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.

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.

#Almost 13

Why is it that the ‘Girl’ in The Truth, first known as The Truth, I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything, and now re-issued as The Truth, Diary of a Gutsy Tween, can be acted by almost any girl between the ages of 8 and 17?  Why can she be acted in the play version, ‘The Locket’ one moment by a girl of 9 and a few minutes later played by a girl of 15?  The answer is simple, the ‘Girl’ in The Truth is not only #Almost 13, she is someone that we all have either been, are now or will be some day.  If we are girls and/or women, we have to pass through many of the moods, feelings, opportunities and passages of life that she passes through.

All of us have had at one time a first crush, most have had to move, many have had siblings, many have had parents fighting, many have felt left out by friends or misunderstood by teachers, parents, others, many have been bullied or put down.  I could go on and on.  But the truth is, the ‘Girl’ is universal in spirit.

By the way, that is why I didn’t name her.  If you wish her to have a name, name her!  Maybe it will be your name or your daughter’s or a friend.

Of course, when it comes to going public in a film or a play, then choosing the right actress for a particular version of The Truth becomes relevant.  When I decided to produce ‘The Truth, a Short Film’ I knew I wanted Cassidy Terracciano to be the star.  I had seen her acting skills and I felt she would be perfect to capture a girl going on 13 in a short film.

However, on many other occasions,  in some of the staged readings of ‘The Locket’ I want as many girls as possible to play the ‘Girl’.  That’s what you see in the picture above.

The Selfie is central to ‘The Truth, a Short Film’

In today’s world of course, lots of kids, keep a diary. But something else has happened. Many are not only taking Selfie pictures but are also speaking up. Speaking up into their phones ‘the truth’ of the moment as they see it. Sometimes these words from the heart stay just on the phone or get deleted for something else. But sometimes, who knows what happens to them? What we do know is we have a new easy means to send our thoughts and feelings into the universe. But what we may forget, and certainly kids often don’t know the risks, these filmed Selfies may land not in the atmosphere but somewhere. And it is that somewhere that can be safe or dangerous.

The ‘Girl’ in The Truth, a Short Film, keeps her diary and at times speaks out, whether into her video camera or her phone. Maybe one of the most important messages she is really sharing with the public is how intense the feelings, emotions, and concerns are to kids as they are moving from childhood to adulthood. Us older folks forget a lot of the angst. We are way past our first crush, our early rages toward our parents, our fears if we have to change schools, our pain at a best friend no longer being one, or fear if there is a bully in our daily path, our frustration with an annoying sibling, our concern if our parent were fighting. But there are tons of kids, millions out there just beginning to experience all of the above and at times much more.

My hope is that the ‘Girl’ in The Truth, a Short Film and in the book The Truth, will be a beacon who not only helps kids feel stronger and more courageous as they undertake all the universal steps of growing up, but that she will remind parents, grandparents, teachers, neighbors, and all concerned with our children that indeed it does take a village to support and nourish and encourage a kid. We all have a role to play. If you are a parent, listen and advise with intelligence and sensitivity. And all the other players in a child’s life play by the golden rule, treat any child who crosses your path with the kindness, respect and helpfulness that hopefully you got growing up, or still at best what if you could go back and be a child again, you would have wanted for yourself.

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!

How Universal is ‘The Truth, A New Film?’ VERY!!!

When I wrote The Truth, I’m a Girl, I’m Smart</strong and I Know Everything I already had a mission as a teacher, psychologist and a woman. My mission was to create a story that was unique, yet totally universal in nature. Everyone has had a crush at some point in their lives and most of us have a first crush when we are young and vulnerable. Usually the feelings that we have, having the crush are not returned and eventually we leave our desires toward that person. The same is true of other themes that I made sure were in the book: Many of us move at least once growing up and suffer the pains and adjustments of moving to a new school, neighborhood, etc.; many of of us problems in our families whether they are financial or parents that don’t get along or illness, etc.; many of us have siblings that we would not have chosen who make like difficult, and I could go on and on.

In the spirit of the Universal Spirit of kids my work continues with the help of Cassidy Terracciano bringing to light at least 20 issues that most of us faced or will face.  After all, we are human!

Making a short film is the most amazing experience!

Making The Truth, A Short Film, is the most amazing experience.  Think of it this way: A women entering or should I say having entered her wisdom years, who was teaching second and first graders who now are ???? years old themselves, finds that life has taken her from the classroom to the psychology treatment room to head space where authors sit up late at night writing their books, to becoming a playwrite and now, as if a magic wand has been circled around her head, she is producing an independent film she has written.

Does that sound exciting to you? It is certainly exciting to me, as I am that person.  Where lots of my friends are playing golf or preparing to be a snow bird, I am looking at these 20 fabulous scenes, videotaped by Lin, acted by Cassidy, staging and costuming helped by Cassidy’s mom, filmed in my friend Kirsten’s Tea House, the White House on Monmouth Road in Oakhurst, and I am filled with the kind of rapture that only comes with creation and fulfillment of a life dream or project.

I’ll be telling you lots more in further blogs.  In fact, we want to share the whole process with you as the film emerges and is sent into festivals around the country.  This is too much fun and too important in terms of the messages embedded in The Truth about growing up and staying strong to keep it quiet!

Stay with us for the adventure!  Let’s walk that walk together.IMG_1924(2)