Being a pioneer in Positive Psychology makes it perfect for me to be a Pioneer in Selfie Films that are both artistic and educational

Being a pioneer in Positive Psychology (THE ENCHANTED SELF, A POSITIVE THERAPY) has well seasoned me to be a pioneer in Selfie Films. What is the purposed of psychology? It is understand the human mind and then to help people achieve good mental health. Understanding the mind, the way we think and feel, gives psychologists an edge in helping people as we can not only give advise and support, but can help with the strategies and steps necessary to feel better. Right now, the youth in our country have many pressures that they are dealing with. Sometimes the pressures lead to anxiety or depression, sometimes drugs, sometimes suicide. What can I do with my training to help kids and parents? Of course I can give a lecture or write a paper. But drama and story telling are often much more effective than those options. Drama, since ancient times has awakened people to what they need to do with their lives and how to handle themselves. That’s what I am doing in making Selfie films that bring to light many adolescent problems in away that penetrates without leading to despair.

I am thrilled to be making Selfie films that can successfully compete artistically in film festivals and then can also be used as important educational tools in and out of the classroom to assist in opening the doors to better mental health for kids, tweens and teens. Let me give an example, ‘The Truth, a Short Film’ is made up of sixteen scenes that are filmed by the star, Cassidy Terracciano, on her cell phone. Directed by me, but ultimately left by herself to film, using her iphone the scenes, adapted from my book, ‘The Truth, Diary of a Gutsy Tween’,https://www.amazon.com/Truth-Diary-Gutsy-Tween/dp/1628736119/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497579125&sr=8-1&keywords=the+truth+diary+of+a+gutsy+tween we experience an intimacy with the actress that is amazing. Like most of us, left alone in the shower we reach our ultimate singing voice, I believe that directing but then letting kids do the filming by themselves without a crew watching, is to the advantage for the audience,the material and the actor.

I present the kinds of issues, that left unchecked and not understood by the child and/or family members, can lead to depression, eating disorders, panic attacks, poor grades, drugs and even the ultimate worst, suicide. That’s because nothing is trivial when we are growing up. A crush that goes bad, a decision to move to a new town, friends left behind, parents fighting or maybe a divorce, friends teasing or bullying, all of these situations and many more can lead to a mental health crisis for a particular child.

However, I do not tell a dark story as a pioneer in Selfie Films. My films are uplifting and entertaining. The central characters find workable and uplifting solutions to their problems. The audience laughs, groans, remembers when they were that age, and are ready to start important conversations. I believe that combining potentially serious developmental subjects in a new form of filmmaking will result in happier kids, more successful parenting and mental health care when necessary in a more timely fashion.

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.”

President Donald Trump expressed powerful messages about bringing up girls that parallel my work as a psychologist and now a filmmaker!

What are the core messages of my work? They are actually what President Donald Trump, during a recent speech for Women’s History Month, stated, “We want every daughter in America to grow up in a country where she can believe in herself, believe in her future, and follow her heart, and realize her dreams.”

I believe these core messages come through in all my writings, my work as a therapist in the treatment room, my talks, websites, charitable outreach efforts, plays I’ve written, books and films I’ve made based on both The Truth, Diary of a Gutsy Tween and Secrets, Diary of a Gutsy Teen. I am proud and excited about my new way of delivering my core messages. That latest method is through the production of my innovative, award winning ‘selfie films’.

In both of my films, ‘The Truth, A Short Film’ and ‘Falling in Love, A Coming of Age, Selfie Film’, the girl is able to find a pathway back to herself which gives her the energy, focus and stamina to go on successfully with her life. In the first film, ‘The Truth’ she achieves this in part by putting a secret message to herself into her locket which she can then wear close to her heart. In the second film ‘Falling in Love’ the girl finds a way to regain her sense of self and well-being through reaching deep inside of herself even when feeling miserable. Getting in touch with herself gives her the strength to go on.

The truth is in life, that unless we are able to savor our own talents, strengths and potential we are destined to be at the mercy of others. Everyone has an unique set of talents and potential. When these are crushed or not developed the person suffers. All of us have been stifled or put down at some point in growing up. But when it gets too much, for example when a kid is bullied, that person may end up so depressed that even suicide can take place.

