – Our new website will be the space for millennials and influencers to be who they are and to share their vision. It will be lived, not told. Experienced, not observed. Site launches in February.

FILM – 3 youth-written, Hollywood-produced films on issues teens define as critical to their world are in production and will premiere on TV, online and on mobile devices together with youth-led advocacy campaigns. Films premiere in May.

EDUCATION – Our standards-based and arts-infused curriculum will be build around the 3 films we’re making now with teens. Our education cycle will roll into schools in Fall, 2015.

Make your 2014 contribution to Scenarios by December 31st and NBCUniversal and an anonymous donor will match your 100% tax deductible gift, dollar-for-dollar. Your donation matters.

Thank you for being our partner in education and promoting youth voice.

Here’s to a productive, transformative, healthy 2015,

 


Through a Different Lens: Morriah

This is how you see me:
Walking down the streets of New York, people see me and forget me. Strangers see a girl who is tall and has short brown hair, brown skin, and is a little bit curvy and maybe depending on what I’m wearing, people judge my social class too.

Morriah

Morriah Lisowksi, 17, Brooklyn, NY

This is how I see me:
I fight for what I stand for and stand by what I think is right. I’m a girl, and I’m strong, my appearance accounts for a small percentage of who I am.

 

 

In 2015, our three new youth-written films will become part of the next Scenarios curriculum, amplifying their messages and helping hundreds of thousands of young people to see their lives through a different lens.

 

Until December 31st, NBCUniversal and an anonymous donor will match your 100% tax deductible gift to Scenarios, dollar-for-dollar. Your donation matters.

Through A Different Lens: Fatimata

Fatimata Sylla, 17, Bronx, NY      
This is how you see me:
The world sees me as a happy and energetic, but reserved girl. The world sees me as someone who is shy.

This is how I see me:

I see myself as someone who is strong. After my father was killed we moved to the United States from our home of Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Even though I miss him, as the oldest child, I stay strong for my mother and my brothers.

 

 Support Scenarios Youth Programs Here.

 

Fatimata participated in the Scenarios curriculum about Place & Power in her high school English class, and is now part of the Scenarios Media Corps, a group of youth working to create a digital campaign for our NYC film that addresses intimate partner violence. At Scenarios, we work side by side with young people to provide them with the analytical skills to connect knowledge with their lived experiences and the world around them. This holiday season, support the perspectives of young people like Fatimata by bringing Scenarios’ films and curricula to classrooms across the country.

 

Until December 31st, NBCUniversal and an anonymous donor will match your 100% tax deductible gift to Scenarios, dollar-for-dollar. Your donation matters. 


Scenarios USA Roundup of the 10 Most Important Reads on Ferguson

Last night a grand jury decided there will be no trial for Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Mike Brown, the unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, MO. In the 108 days since Brown was killed, too many of the news reports have centered around vilifying Brown and the community of demonstrators who have dared to demand justice for the unnecessary taking of black life by police. News outlets have prioritized looting over coverage of peaceful protests, Brown’s past over his once possible future. By demonizing black bodies and black communities, news coverage continues the dangerous narrative that contributed to Brown’s death, and the taking of black lives across the country.

‘Justice’ in Ferguson: The politics of the protests

Despite this, there are those who have managed to report on Brown’s death while honoring his humanity. These are the pieces that have impacted us at Scenarios and we encourage you to read.

Face it, blacks. Michael Brown let you down.

      By Dexter Thomas, Jr

“Because we know that it’s common knowledge that white killers get treated like little lost lambs, while black victims are immediately demonized. Hell, there are now even listicles about this sort of thing. But we also know that any small flaw, any trace of humanity, will ruin the whole thing. That people, too many people, will be positively giddy at the sight of our blood.”

Ferguson: Injustice Still Hurts When You See It Coming

      By Kara Brown

“We knew many would care more about the destruction of property and inanimate objects than the destruction of black people’s sense of safety in this country. Still, it was hard not to be taken aback by the downright comical degree to which CNN lamented over a burned pizza chain instead of the dejection of a black community.”

      By Ta-Nehisi Coates

“Among the many relevant facts for any African-American negotiating their relationship with the police the following stands out: The police departments of America are endowed by the state with dominion over your body. This summer in Ferguson and Staten Island we have seen that dominion employed to the maximum ends—destruction of the body. This is neither new nor extraordinary. It does not matter if the destruction of your body was an overreaction. It does not matter if the destruction of your body resulted from a misunderstanding. It does not matter if the destruction of your body springs from foolish policy. Sell cigarettes without proper authority and your body can be destroyed. Resent the people trying to entrap your body and it can be be destroyed. Protect the home of your mother and your body can be destroyed. Visit the home of your young daughter and your body will be destroyed. The destroyers of your body will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.” 

Things to Stop Being Distracted by When a Black Person Gets Murdered by the Police

      By Mia McKenzie

“Talking to people on Twitter about Mike Brown and what’s happening in Ferguson right now, I’ve noticed (again) how easily folks get distracted when Black people are murdered by the police. It seems as though every detail is more interesting, more important, more significant—including looting of a Walmart in Ferguson, which a local Fox news station focused its entire coverage on—than the actual life that was taken by police.” 

Ferguson is an occupation in plain sight and words aren’t enough to change that

      By Roxane Gay

“In truth, the media rarely seems well equipped to write about tragedy and trauma ethically, particularly when race is involved. It does not know how to report on Ferguson’s grief and anger without resorting to the most facile – and often most damaging – language that only perpetuates the ever-present racial divide in this country.” 

Mike Brown Dies, A Generation Comes Alive

      By Roland Martin

“The fight for a fair justice system has gone far beyond Ferguson. We see men and women of various backgrounds coming together to demand justice …. They are marching, protesting, organizing, registering voters, running candidates for office, training up the next generation of civil-rights lawyers. They are largely young people who have decided that, in the words of Black Freedom Movement leader Fannie Lou Hamer, they are ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired.’” 

Ferguson isn’t about black rage against cops. It’s white rage against progress.

