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.”

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.

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!

#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.

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!

Can More Than One Girl Be ‘The Girl’? Yes, it is happening here, there and everywhere

The Truth, I’m a Girl, I’m Smart and I Know Everything!

Long story short, that book and it’s newer version, expanded to cover even more issues, The Truth, Diary of a Gutsy Tween, are the basis of my film AND the basis for other filming going on at this very moment about The Girl, played by other girls. That’s right! Up in the Boston area Pam Richard is filming girls playing ‘The Girl’ as part of their education. More to come in the next blog about the Boston Program and some of the other girls that have played ‘The Girl’ and even created dialogue for her, here, there and everywhere. Meanwhile, take a look at one of these students playing ‘The Girl’.

If An Actress Can Play Anne Frank, She’s Good! That’s Cassidy Terracciano, Star of ‘The Truth, A Short Film’

When I saw Cassidy play the part of Anne Frank in a production directed by Bob Angelini, I knew I had my ‘Girl’.  Cassidy is one of those talented actresses who not only picks up the style and mindset of her character, but she also pours into her character an intensity and energy that makes the person come so alive.  I’m so lucky that she could work with our team this summer as we started production.

Some of you may know that she also was ‘The Girl’ from The Truth in a staged reading of ‘The Locket’ my play based on The Truth.  This happened in May in Manhattan at the Dramatist Guild.

Watch a little bit of Cassidy’s Staged Reading about how the boy she was in love with is beginning to disappoint her!