I am thrilled to see President Trump’s remarks recently about how important it is for every girl in this country to grow up believing in herself and to follow her heart.

Yes, we must all make efforts to protect and educate our children so that they grow up able to get in touch with what I call their ‘Enchanted Selves’. That is the part of us that responds to a chance to use our talents, strengths and potential and responds to encouragement, love, good education, opportunities, etc. Yes, every child deserves to feel whole and able to follow her heart.

Selfies as a New Took in Filmmaking

A recent story on The New York Times website featured a new web series, ‘Ocean Parkway’, which takes its ‘quirky’ characters from the neighborhood streets. The series looks at Brooklyn through the eyes of two tweens and their parents. That web series has now been pitched to HBO with four episodes and is under consideration for development.

There are not enough series, nor films that reflect the ordinary lives of people in a meaningful way and that can be watched by all ages. My life work, as a positive psychologist, is based on the belief that listening to ordinary kids, tweens, teens, and adults and deeply understanding their needs, passions, feelings, longings and goals is the best way to get real understanding, compassion and problem solving going. The results are often extraordinary, as strengths, talents and potential begin to emerge.

‘The Truth, a Short Film’ and now in production, ‘Secrets’ both reflect the ordinary and the extraordinary of girls, tweens and teens in our society. In each film, a young girl, moving from being a tween to a teen, confronts all the issues of her life. She has angst and joy, troubles and fun while dealing with everything from falling in love, to family upsets, to struggling with loss, to finding ways to hold on to the best of herself as her life continues to unfold.

My short two minute film, ‘The Truth, A Short Short Film’, premiered at FilmOneFest in July. The film was chosen as an Official Selection in the Chain Film Festival held in Manhattan on August 13, 2016. ‘The Truth, a Short Film’, a longer 16 minute portrayal of a girl growing up, has been officially selected for the Golden Door International Film Festival to be held in September 2016. The Rahway International Film Festival recently chose the 2 minute version as an Official Selection.

Yes, the character, based on the ‘girl’ in my two books, ‘The Truth’ and ‘Secrets’ is both ordinary and extraordinary. But there is another twist to all of this. And that is the use of the Selfie in film making.

In both of these films, the actual actress, in ‘The Truth’, Cassidy Terracciano, and in ‘Secrets’ Megan Brown, not only play the part of ‘the girl’ but they do their own filming via their phones. This is an incredible leap in filmmaking. I directed both girls, but not at the moments they finally filmed themselves. They did that at home alone in the privacy of the merger of themselves with the character. I’m excited to see the use of selfies not only enhancing the actor’s capacities to make the character come alive, but resulting in a film that is a more intimate, ‘real’ artistic experience, for the viewer.

What does this mean for the phenomenon of Selfies? I think it means that allowing a person to get closer to herself, whether that means capturing on video or in pictures oneself via Seflies or whether it means merging the deepest parts of an actress with the character at hand has tremendous potential for mental health and for filmmaking.

A Sequel to ‘The Truth’, ‘Secrets’ is Currently in Production, staring Megan Brown

In ‘Secrets’, a girl continues to share her most private thoughts and feelings on video, via her cell phone. We don’t know even for sure, if she keeps a paper diary. Maybe the videos of herself, as Selfie reports on her life are enough for her. But to whome is she speaking? Just to herself? To the universe? To a stranger? To someone she now trusts that she met on social media? In no one is the film dark, but rather I just bring up these questions as young teens of today have at their fingertips the whole world to cry out to.

And yet, even with the whole world, sometimes no one hears their cries. That is one reason ‘Secrets’ is such an important short film. We get to see the depth of emotion and frustration and loneliness that tweens and teens often experience. In the short scene uploaded here, you see how lonely the girl is now that the family has moved. It is painful!

Trailer for The Truth, a Short Film

Trailer for The Truth, a Short Film from Barbara Holstein on Vimeo.