      By Carol Anderson

“A little more than half a century after Brown, the election of Obama gave hope to the country and the world that a new racial climate had emerged in America, or that it would. But such audacious hopes would be short-lived. A rash of voter-suppression legislation, a series of unfathomable Supreme Court decisions, the rise of stand-your-ground laws and continuing police brutality make clear that Obama’s election and reelection have unleashed yet another wave of fear and anger.”

Officer Wilson’s story is unbelievable. Literally.

      By Ezra Klein

So Brown is punching inside the car. Wilson is scrambling to deflect the blows, to protect his face, to regain control of the situation. And then Brown stops, turns to his left, says to his friend, “Here, hold these,” and hands him the cigarillos stolen from Ferguson Market. Then he turns back to Wilson and, with his left hand now freed from holding the contraband goods, throws a haymaker at Wilson. 

How to Deal with Friends’ Racist Reactions to Ferguson

      By Jenee Desmond-Harris

“But here’s what Facebook comments are good for: revealing data about whether you want your ‘friends’ to be your friends any longer. That is, of course, if you believe, as I do, that the way someone responds to other people’s pain and mistreatment—including the systemic mistreatment of entire groups of people—is a perfectly fine way to decide whether he or she is someone you like or want to continue to interact with.”

Get on the Bus: Inside the Black Life Matters ‘Freedom Ride’ to Ferguson

      By Akiba Solomon

“Later on, the young St. Louisan sitting next to me starts weeping. I know she goes by @Nettaaaaaaaa on Twitter and that she has more than 13,000 followers, but I can’t bring myself to interrupt her tears to get her full name or ask her age. Along with two friends she stands up and tells us how they’ve been protesting since the beginning and that they are exhausted. She also informs us that an out-of-towner (who turns out to be an ex-pimp named Tariq Nasheed) has been tearing her protest work apart on Twitter. She and her friends tell us that they’re thankful that we’re there but feel possessive of their movement. They urge us to keep Ferguson and Michael Brown at the center, a sentiment I hear from local people throughout the trip.”


3 Amazing Films- Coming Soon!

It’s finally happening! 

You’ve waited patiently to hear about who won Scenarios’ REAL DEAL contests, who’s directing the films and what’s going on.  At long last, the wait is over!  We have three amazing young writers and three brilliant directors turning their stories into short films.  Please join us in person or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for behind the scenes and on set exclusives, sneak previews of post production and finally, to see the films at their world premiere in 2015!

Chicago

Meet the writer: Janaya Greene wrote Veracity during her senior year of high school while attending Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy in South Side Chicago. During this time the debate of legalizing gay marriage was at its height and many states were pushing for its legality. After many debates among friends, family and classmates, Janaya realized that the issue was not, “Is being gay right or wrong?” but rather “How do humans, gay or straight, deserve to be treated?”  With support from her film study teacher, Mr. Eugene Hazzard, and classmates, she proceeded to write Veracity, a story about an African-American girl named Olivia J. Brownstein, who gains the courage to tell her family and friends that she is a lesbian. The response she gets is not what she expected from those she loved most. Veracity explores the taboo of being gay in the African-American community.

Seith Mann

Meet the Director: Seith Mann is a Morehouse College alumnus and a graduate of the Grad Film Program at New York University. His thesis film, five deep breaths, premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, won Best Narrative Short at the 2003 IFP Los Angeles Finl Festival and 1st Significance at the 2003 New York University First Run Festival. Seith won the Gordon Parks Award for Emerging African-American Filmmakers in the Best Directing Category at the IFP/New York Market. Seith also received the Emerging Narrative Award, the Gordon Parks Award for Screenwriting and the Richard Vague Film Production Fund Award for his feature screenplay, Come Sunday. To date, Seith has directed over thirty episodes of television including The WireGrey’s AnatomyHeroesBrotherhoodFriday Night LightsElementaryCalifornicationNurse JackieHomelandRectify and the Walking Dead. He has been nominated for a DGA Award, five NAACP Image Awards and won a NAACP Image Award for Directing for his episode of Friday Night Lights.

Cleveland

Meet the writer: Skyler Edge, a transgender male, wrote the story House, Not Home in his sophomore year at Facing History New Tech High School in Cleveland, OH. The story was born from his fears of coming out to his classmates as transgender after only a year of being out to family and friends. Out of his fear of rejection and violence, Skyler came up with the story of Terran, who is gender variant and does not conform to male nor female pronouns. Skyler wrote his story in hopes of bringing more visibility to transgender issues.

Meet the Director: Joshua Butler is a prolific film and television director whose recent work includes FOX’s The Following  starring Kevin Bacon, Pretty Little Liars for ABC Family, Crisis for NBC, Reckless for CBS, and Matador for Robert Rodriguez and the El Rey Network. Joshua directed the award-winning feature VLOG for Twisted Pictures and the producers of SAWBeer Money for USA Network, Deathlands for SyFy Channel, Saint Sinner for writer-producer Clive Barker, and the Christmas movie Prancer Returns for Raffaella De Laurentiis. He has just completed the Random Bench-produced short film Doghouse, starring Michael Maize and Erin Daniels. In addition to working with Scenarios USA this fall, Joshua will be directing Joe Carnahan’s new NBC thriller, State of Affairs, starring Katherine Heigl, and his 10th episode of CW’s The Vampire Diaries.

New York City

IMG_9942Meet the writer: Nialani Pringle, is a rising senior at Brooklyn Collaborative High School. Pringle’s film, Aleah, tells the story of a 17-year-old girl living in East New York, Brooklyn. Aleah, like many young girls, has hopes and dreams, though her everyday reality revolves around a tumultuous relationship with her boyfriend, an unplanned pregnancy and few places to turn. The story is based on Pringle’s life, whose own mother is a domestic abuse survivor and whose father was killed in Linden Plaza a year after she was born.  When asked why she chose to write this script, Pringle said, “My story shows that a person’s physical and emotional place can make a simple situation ten times worse. Aleah is a pregnant teenage girl in a bad neighborhood with absolutely no power. This was part of [my mother’s] reality and continues to be the reality for many women.” Aleah, was shot in the Linden Plaza Apartments of East New York.

