Seaholm on the Silver Screen

by Claire Markley

Seaholm set the stage–literally–for a new movie that came to theaters Friday, March 27.

In 2012, a movie originally titled “The Bully Chronicles” was filmed in the halls of the school. Today, the movie is called “A Girl Like Her–based on a million true stories.”

This mockumentary captures the issue of high school bullying and harassment. Jessica Burns, played by actress Lexi Ainsworth, is being harassed by popular student Avery Keller, played by actress Hunter King. A documentary crew and hidden cameras are used to reveal the truth. Actor Jimmy Bennett, who plays Jessica Burns’ friend Brian Slater, works with Jessica to capture Avery’s actions on tape.

Other actresses include Stephanie Cotton, who plays Margarete Burns, and Linda Boston, who plays a character named Mrs. Whitehead.

Director, writer, and producer Amy Weber is from the Metro-Detroit area. Weber has been making educational movies for the past 20 years.  She recently produced “Annabelle & Bear”, which was released in 2010.

“I knew that the story had to be told,” Weber said. “But I wanted to tell the story in the most raw, relevant, and authentic way, using young peoples’ voices because I made this film for them.”

This film was made so teens could have a representation of what so many kids go through on a daily basis.

Weber uses a style that is different from the goal of most mockumentaries. According to the Detroit Free Press, instead of a horror or comedy angle, Weber’s goal is to enlighten people about bullying and potentially suicidal situations.

“It was entirely unscripted,” senior Erin Blackwell said. “I got to know the director, Amy, pretty well and she wanted to make it as realistic as possible, make it a real documentary. I don’t think they had a script at all but just created scenarios and had the characters play off of that.”

Blackwell played Student #1 in the film. Seniors Emma Lietz and Meghan Cleveland were also selected to be extras in the movie.

“I open the bathroom door and Avery yells at me,” Lietz said. “Any time me or any of the other extras were given speaking parts we were told to basically improv.”

This movie truly captures the emotions of a high school bully and victim. “A Girl Like Her” sheds some light on harassment in high schools.

In addition to the movie “A Girl Like Her,” Weber created a follow-up “revolution” called The Peacekeeper Movement. It is a program for young people to lead to bring social change to their high schools and their communities.

“[This program is] led by youth, supported by parents, and supported by the community,” Weber said.

There are two main objectives to The Peacekeeper Movement. The first is to promote peer mediation instead of punishment.  The second is to open up two seats on every school board and two seats on every city council across the country to put 18 year-olds at the table who are equal to adults. According to Weber, this will promote dialogue between teens and the community as well as between teens and their parents.

“We’re not ever going to solve this issue–not only this issue, but any issue that affects young people,” Weber said. “Why would we exclude them from conversations and in laws and decisions in the communities in which they live?”

Any young person who is interested in beginning that process of change can download this seven-step program for free from agirllikehermovie.com.

“Cyberbullying is so much easier now because of social media,” Lietz said. “I think the film does a really good job of portraying how widespread it can be–bullying is no longer just in person. It can follow you wherever you go because of social media.”

In 2011, right before the cast and crew started filming “A Girl Like Her,” Pew Research Center conducted research on cyberbullying. According to their research, “88% of the teens who use social media said they have seen someone being mean or cruel to another person on a social networking site.”

According to Weber, bullying is going on at every high school, even if everybody does not know about it. The kids in previous documentaries were her inspiration to finally write this story.

Since filming “A Girl Like Her,” Weber has been working with a family to develop a transgender story that is told from the child’s perspective.

Her films and The Peacekeeper Movement are an effort to bring social justice to schools  across the country.

“It was a lot of long hours at school, but I really enjoyed it,” Cleveland said. “I’m glad that [“A Girl Like Her”] is in theaters. Hopefully a lot of people will see it.”

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