A girl in the throes of growing up keeps her secret diary on her cell in video. Here she shares all her feelings and worries about fall in love, growing up, having a best friend, moving to a new town, her parents fighting, hating her mother, her body changing and developing and more. She figures out a secret message to put into her locket to help her keep the best of herself for the future. In 45 seconds you will get the film of this 16 minute film which is going to Premiere on April 3rd at the Garden State Film Festival, between 3 and 5.

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.

Do You Know What Your Daughter is Really Thinking About?

When Jon Seiler, my editor, to ‘The Truth, a Short Film’ and I began to process how to bring the girl in the film closer emotionally to the viewer, we decided that she should be ‘involved’ with her phone. After all, aren’t kids as well as parents all involved with their phones? Don’t we check them numerous times a day to see if someone or something has attempted to connect to us? Don’t we use them as a back up for security or company if we are alone in a restaurant or diner? And don’t we also use them to record our lives in various ways, from pictures of our check before we send it, to a travelogue, to a diary of the events in our lives, to ways of connecting ourselves, sometimes with regret later, to all the social media sites?

So we decided that the ‘girl’ in ‘The Truth,a Short Film’ should be using her cell phone as a diary and perhaps as the platform to send her pain and pleasure messages out into the universe. Were will she send her diary entries? To whom does she wish to be connected? And most of all, as we watch the film, will her sense of pain and the issues surrounding her be made more real to the audience as she talks to her cell? You will decide.

Meanwhile, kids use cell phones all the time and in this little video if the mom bothers to listen to the long message from her daughter she will perhaps realize what her daughter is thinking about. And what she is thinking about is quite serious. All kids think serious thoughts and worry. We just have to allow enough time to listen, comfort, suggest, and share with them!

New Short Film, ‘The Truth’ stars CassidyTerracciano, now Meet Her Mom!

Meet Sandie, a wonder woman of today! When Lin, myself and Sandie started to film Cassidy we were totally unfamiliar with some of the facets of making a film. I knew you need a script and I supplied that. That was easy for me as the ‘Girl’ in The Truth has been my baby for over 10 years now. She has come to life for me through three versions of my book, a play version and now a film version. Cassidy is already a great actress and Lin Pernille is a great photographer. And of course, Sandie is a great mom, bringing up 5 wonderful children. However, we didn’t know for example, anything about taking B roles of the shoots. Nor did we think ahead about Cassidy changing clothes for each scene, exactly how we would do that, etc. Also, we were not initially planning to do a Selfie version of the ‘Girl’s’ diary entries. Now we had to learn even more about filming when Jon Seiler, our editor came on board.

At every step of the way Sandie pitched in and helped us. She became the stage manager of the costume changes. She learned how to do B role footage. Basically, the film or films (there is so much footage that I hope to produce more than one film) could not have happened without Sandie. Thank you Sandie!!!

A Great Camera Woman, Lin Pernille Kristensen

LPK1You can’t make a film, even a short film without cameras.  Lin came into my life about 8 years ago.  She has helped me with everything from loading my own family photos onto my computer, to filming me talking to Girl Scouts to making trailers for me, to filming ‘The Locket’, the play version of The Truth.  And now she has been filming The Truth, A Short Film.  I love working with Lin.  She is friendly, kind and considerate and does great work.  Oh, I forgot, she has done head shots of me also.  Lin now has her own photography business and focuses a lot of weddings.  You can find her at:

Lin Pernille Photography specializes in wedding and event photography in the NJ & NY area. http://www.linpernille.com/
2520 John F. Kennedy Blvd
Jersey City, New Jersey
(201) 306-6732
 Now take a look at this video she did for The Truth, a Short Film.  Not only did she capture the ‘Girl’ beautifully but she helped me create a doorway through which the Girl can help kids and parents everywhere.  That is the doorway of focus, concern and and understanding.  This short video, only 30 seconds, helps us focus on the intense feelings that kids have as they try to process their real life feelings and often the less than adequate responses of their parents.  “Hate” is a strong feeling and we may wonder if the ‘Girl’ really hates her mother.  And that’s where the concern and understanding of her dilemma can begin to be discussed and understood better by all of us.  She is the beacon drawing us back to our most conflictual feelings and helping us move to resolution.  And without a ‘staff’ she wouldn’t be heard.  Lin is a great member of crew!