 

Laurie Collyer

Meet the Director: Laurie Collyer premiered her first film at the Sundance Film Festival, a feature documentary  entitled,  Nuyorican Dream.  Nuyorican Dream had its broadcast premiere later that year on HBO/Cinemax.  The documentary earned Collyer a DGA nomination and won multiple prizes at international film festivals.  Her second film, narrative feature, Sherrybaby, also premiered at Sundance and earned lead actress Maggie Gyllenhaal a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. Collyer participated in the Sundance Filmmakers’ Lab and the Residence du Festival de Cannes to develop Sherrybaby.  In 2009, Collyer received a Cinereach grant to develop the script for Sunlight Jr., Collyer’s most recent film which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year.  Sunlight Jr., features Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon as down and out lovers, wrestling with pregnancy and homelessness.  Most recently, Collyer was hired by LD Productions to write a pilot based on the book, Brothel: Mustang Ranch and its Women, with partner Annie Marter.


Help Scenarios Redefine Place and Power in Chicago!

Scenarios USA has expanded our REAL DEAL program to Chicago schools.  Beginning this Fall, 39 dedicated educators in 9 public high schools are implementing the Scenarios curriculum addressing Place and Power.

Our excitement doesn’t stop there.  Today – Right Now – we’re launching our first ever Indiegogo Campaign to fund the Chicago REAL DEAL film.  REAL DEAL films are written by students as the final assignment of our curriculum and are made by some of your favorite Hollywood talents like Doug Liman (Bourne Identity), David Frankel (Devil Wears Prada), and Gina Prince- Bythewood (Love and Basketball).

Here’s what will happen: Nearly 1,000 Chicago students will submit their stories about place and power to our contest. (This theme is especially potent for the young people of Chicago who live in a city plagued by an epidemic of youth violence and immense cultural segregation.) One submission from Chicago will be selected to be turned into a REAL DEAL film.  The winning writer will be partnered with an acclaimed Hollywood director, shoot their story in their Chicago neighborhood with a professional crew, and bring their film to a local and national audience of 20 million!

We’ve been told that for teenagers to learn, you must talk to them.  But at Scenarios, we do something just as important as talking.  We listen.  That’s the mandate we began with when we started the organization 15 years ago.

As described by Scenarios REAL DEAL student, Terrance Ortiz, “Without someone showing you what’s possible, you don’t know what you can contribute to the world. When doors open, you can surprise yourself, and others.”

Help us open new doors – doors that are safe for young people to walk through, where, on the other side, they can be heard.

Please visit our Indiegogo page. watch our video, DONATE and HELP to make a film from Chicago.  This is more than a film, though – this is a chance to grow the creative spark in the teenagers we work with, many of whom had long stopped considering their own futures as bright or promising.

We’re honored to be invited into Chicago for this school year, and we’re thrilled to have you join us at this exciting start of our journey.  Thank you for visiting the Indiegogo page.

Warmly,

Maura Minsky
Executive Director/Co-Founder

P.S.  Please share our current Facebook Indiegogo Update on your Wall!chicago scenarios banner


Announcing the 2013-14 REAL DEAL Teacher Workshops, Curriculum and Contest

Love. Money. Family. Friendship. Power. Violence.

Do your students think and talk about these issues? Do your students love watching movies?

Are you looking for interactive, engaging, Common Core-aligned activities that will get even your most reluctant students thinking critically and writing creatively about sexual health and social justice issues?

Are you interested in exploring how the arts can take critical thinking to a whole new level?

Do you aim to create a safe space for your students to build their social and emotional competencies?

 COMING IN FALL 2013 TO NYC, CLEVELAND AND CHICAGO

Cleveland-WorkshopScenarios USA’s professional development workshops, for all educators grades 6-12, where we tackle these questions and more. These workshops are for educators who teach in our three REAL DEAL regions: New York City, Cleveland and Chicago.

Every teacher who attends our workshops will receive a free REAL DEAL curriculum and the new Scenarios USA movies, which are written by teens for teens.

Workshop participants will also learn about the 2013-14 REAL DEAL contest, where student winners are partnered with Hollywood directors and make short films.

REAL DEAL Curriculum Lessons:

  • Common Core-aligned
  • Social Emotional Learning (SEL) competencies
  • Creative, interactive and democratic

Please register here to receive more information about the workshop dates and locations as they are set: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Fall2013preregistration.


Scenarios Spotlight: Cecilia Mejia, Development & Special Events Associate

Cecilia Mejia
Cecilia Mejia

When Cecilia Mejia was young, her grandfather told her, “Whatever your skill is, try to use it to help people.” “It’s kind of dictated the way that I move about life,” she explained as we conversed about her work with film and development, Filipino visibility in the media, and the power of narrative. Today, as a development associate at Scenarios USA and a developer and producer for several films, such as “Yellow Rose” and “Bleached,” Mejia, a Filipino-American and Brooklynite, devotes her skills to producing media that challenges the Hollywood status quo. “To see our experiences and our voices reflected on screen, I figured out that was my purpose, to be able to push that forward.”

“It wasn’t that easy of a road for me to figure that out,” Mejia went on. For many years, she never thought of film as a viable direction for her future. “I had never seen or met anyone in the film world that looked or talked like me, but even beyond that, anyone that even said that I could be in that world,” she said. When she met Diane Paragas, the director of “Yellow Rose,” while working for a non-profit geared towards helping migrant workers from the Philippines (FALDEF), Mejia realized that for years, she had assumed that there just weren’t any female Filipino-American directors out there.

“Just because we are seen as one thing doesn’t mean that we can only tell one story,” Mejia emphasized. “It’s really dangerous to see people as just one thing, because we’re all different,” she went on. “It’s also not good artistry. It’s not good storytelling.”

Paragas had begun writing “Yellow Rose,” the story of a young Filipino girl growing up in Texas, ten years prior, but had put the project on hold because of constant requests that the main character be Chinese, a more “familiar identity,” instead of Filipino, as well as her own apprehension about being pigeonholed. She picked it back up when she realized, after receiving an invitation to join the commercial division Directors Guild of America, that the female membership was less than 5 percent, with an even lower Asian membership, making her one of the only Asian women present. Around the same time, she worked with a makeup artist with whom she had worked ten years before. In that span of time, Paragas was still the only female director with whom that artist had ever worked.

