Selfies as Film Can Lead to Good Mental Health

My films, as a positive psychologist, turned filmmaker, are carefully designed to connect with young people and to arouse feelings and memories in adults. They are raw and real, as much of the filming is done by the actress with her own iphone, augmented at times with a B-roll team of camera people. Is the lighting perfect? No. Is the sound totally even? No. Do the films teach, give hope, tell a real slice of life so touching that the audience laughs and sighs from deep in their bellies? Yes. I am very proud of my films as they represent a true bridge between the authentic ‘self’ that we all need to stay in touch with, within ourselves, for good mental health and the integration of selfies into film making. How does this happen? On at least two levels:
1. For the actor, using an iphone or android to record his part, doing this on his own, in a private space after directing has taken place, lets his open up in a more intimate, personal fashion than when a crew is around. If the actor is more intensely engaged in his character and more at ease, then the audience will feel this intensity and more depth is achieved in the film.
2. For the audience the deeper the authenticity on the screen, the more they are captivated and drawn in. That is important for the work I do is not just an art form, it is literally to save lives. As a psychologist I know the angst and pain that can go with growing up. I know that not only do kids, tweens and teens need help in understanding the process of growing up, but so do their parents and teachers.
So to make films that drawn you in as deeply as possible and at the same time arouse interest in serious subjects that need to be handled and understood as we grow up is a win-win for everyone.

My films are reminders of hope and courage in all the angst and despair one may feel growing up. ‘The Truth, Falling in Love’ and ‘Secrets, are teaching films in that we get to understand adolescence better. Grown-ups have simply forgotten many of the emotional aches and pains of growing up. They need to be reminded. Kids are living these moods and emotions right now, but don’t know how to evaluate how they feel and often don’t know how to reach solutions to challenging situations they are in. My films help both kids and adults by providing the information they need. For example, in ‘Secrets, A Coming of Age, Selfie Film’, based on themes in Secrets, Diary of a Gutsy Teen, the girl is filled with normal feelings of jealousy and worry as she waits for her mom to have a baby. Two things happen that are important. When she sees the baby she realizes she has the capacity for positive feelings toward her new sister. Also, her mom is smart and makes her feel that she is still extremely important and loved. This is learning material. Watching the film and discussing it helps kids and adults see how our emotions shift and can move from hurt and jealousy to affection and caring. Also, we learn how important it is for parents to say the right things at the right time.”

Listen to Me! Don’t Turn Away! I’m Trying to Grow Up!

Growing up is tough. Us adults can still remember some of the pain, angst, frustration and often confusion. I know that I relied a lot on my parents to help me make it through. I remember in the Seventh Grade being so upset with older boys that swore in the hallways and older girls who wore lots of make-up to school. I was scared, fascinated but really confused. I remember coming home on a Friday and telling my parents that I wasn’t going back to school anymore. However, by Monday morning, there I was back on the bus, going to school. How did that happen? By my parents taking the time to listen to my upset and talking to me on and off all weekend. By Monday I realized that these kids were just being themselves, a couple of years older than me. I had nothing to worry about. I wasn’t in class with them, nor did I even need to talk to them. I was to go about my business in school and everything would be fine. Thanks to my parents, I was at peace again.

When I wrote The Truth, Diary of a Gutsy Tween and then Secrets, Diary of a Gutsy Teen, I wanted to include as many of the subjects as I could think of where kids need to be listened to, understood and helped to process their lives. So when I started working on the film version, the same thoughts were in my mind. In this short scene from the rehearsal scenes of The Truth, a Short Film, the ‘Girl’ played by Cassidy Terracciano, shares her pain that her mom doesn’t concentrate on what she is saying. That is a real problem for the ‘Girl’ as she needs ANSWERS. Not all answers can just wait. Like when to wear a bra? When to have sex? When to smoke or why never to smoke? Time marches on and one way of another an answer will be found.

So if you have a child growing up in your home, remember to listen. That means not multi-tasking and not using technology. It also means not folding clothes sometimes or even paying bills. This may be hard at first to honor but you know in your heart it is the way to go.