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.

The Girl in The Truth, a Short Film is Universal and reflects some of all of us!

One of the most exciting adventures I have had in my film making is having many different girls play the ‘Girl’ who came to life in my books, The Truth, Diary of a Gutsy Tween and Secrets, Diary of a Gutsy Teen. It is amazing to see so many different girls, all styles and types, leap into performing the ‘girl’ in their own way, and yet the universal qualities and feelings she has come across instantly. She really is some of the ‘girl’ that all of us women and girls have inside. Cassidy Terracciano has been one of the main ‘stars’. She plays the ‘girl’ in the first two films, the 16 minute version of The Truth: The Truth, a Short Film’ and the two minute version: ‘The Truth, a Short Short Film’. By the way, the short version is an official selection for the FilmOneFest and will be shown Saturday, July 16th in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey at the festival!!’The Truth, a Short Film’ already made its premiere performance as an Official Selection of the Garden State Film Festival in early April, 2016.

Megan Brown plays the ‘girl’ in the play version of The Truth, THE LOCKET. She will be also staring in the film version of Secrets which we are filming this summer.

There are also so many other girls who have played the ‘girl’ in a variety of scenes. Some girls have even made up their own scenes that incorporate her and her best friend Angela.

I love seeing the ‘girl’ come to life. She reflects the energy, honesty, vitality and fun loving aspects of being alive. She also reflects and shares the tough sides of growing up: the disappointments, the failings of parents, the loss of opportunity, and the coming to terms with a less than perfect situation. Above all, she is resilient and determined. She gets over her moods and comes out of the gloom when it happens. Hurrah for the ‘Girl’! May she always prosper!

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.

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!!!

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!

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’.