Diane Paragas, introducing her documentary "Tayo Ay May Karapatan: We Have Rights" (via FALDEF)
Diane Paragas introduces her documentary “Tayo Ay May Karapatan: We Have Rights” (via FALDEF)

“That’s how the rebirth of ‘Yellow Rose’ came about,” Mejia told me. “She decided it was time to tell this story and we’ve been on this mission to not only promote this story and Filipinos and Asians in general, but also female filmmakers.” After Paragas reached out to FALDEF while doing research for “Yellow Rose,” she and Mejia formed a bond, resulting in a short documentary about FALDEF and Mejia joining the production team for “Rose.”

“By coincidence, when we worked on this short, it was a mostly female crew,” Mejia remembered. “Our line producer was female, our cinematographer was female, even our gaffer was female.” The crew for “Bleached” is predominantly Filipino. “We’re trying to assemble a group of Filipinos behind the camera and also in front of the camera,” Mejia said. “Our producers are Filipino, the director’s Filipino, the cinematographer is Filipino, the line producer’s Filipino—we’re trying to show that we can work together, too.”

Thia Megia, the star of "Yellow Rose" (via Diane Paragas)
Thia Megia, the star of “Yellow Rose” (via Diane Paragas)

Mejia sees her work in development and grant writing as “telling a story.” Both at Scenarios USA and with the films she works on, her role is “to see where the need is and where there is a lack of something, a lack of representation, a lack of a voice, and how we can amplify that voice.” Looking back, she told me, “I can’t even think of any Asian role that completely affected me in a way where I thought that really told our story.” She pinpoints “The Joy Luck Club” as a great story but one that, unfortunately, always seems to be the default used to “define” or “encompass” the Asian experience. “There are so many other Asian stories out there that don’t get seen and our community shouldn’t be the only one watching them.”

“Just because we are seen as one thing doesn’t mean that we can only tell one story,” Mejia emphasized. “It’s really dangerous to see people as just one thing, because we’re all different,” she went on. “It’s also not good artistry. It’s not good storytelling.” In the making of “Yellow Rose,” people have often asked, “Does she have to be Filipino?” or “Does it have to be a girl?” Rose Garcia, the protagonist of “Yellow Rose,” is a teenager who finds out that she is undocumented when her mother is picked up by immigration authorities. Rose, who has always loved country music and dreamed of stardom despite racialized ridicule from her peers, links up with almost-famous country star Jimmy Redburn. Together on the road, they bring out each other’s voices, dispelling Redburn’s assumptions about Rose as they connect on a musical level.

Part of her role and intention as a producer and grant writer is to ensure that stories remain authentically told, that they are not altered for expediency or respectability. “I can bare my soul, but I won’t sell it. That’s my measure of how I try to get stories told. I’m patient enough to find other ways.”

Cecilia & Thia on the set of "Yellow Rose"
Cecilia & Thia on the set of “Yellow Rose”

In response to the aforementioned critics, Mejia says, “There are certain things you shouldn’t compromise.” Part of her role and intention as a producer and grant writer is to ensure that stories remain authentically told, that they are not altered for expediency or respectability. “If that’s your narrative, you want to tell a story about a Filipino girl that’s growing up in Texas, you have to stick with it,” she explained. “I will not sell my soul for anybody. I can bare it, but I won’t sell it. That’s my measure of how I try to get stories told. I’m patient enough to find other ways.” Mejia believes that there is always another way. “Changing the story just so that it gets done, that’s not the game I want to play. We just have to draw the line, regroup and rediscover, find another route.”

Thinking back on this phase of her career, Mejia told me, “I used to feel really guilty about putting so much effort into film.” But now, she explained, “I think if you tell a story in a way that’s authentic and real and amplifying a voice or even just representing people correctly, you are doing a service.” Growing up, Mejia witnessed confusion, stereotyping, and derision directed toward her identity and culture and didn’t always feel that she could speak up for herself. In high school, she never heard anything about May being Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, though it began as a designated week in 1977 and was expanded to a month in 1992. “I didn’t even know we had a month! Had I had someone tell me that it was okay to be proud of my culture or if I’d seen it in a movie or read it somewhere, then that wouldn’t have been so difficult for me,” she said.

The cast of "Yellow Rose"
The cast of “Yellow Rose”

The questions Mejia carries with her in her work today relate back to the invisibility and misrepresentation of her culture she observed as a young person, which continues today. Just this week, the New York Times published an article titled “Asian-American Actors Are Fighting For Visibility. They Will Not Be Ignored,” which addresses the whitewashing still rampant in the industry. “People start to think of you as some sort of foreign object and they start to treat you in a way where you’re completely different,” she said. “Now, I’m thinking about film and how we can portray ourselves as we are, how we can represent ourselves in a manner that respects both the ways in which we’re different and the ways in which we’re the same.” Thinking about the often relentless waves of racism and stereotyping in the media, Mejia asks, “How do we disrupt the cycle and not perpetuate stereotypes? By telling stories and making sure those stories are seen and heard.”

Thinking about the often relentless waves of racism and stereotyping in the media, Mejia asks, “How do we disrupt the cycle and not perpetuate stereotypes? By telling stories and making sure those stories are seen and heard.”

Cecilia and her mother
Cecilia and her mother

Besides “Yellow Rose,” Mejia is also working on a film called “Bleached,” which stars a young Filipino heroine as she navigates issues of appearance, race, and beauty standards, as well as several other films about youth characters. Going back to her grandfather’s words, Mejia reflected, “When you feel the results of your purpose, like when we made ‘Yellow Rose’ and Thia Megia, the lead actress, told me how grateful she was that a role like that exists, that’s an amazing thing.” When Mejia was younger, she didn’t see her voice amplified. Earlier this year, Scenarios USA alumni Tiana spoke about a similar experience. “We had very similar stories,” Mejia explained, “and when you hear somebody’s story that’s similar to yours, you forget that other people have gone through what you’ve gone through.”

