From Monologues to Dancing the Tango, ‘The Locket’ Evolves into a One-Act Play

‘The Locket’ started out as a series of monologues, grouped by emotions. Seven different girls played the ‘girl’ at different stages of her growing up and different moods. The ‘girl’ as a grown-up woman in a troubled marriage was played by one woman, Heather O’Scanlon. As the various parts of her talked about their own issues and problems and surprising wisdom, and as she responded with adult wisdom and love a dialogue took place culminating in the sharing of a locket which contained a secret that helped both the ‘girl’ and the woman she had become.

This version of ‘page to stage’ was presented in Asbury Park in 2013.

Another version began to emerge by the following spring. This time there were still 7 girls playing the ‘girl’ and again Heather O’Scanlon played the woman. However, also appearing was a Fairy Godmother and a Self. These characters added further wisdom and humor to the play. And of great importance: the husband appeared. The next reading was held at Tim McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park in 2014. The reading, performed in front of a packed house, was met with rave reviews by many audience members. Some of the reactions to the reading were:

“Wonderful depiction of a young girl’s journey through adolescence.”

“This play helps adults understand how children feel. For example, how much they are hurt by parents fighting.”

“The Locket identifies with tweens and teens and the issues they face.”

“A very entertaining journey a woman takes from perceived crisis to self-awareness to empowerment through re-living her past.”

“An unusual yet needed attempt at describing the development of young girls to adulthood that is rarely considered.”

“The Locket is a compelling snapshot of the story of an everyday woman’s life.”

“The Locket is a warm reminder to girls and women to honor the truths in their hearts.”

“The play is a great reminder of who we are and why we think and behave the way we do.”

My relationship with my play ‘The Locket’ continued to develop at a dynamic pace. By 2015 a full one-act, 3 scenes play emerged. Stay tuned for more about this version as this is when the Tango became essential as part of the opening music and then full blown dance at the end of the play. Here is a taste of the full blown play with the Tango playing an essential part as the couple work on reconciliation.

‘The Locket’ encompasses facets of life, including the magic of resiliency, magic for real and the joy of dancing Tango! from Barbara Becker Holstein on Vimeo.

‘The Truth, a New Film’ , Wonder Woman and Selfies

As a psychologist I am concernced that by age 12 the angst and hormonal storm of adolescence often takes over and girls put less effort into their academic studies, while at the same time get caught up in the over sexualized aspects of our culture. Too soon many tweens and teens are less enthusiastic about their talents and academics. That combined with self-esteem problems, often intensified by an atmosphere that encourages bullying, can lead to all sorts of problems from eating disorders to experimentation with drugs, to suicide.

Our girls are in desperate need of a role model. Perhaps Wonder Woman is that role model. A series of articles in the New York Times, including one by Jessica Bennett, ‘Wonder Woman’s Real Power’ make clear how important it is for girls to have role models that give them the message that: I am a leader, and you have also the traits that get you to this level. Bennett’s article concludes, “…we don’t want girls to strive only to be superheros. But we do want them to believe the have the strength to be one….”

How do we overcome girls being exposed to too few role models that excite, enhance and confirm a girl’s hopes and dreams as to what she can become, combined with a society that is less than kind in all sorts of ways, including peer pressure as exemplified by bullying.

One of the newest and most intriguing ways to overcome these societal flaws is the use of the Selfie. Selfies are not just an instrument for vanity, pranks or to record a meal out with friends. The Selfie, particularly the video functions that Selfies allow, are amazingly suited to offset a lack of role models and such actions as bullying. For example, KIRO7 reported ‘Bellevue girl bulled at school asks for help, Facebook post goes viral.’ What could be more moving than seeing this young girl, Alison Grande, tell her story via a Selfie video gone viral? And she didn’t even talk, just used cards that she held up to tell her story? At my last check she had reached more than 670.000 people.

Selfies are one of the nirvanas of hope for all of us who want to turn your kid or all kids into super heroes of life as they grow up.

Like Alison, kids can use Selfies as a means of sharing concerns via social networks or just between family, when it may be easier for a child to share in a video what is bothering her. Kids really talk when they make a Selfie, not just the one word answers parents so often hear.

As a psychologist and a filmmaker, I have developed a new way to use Selfies in film, for artistic, educational and mental health purposes. I have developed what I call ‘Selfiesasfilm’ which is a merging of the Selfie video with a film crew. The advantages are many. For example, the stars of my films thus far have been teens. When they film themselves, privately, and then see that video film become part of a film that has drama, meaning and purpose, they are given incredible positive feedback. They see themselves already as powerful role models and realize their work will assist other young people feel better about themselves and have more courage about their future. SelfiesasFilm is a powerful learning tool for all: the actors, the audiences, educators, mental health professionals and parents.

For example, my #SelfiesasFilm ‘The Truth, A Short Film’ is filmed by Cassidy Terracciano using phone to make selfie videos and also a film crew. The result is an intense, personal story told by the ‘girl’ in the film. She shares all the angst of growing up, including a first crush, a best friends, family fighting, family getting ready to move, fears about adolescence, etc.

I am so excited to announce that this film is now available for streaming at cinecosmos.vhx.tv/ This means that you and your family can watch it anytime and use it to discuss all sorts of issues that we all have, some serious, some lighthearted and fun. I know you will find this 16 minute film something you want to see again and again! Feel free to write to me at barbara.holstein@gmail.com!

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.

Coming of Age and Falling in Love, seen through the lens of a #SelfieFilm

Coming of Age is one of the most important hurdles that a young woman faces, filled with the issues of leaving childhood behind, the storm of the hormones and finding a place for oneself in society that is healthy, productive and fulfilling for whoever the young woman is becoming. Oftentimes it is also filled with disappointment and disillusionment about one’s chances in life. Girls suffer from all sorts of unexpected circumstances, including self-esteem blows, lack of academic opportunities, familiy strife, unexpected early pregnancies, drugs, etc.

I have been developing new means of sharing many of the above issues through the #selfiefilm.

There are so many new ways to use technology to tell these stories in film. I am proud do be an innovator specializing in Selfie Films. My innovative films incorporate Selfies as an integral part of filmmaking. In my latest film, ‘Falling in Love, A Coming of Age Selfie Film’, I’ve taken an historically important part of growing up, falling in love, using new Selfie technology to make the film. Megan Brown who plays ‘the Girl’, used her own iPhone to film all of her scenes. Not only that, she chose her own costumes, chose many of the settings and even improvised lines in some of the scenes. Thus we ended up with a story line that not only gives the audience many subjects to discuss about coming of age and dealing with the realities of a first crush but even gave the actress herself a chance to develop a sureness of herself as a creative person that wouldn’t happen in a usual filming situation. Of course we had a small crew of two camera people for B role shots and scenes. And the quality of the script had already been assured, as it comes from one of the books I have written for girls, tweens and teens. This book, ‘Secrets, Diary of a Gutsy Teen’, is published by Sky Pony Press.

What I particularly am excited about in this film is that you can use it as a teaching device, using each segment to further develop discussion and insights about subject material that relates to growing up, such as feeling lonely, anger at one’s parents for the decisions they make, jealousy, feeling sad, feelings of falling in love, recovering from down moods, etc.

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!

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.

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!