Fourteen-year-old M.J. Dooley said it was terrifying when the school resource officer put her in handcuffs and hauled her off to a jail holding cell for cyberbullying.
“I went from fake tears to real tears. It really seemed real,” said Dooley, a Lewis-Palmer Middle School student.
It was all part of a video script.
She and three other students produced and directed a five-minute public service announcement called “Cyberbullying”, which has been selected to be screened and judged at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth in Seattle next month. Their entry is among 200 chosen for the event that showcases the best filmmakers age 22 and younger. This year, 40 states and 20 countries are represented. More than 10,000 people are expected to attend.
The cyberbullying project was created in Lewis-Palmer’s LPTV class, where students create features and news for school video broadcasts.
“The kids wanted to do a public service announcement about cyberbullying after hearing that someone elsewhere in the country had committed suicide,” explained instructor Dan Marcus. The project winners are in an advanced class. Students can start taking video classes in 7th grade.
It took about a month to build the video from storyboard, and script to acting, filming and editing. Beside Dooley, those who worked on the project were Charlotte Backus, Savannah Olmstead, and Jesse Selvig.
They got their school resource officer, El Paso County Sheriff Deputy Dennis Coates to play the arresting officer. Sheriff’s Detective Mark Pfoff, who handles computer crimes is also a Lewis Palmer District 38 school board member, agreed to be in the video, giving tips on what to do about bullying.
“I thought their work was awesome,” Pfoff said.
The topic is important, he said. While educators have emphasized anti-bullying programs, many are just now tackling cyberbullying education.
Pfoff said that most kids who cyberbully don’t intend to, and don’t understand the ramifications of putting insults on Facebook and gaming sites. Cyberbullying if it escalates can lead to other events that could lead to an arrest.
The students wanted to emphasize how cyberbullying can hurt both victim and the bully, Dooley said
She has learned a lot from creating the film. “I have been cyberbullied and didn’t know how to deal with it. I let it go and hid it from everyone and the person finally moved away.”
Producer Charlotte Backus, 14, said it was hard filming in the school halls. ‘We didn’t want to scare any of the kids or have them think that M.J. really got arrested. So we cleared the halls so no one would freak out.”
They got permission to use music by her father Dale Backus, a pianist, and Charlene Johnson, a folk singer.
Savannah Olmstead,14, said cutting the video down to five minutes was difficult. So was putting together some of the artistic shots. One placed a mirror image of the victim on the screen while scrolling down a Facebook page.
All the students said they’d like to go into entertainment, particularly film editing and production. “I’d like cinematography or even working as an entertainment attorney,” Olmstead said.
But for now, their biggest concern is raising money for the trip to Seattle April 26-29 for the film festival where there will be workshops and opportunities to meet with experts from top film companies and film schools. They must raise $3,500 for airfare, hotel and other costs.
Kids seek cash
Those wishing to contribute to the fund to send the Lewis-Palmer students to Seattle can send donations to: Cindi Pederson, bookkeeper, Lewis Palmer Middle School, 1776 Woodmoor Drive, Monument, Colorado 80132. Memo the check: LPTV Cyberbully project.
To see the video go to: www.lpms.lewispalmer.org and
Click “Staff Web Pages” on the left hand side of the page, and then choose “LPTV.”