Mejia's mother
Mejia’s mother

“I think if you tell a story in a way that’s authentic and real and amplifying a voice or even just representing people correctly, you are doing a service. You never know how one story can change just even one person or give some sort of inspiration or an idea to somebody else.

Another story stands out for Mejia—one of her mother’s that she only heard once she was older. When her mother first arrived as a nurse in the United States, doctors and people at the hospital told her that she should get back on the boat and return to her country. As she told Mejia later on, her mother never let those people or anybody else put her down for being from a different culture. She stood up for herself and always taught her daughter to do the same. Going forward, Mejia said, thinking of Tiana, her mother, and the voices of others eking out space for themselves despite exclusion, “Those are my biggest driving forces.”


ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.

Learn more here.

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What I learned about teens and sexual abuse from what students wrote in my film class

Written by Eugene Hazzard, Chicago educator

One of the reasons I became a teacher, many years ago, was to provide young people with a space to engage in free thinking — to teach them how to develop and share their own ideas and perspectives. In my film studies class, I encouraged students to draft a screenplay that engaged with social issues, based on activities from the non-profit Scenarios USA. I told them to write freely about whichever topic they wished. I told them that there was no wrong focus for the piece.

The result?

When these teenagers were able to freely write about whatever topic they desired, students turned in writing projects that ranged from personal issues played out through composite characters of themselves all the way to *insert hand over mouth emoji* sex and sexuality. The stories ranged from those likely based on personal experience, set in high schools and featuring the lives of students, to Hollywood-inspired dramas. It was quite astonishing to witness these young people discover their voices, but what was more astonishing was what I learned from them: how much was missing in their information and learning about sex and sexuality. The disconnect was clear in one arena in particular — for while they demonstrated detesting the idea of sexually dehumanizing individuals, they also had no idea what sexual abuse was.

We need sexuality education which encourages students by providing an environment that fosters a safe place for allowing their voices to be heard.classroom image flickr

We are failing our young people. We need comprehensive sexuality education to become a reality in schools across the country. We need sexuality education which encourages students by providing an environment that fosters a safe place for allowing their voices to be heard. As educators, we need to speak up and correct misconceptions as they arise in our classrooms or otherwise risk a generation of millennials who learn about sexual etiquette from social media Memes.

Often, arguments against comprehensive sexuality education make the case for an abstinence-only-until- marriage curriculum, based on the myth that when young people know more about sex they are more likely to have it. But as many of us have seen through working with young people, withholding information does not protect young people’s health or prevent sexual activity. Instead, it allows misinformation about consent and what constitutes sexual abuse to abound and cuts off young people from critical information about their health.

Through comprehensive sexuality education we can bridge these gaps and actually support the young people we guide and house in our classrooms. One of the most troubling and fundamental aspects of sexual violence is the removal of power through theft of the voice. Speaking up in a culture which protects and reinforces abuse is a struggle, for young people and adults alike. In our classrooms, we can include information that can help prevent sexual assault and empower students to understand and handle sexual abuse that may have already happened, or which they find themselves needing to cope with (Get the Asking for Help & Healing lesson plan). When you provide space for young people to talk through sex, sexuality and consent (Get the Consent lesson plan), they’ll tell you exactly what they need to learn about respect and safety, and begin to own their power through listening and being heard. Without these conversations, we dismiss the real questions and experiences of students.

When you provide space for young people to talk through sex, sexuality and consent, they’ll tell you exactly what they need to learn about respect and safety, and begin to own their power through listening and being heard.

The curricula and accompanying films created by Scenarios USA answer this call. The short films and curricula work in tandem, and the films are directed by accomplished filmmakers and written by young people (chosen as a part of a writing contest) just like the teens in my classroom about their own lives and struggles. When young people see these stories, they see young people whose voices are valued. They see their peers working toward relationships based on consent, mutual respect and dignity, and they watch as their peers recognize and name violence. The struggles around sex and sexuality portrayed in the films are struggles that any group of students would recognize. The lesson plans and activities focus on areas students may never have had the chance to discuss in school using the films to reflect their learning; things like power, consent, empathy, sexual identity, gender expression, respect, control and violence. Most importantly, they see that with their stories, ideas and words, they are not powerless but instead can — like the students who wrote these films and inspired these curricula — be heard and make an impact in their world.

This is a critical time. While movements to end sexual violence grow online, opportunities to reinforce abuse also thrive in these spaces. As young people’s presence on social media continues to skyrocket, social platforms can become a megaphone through which shame, stigma and misinformation is amplified, reinforcing a culture of violence. Young people may learn of (or even share photos and videos of) incidents of sexual violence online. Aside from issues of privacy, spreading information about sexual assault on social media often manifests as victim blaming and shaming, furthering the trauma experienced by young survivors. Without safe spaces to answer questions about sex, and without inclusive curricula that understands the needs and experiences of young people, violence may extend beyond social media and transform into real life threats to the safety and agency of our youth. Sexual violence prevention, online and offline, is possible when students are given space in which they are affirmed and in which they are encouraged to ask critical questions. It’s empowering for young people to learn through the stories shared by people just like them.

speechlessStudents understand Scenarios curricula because they feel understood and represented by it. One Scenarios film, Speechless, written by high school Junior Roxanne Lasker-Hall and directed by Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body, The Invitation) deals directly with sexual violence in a way that is accessible and intuitive. Speechless tells the story of a boy who hides his sexual assault out of shame and fear. Ultimately, with support, he is able to tell his story of being sexually assaulted and end the cycle of abuse. The film was featured as a part of a keynote at the National Sexual Assault Conference hosted by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and was the central piece of a youth-led multimedia campaign featured in the Huffington Post. It is through this kind of storytelling and online activism that we encourage students to stick up for one another, report insensitive and demeaning communication or posting on social media, and support peers who are fighting to find or protect their voice.

