Thanks to some ambitious Michigan filmmakers, Seaholm is getting Hollywood status.
The school is a central component of the independent, documentary-style film “The Bully Chronicles”, written and directed by Amy Weber and produced by Jeff Spilman. The small budget film aims to give a different look at the commonly dissected issue of bullying.
According to their official website, the film follows the story of 16 year-old girl who lands in a coma after a failed suicide attempt. After much digging from investigators, it’s shown that she was severely bullied by one tormentor. It’s then discovered that the bully has demons of her own.
“We’re really looking at bullying different than most other movies do,” Spilman said. “It’s not focused on the bullied, but the bully.”
The film is being shot entirely in the Birmingham area, with scenes taking place in local restaurants and a nearby hospital. Due to the crew’s tight budget, the school and actors are not being paid.
Principal Dee Lancaster said she was never hesitant about allowing filming on school grounds, and feels Seaholm could benefit from the good publicity, even though Seaholm is receiving no compensation for their hosting.
“I think there are enough movies filmed in Birmingham that people figure it out pretty quickly what’s going on,” Lancaster said. “I think it’s great for the students to see what’s going on.”
Both Weber and Spilman’s respective children went through Birmingham Public Schools and studied at Seaholm, thus why the specific location was chosen.
“Basically 95% of people working in the movie are Michigan people,” Spilman said.
Several Seaholm students have been cast in the film, either as extras or in parts with speaking roles. The students are not being paid.
“It’s just long days,” senior Jane Allen said, who plays an extra in the film. “You start around 8 [AM] and go to 6 or 7 [PM] and sometimes longer. You have to change into a different outfit for every single scene, so there’s a lot of running around trying to do things quickly so you can be on time for when the director wants to film.”
Seaholm students interested in being a part of the film were asked to contact a member of the crew and have their parents sign a permission slip.
“It’s really interesting, especially when you see how much goes into the process of making a movie,” Allen said. “Everyone puts so much effort into making sure that each scene is perfect, even if it means doing it over again five different times.”
The film was intended to be shot during the summer months when school was out of session, but lack of funding pushed production back to the winter.
“I hope the film does get picked up. I think the message is a good one,” Lancaster said. “There will be good publicity for Seaholm.”
Producers hope to screen the film at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival, where it has the chance to be picked up there by a large production company, according to Lancaster.
“We want to change lives,” Spilman said. “We really want to see what we can do to help people understand the issue [of bullying] and come together to solve the issue.”