Comprehensive sexuality education — which is respectful of young people’s autonomy and inclusive across race, gender, sexual orientation and class — is crucial, but it’s not the only solution. Educators can do even more outside the classroom to serve as resources and establish affirming spaces in schools. This means fostering young people’s confidence in academic and extracurricular contexts, and leading by example by communicating love, support and unity. We must promote respect for one another as individuals and be accountable for how we use language and power to both lift up and potentially hurt others. It also means supporting organizations and community partners that provide resources for our young people.

Education has the potential to do more than meet quotas on reproductive biology. It can lift up young people’s voices. It can provide real answers, questions and safe places for young people to speak and think about the issues they live with every day. It can also help us work toward a culture in which sexual assault does not threaten the safety and dignity of so many young people. I became a teacher because I wanted to ensure the future was full of creative and confident thinkers. I want my students to become those types of thinkers, and I want to equip them with all the tools they need to fight violence and promote respect.


ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.

Learn more here.

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ACTION: Scenarios’ New Directors

The REAL DEAL script: Winning teen writers of the Scenarios REAL DEAL contest are partnered with professional filmmakers, like Doug Liman of the Bourne series or Gina Prince-Bythewood, director of Beyond the Lights, to turn their stories into powerful films. Every contest year we receive hundreds of stories and are able to share those stories with people from across the U.S., giving teens in our classrooms a chance to demonstrate their incredible creativity, and reflect upon topics that matter to them. We can’t wait to find out who the finalists will be, and ultimately our winners (to be announced at our 2016 Gala June 7th)! The films air on places like Showtime, and are integrated into the next curriculum for hundreds of thousands of young people to experience, identify with, and be inspired by.

We are proud to announce the 2016 Scenarios Directors! The directors you’re about to meet will work closely with the winning teen writers to perfect their stories, envision their narrative, and actualize it into film, creating two new shorts to premiere in 2017!

CLEVELAND: 

SO YONG KIMSoYongKim

So Yong Kim is an award­-winning Korean American filmmaker. Kim received the Special Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival for her debut feature, IN BETWEEN DAYS. Inspired by her youth, the film was shot in Toronto, mostly improvised by its teenage cast members, whose awkward, raw romance and alienation from their surroundings were expressed through intimate digital photography. The film was released by Kino films. Her critically acclaimed second feature,TREELESS MOUNTAIN, filmed in Kim’s home town in South Korea, follows the intimate story of two young girls who are abandoned by their mother and must find their own resilience to continue. The film garnered numerous awards, was released by Oscilloscope Laboratories, and distributed in over ten territories worldwide. Kim’s third feature, FOR ELLEN, stars Paul Dano and Jon Heder, is often cited as Dano’s best work, premiered at Sundance and was theatrically release by Tribeca Films in 2012. In 2014 Kim released SPARK AND LIGHT, a short film starring Riley Keough commissioned by fashion house Miu Miu as part of their ongoing series Women’s Tales. Kim recently world premiered her fourth feature, LOVESONG, in Competition at Sundance. Kim has also produced and co­edited three feature films made by her partner, Bradley Rust Gray: SALT, THE EXPLODING GIRL, and JACK & DIANE.

BRADLEY RUST GRAY

Gray is a Fulbright scholar and DAAD German Arts recipient who has graduate degrees BradB_Wfrom USC and the British Film Institute in London. His short road movie HITCH, about two young men on a personal journey premiered at the New York Film Festival, won an award at Sundance, and was distributed by Stand Releasing. His first feature SALT, about a girl who falls in love with her sister’s boyfriend, was set in a remote Icelandic fishing village. The film explores Icelandic fairytale themes with a documentary approach to create natural performances by non­actors in their native language. The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival where it won the Caligari Film Prize for inventive filmmaking. His second feature, THE EXPLODING GIRL, set in New York City is about an epileptic young woman who falls in love with her best friend. Zoe Kazan’s quietly powerful performance garnered her the Best Actress prize at Tribeca FIlm Festival. The film was released by Adam Yauch’s Oscilloscope Laboratories. His third feature JACK & DIANE, a love story about a teenage girl who’s inner terrors over falling in love manifests itself in a terrifying creature, stars Riley Keough, Juno Temple, and Kylie Minogue. The film also featured original animation by the Brothers Quay and was released by Magnolia Pictures. Gray is currently in development with his fourth film entitled, BLOOD, set in Japan. Brad has also produced and co-edited four feature films made by his partner, So Yong Kim: IN BETWEEN DAYS, TREELESS MOUNTAIN, FOR ELLEN, and LOVESONG.

NEW YORK:

SUSAN SEIDELMANSeidelman directing_123

Susan Seidelman is a film director, producer and writer. She came to prominence in the 1980s with SMITHEREENS which was the first American independent feature to be screened in Competition at the Cannes Film Festival and DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN featuring Madonna in her first film role. Among her other credits are SHE-DEVIL starring Meryl Streep and Roseanne Barr, MAKING MR. RIGHT, starring John Malkovich, COOKIE starring Peter Falk, Dianne Wiest and written by Nora Ephron, and MUSICAL CHAIRS, starring EJ Bonilla and featuring actress and LGBT advocate, Laverne Cox.

Seidelman’s films continue to mix comedy with drama, blending genres and pop-cultural references with a focus on women protagonists, particularly outsiders. She also works in television and is known for directing the pilot and early episodes of SEX AND THE CITY.

Join us at our Awards/Gala June 7th, 2016 at the Prince George Ballroom to be part of the announcement of our winning youth writers and support the creation of our newest films, to be directed by these brilliant filmmakers! http://bit.ly/scenariosgala 


ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.

Learn more here.

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#SCENARIOSPRESENTS: REAL DEAL Writing Contest Semi-Finalists

IT’S HAPPENING! No, Lemonade already happened. No, not a miraculous spring shower of free Hamilton tickets – but something equally as great! We are proud to announce the 2016 REAL DEAL story-writing contest Semi-Finalists! From hundreds of submissions from youth (grades 6-12) in NYC and Cleveland, we give you our badass semi-finalists, whose stories inspired in special and profound ways. Thanks to our Selection Committee of over 700 people from across the country who chose these stories (see rubric here), we are now entering the second stage of the contest and are that much closer to making two, COUNT ‘EM, two, new magical films to premiere in 2017!

Lani Pringle, writer of the film with the 2 teen actressesEvery contest year we receive hundreds of stories and are able to share those stories with people from across the U.S., giving teens in our classrooms a chance to demonstrate their incredible creativity, and reflect upon topics that matter to them. In turn, they often show us that what they have to say is the most honest and necessary examination of issues today (often ahead of mainstream attention). Our last three stories turned films revealed the lives of a Black Femmes*, which allowed these identities to be seen and heard from in ways they are not usually given space to be depicted: A gender fluid teen navigating violence, a young woman dealing with the cruelty of peers reacting to her feelings for another girl, and a young woman facing the oppression of poverty via abuse from her boyfriend, an unplanned pregnancy, and violent streets. They are also the stories of resiliency; as each character finds their courage and voice to be themselves and survive. From these films, our Love & Solidarity curriculum emerged (integrating the thoughts and opinions of students, the youth writers, educators, and activists) which covers topics like gender identity, asking for help and healing, race, power, and much more.

The stories submitted to the 2016 contest were responses formed from discussions developed from this inclusive and inquiry based curriculum – as different and fascinating as the students who wrote them. We can’t wait to find out who the
finalists will be, and ultimately our winners (to be announced at our 2016 Gala June 7th)! The winning teen writers of the Scenarios REAL DEAL contest are partnered with professional filmmakers, like Doug Liman of the Bourne series or Gina Prince-Bythewood, director issaof Beyond the Lights, to turn their stories into powerful films. The films air on places like Showtime, and are integrated into the next curriculum for hundreds of thousands of young people to experience, identify with, and be inspired by.

All of the stories are beyond valued, and we are so grateful for all of the NYC and Cleveland educators and students for their entries (Stay tuned for more ways to remain involved!) Every student who submitted will receive feedback from our Selection Committee readers. 

Questions? Please email Rob@scenariosusa.org

Let us know you’re excited about finding out what our next films are and support the stories of our youth – click to tweet : ” Can’t wait to find out the youth-written stories to be turned into films! Watch @scenariosusa films free this month: bit.ly/girlswritefilm “

Each month we highlight three of our youth-written films for FREE on our YouTube Channel. This month we celebrate stories written by young women. We proudly support storytelling as we prepare to announce our next youth winners of our writing contest who will have their stories turned into film, directed by professional filmmakers!


Without further ado, the 2016 REAL DEAL story-writing contest Semi-Finalists!

(25 stories were selected from each region, 50 total, with 30 writers from NYC, and 30 writers from Cleveland)

Cleveland Semi-Finalists
Winners are from Facing History New Tech, James Ford Rhodes, Euclid High School, Nathan Hale, Downtown Education Center, and Positive Education Program (PEP) – Willow Creek. 

 

 A Sister’s Love
  • By Josairybell Castillo
  • Teacher : Michelle Webster

All Things Go

  • By Brandy Spencer
  • Teacher : Joshua Soto

Alone in the Dark

  • By Angel DeJesus
  • Teacher : Michelle Webster

Bittersweet

  • By Wanda Feliciano Cabrera
  • Teacher : Martha Verde

Fight or Run

  • By Madison Mikel
  • Teacher : Martha Verde

Forbidden Love

  • By Anjali Patel
  • Teacher : Michelle Webster

Giving Up On Life Is Easier Said Than Done

  • By A’neisha Hill
  • Teacher : Joshua Soto

Hidden Secrets

  • By Sierra Rose Reichard
  • Teacher : Michelle Webster

I Thought I Knew Myself

  • Juan Carlos Trinidad
  • Teacher : Michelle Webster

Is This Love

  • By Megan Stepp
  • Teacher : Shedrina Chapman

Joy

  • By Joyenia Cabrera
  • Teacher : Martha Verde

Love is Colorless

  • By Kyla Saddler 
  • Teacher : Marketa President

Love is Greater than Memory

  • By Eden Lopez
  • Teacher : Michelle Webster

No Boundaries

  • By Brianna Ol Allen
  • Teacher : Michelle Webster

No Family is Perfect

  • By Cassandra Arroyo
  • Teacher : Martha Verde

No Matter How Far Apart

  • By Charlie Weaver
  • Teacher : Dixon/Perkins

Perfect Imperfection

  • By Amizael Figueroa, Candace Roupe, Raven Reynolds, and Alyssa Terry
  • Teacher : Martha Verde

Person I Cared For

  • By LaShawn Smith
  • Teacher : Dixon/Perkins

Revenge is Sweet but Love is Sweeter

  • By Kalonte Ogletree, Johnathan Harrison, and William Jenekins
  • Teacher : Melissa Svigeli-Smith

Running Away Gets You Nowhere

  • By Ashley Middleton
  • Teacher : Martha Verde

Scars Beneath Scars

  • By Alexus Dempsey

Split Persona

  • By Myraleeh Nelson
  • Teacher : Martha Verde

Unbreakable Bonds

  • By Jacob Lotherbaugh
  • Teacher : John Callahan

Voices

  • By Randy King
  • Teacher : Martha Verde

Without Him

  • By Aracelys Figueroa
  • Teacher : Michelle Webster
 NYC Semi-Finalists 
Winners are from Brooklyn Collaborative Studies, Richard R. Green High School of Teaching, (PS 499) The Queens College School of Math, Science and Technology, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and GirlsInc @ Central Park East High School. 

 

1:45
  • By Najah Khalil
  • Teacher : Phil Grubler, Dwight Jennings

Aslima

  • By Sacha Kaladeen
  • Teacher : Kim Dudwitt

At War With A Ghost

  • By Jacqueline Woo
  • Teacher : Abby Loring Garofalo

Brothers, But Not by Blood

  • By Eduardo Cordova
  • Teacher : Phil Grubler

Cover My Shame

  • By Elisabeth Lohier, Kelsi Howell, and Shaneisha Johnson 
  • Teacher : Aiesha Turman

Cut In Half

  • By Leen Shumman
  • Teacher : Phil Grubler, Dwight Jennings

Death Serenade

  • By Alice Ni
  • Teacher : Abby Loring Garofalo

Everything Is Gonna Be Okay

  • By Diana Saavedra and Janaya Carlo
  • Teacher : Dwight Jennings

Free Bird

  • By Andrea Diaz
  • Teacher : Phil Grubler, Dwight Jennings

Halah: Halo Around The Moon

  • By Ayala Mirand
  • Teacher : Aiesha Turman

Hidden Bruises

  • By Atzin Salgado
  • Teacher : Phil Grubler, Dwight Jennings

I Will Follow You

  • By Carlos Reyes
  • Teacher : Phil Grubler, Dwight Jennings

Impotent

  • By Jovani Hernandez
  • Teacher : Dwight Jennings

Losing Hope, Finding Love

  • By Taniea Lewis 
  • Teacher : Dwight Jennings

Lost Girl

  • By Janaya Carlo and Andrea Diaz
  • Teacher : Phil Grubler, Dwight Jennings

Love or Lust

  • By Donovan Cosby Jr. and Tacquan Bailey
  • Teacher : Abby Loring Garofalo

Memories of Matches

  • By Justin Santos 
  • Teacher : Abby Loring Garofalo

Not What I Expected

  • By Rachel Zheng
  • Teacher : Abby Loring Garofalo

Sister Society

  • By Sharmin Delowar and Mirza Laboney
  • Teacher : Chantell Jackson

The Effects of Love

  • By Caylee Flores
  • Teacher : Abby Loring Garofalo

The Suicide of Michael Spencer

  • By Joe Xue
  • Teacher : Abby Loring Garofalo

The Unstoppable

  • By Julianna Greenidge
  • Teacher : Phil Grubler, Dwight Jennings

Tracks

  • By Jazmyn Santiago and Taniea Lewis
  • Teacher : Kim Dudwitt

Unique

  • By Zion Spencer
  • Teacher : Aiesha Turman

Who Can I Trust Anymore

  • By Nafiah Alam, and Sydney Lutchmedial
  • Teacher : Abby Loring Garofalo

*term used to describe gender identity acknowledging a feminine (femme) identity with its associated traits, behaviors, styles, self-perception.


ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.

Learn more here.

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How a New Television Show Fights Bullying by Educating, not Entertaining

Amira Selimovic is a contributor to Kicker. This post was originally published on the Kicker website and is republished here with permission.

As a criminal justice major who intends to make a career out of helping victims—and perpetrators—reestablish their lives and get the help they need, I am a huge advocate of raising awareness about the serious issue crime that is bullying.

via Flickr (@hrlori)
via Flickr (@hrlori)

Cyber Bullied” is a reality TV series coming soon to a major network. Its hosts are Travis DesLaurier and Skylar Radzion.

I got to chat with “Cyber Bullied” producer J.D. Cannon about this inspiring new project and learn more about how it will all work.

As a series, “Cyber Bullied” aims to interrupt bullying by “providing real solutions for the victims by giving them a voice, by confronting the bullies, and by getting the silent majority to get into action and do something.” Each episode will intervene in a different extreme bullying story and try to create a real solution.

The goal is education.

What people seem to ignore about bullying is that in many instances the situation ends tragically—with either the victim taking his or her life or the bully taking his or her behavior to an even higher extreme.

In the pilot episode, Travis and Skylar learn about a situation in which two identical twin sisters were being severely bullied. Not being able to take the constant victimization, one of the twins tragically ended her life a year ago. Now, the family is left in turmoil because they have no answers and no one was made accountable for what happened to their daughter. With the help of Travis and Skylar, the family will seek to find out why the police did not investigate the situation that led to the girl’s death, hoping to be provided with answers and closure.

The two main elements the show examines are helping the victims return to a normal life and questioning the bully’s parents, the school, and the local police as to why they have not created an intervention solution.

In an effort to aid the victims return to a happy, healthy life, the show carefully sought two hosts who would perfectly complement this role. At a glance, Travis and Skylar may just come off as social media personalities; however, the pair is a perfect example of what future survivors of bullying may look like.

Just finishing high school, Skylar is making a name for herself in the entertainment industry. Not too long ago, though, she found herself in a situation where she had to leave school because of the cruel bullying she was facing. Because she’s still evolving out of that mindset, she can aid others in overcoming their tormentors. Travis, too, is making waves in the industry and is no stranger to bullying either. In high school, he was threatened verbally and physically. He knows what it feels like to be bullied and how to escape the constraints bullies place on their victims.

Because both of these hosts have experienced the trauma of severe bullying, they can understand and relate to the victims they aim to help. They are examples that overcoming your bullies is possible and that you will be stronger for it.

One of the most refreshing parts of this show is that it seeks not only to help the victims, but to help the bullies as well. Cannon says, “Not all bullies are inherently evil. Damaged people that have issues of their own don’t know how to project it, so they project it onto someone else.” Part of the process in helping all involved is to “offer solutions to [the bullies] as well so they understand the gravity of what they’ve done and so they don’t continue the cycle.” The show is “not just about making [the bullies] look bad.”

A goal of the show is to make viewers realize that “to relentlessly drive someone to make them feel like they need to take their own life, that’s a crime.” By starting this conversation, the show’s creators hope to make schools, the police, and politicians start to approach bullying as the crime that it is, instead of just dismissing it as kids just being kids. Says Cannon, “When kids are being kids, people don’t end up dying.”

via Wikimedia Commons
via Wikimedia Commons

This show is different because it is not for entertainment value—it is for education and outreach. The one thing Cannon and his team didn’t want to do was to add trauma to victims and their families. Both the victims and the bullies work with counselors and psychologists during and after filming, so that they can heal and move forward. The most important part of the process, says Cannon, is to “make sure [everyone] heals and reclaims their lives.”

Be sure to look out for the show’s premiere in 2016 on a yet-to-be determined major U.S. network.

If you are currently experiencing a bullying situation please know that there is help and that that you are deserving of it. To be considered for the show click here and tell the producers about yourself and your story. They are eager to help as many people as they can and want you to reach out.

If you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).


ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.

Learn more here.

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