Talking with Filmmaker Keston De Coteau about "Intimidation"

For years, no one took bullying seriously. Much of this changed with the tragedy at Columbine in 1999. Now it’s mentioned all over the media from the Internet to television and radio. Yet despite all of this coverage, does society understand the root causes?

One group of Baltimore youth and committed adults want to stop this destructive behavior, and they created “Intimidation: A Short Film on Bullying”, a behind-the-scenes documentary and music video directed by Keston De Coteau. REDirection Media in partnership with Innovative Creations, Keystone Productions, YO! Baltimore-Westside, Eubie Blake National Jazz & Cultural Center, and youth will present their collaborative work at The Charles Theater (1711 N. Charles St.) on Tuesday, August 23 at 6:30pm. Tickets are $5.00 and may be purchased online.

Photo by Dominique Allen

Live and Love in Color recently talked with dynamic filmmaker and youth advocate Keston De Coteau (Keystone Productions) about the project, and what he hopes audiences will take away.

Although tired from heavy editing work, De Coteau spoke candidly about his own background and sources of inspiration. 
His diverse body of work includes music videos for numerous local artists (Billy Live, Kang Cole, etc.), event coverage (live music, parties, etc.), and promotional spots for area businesses.
LALIC: In recent years, much has been said and written about bullying. Why did you think it was important to produce a film about it?

KD: Mark and Tova Baker (partners at REDirection Media) brought the idea to me. When they did, although I didn’t think about it then, now, looking back, I was bullied as a kid. I had a serious problem with mucus in my nose as a toddler; kids used to tease me about it. It really isolated me as a person. I avoided social interactions, because I thought it would open me up to negative criticism about all of my medical conditions – ear, nose and throat. Thinking about it now, [people] often say kids can be brutal, but [when] we have the right parental guidance, and explain that how we treat people carries over into adult life this can change. Honestly, a lot of times, bullies become prisoners.

Photo by Emelda De Coteau

LALIC: Did those early experiences you had as a child, influence your decision to become a filmmaker?

KD: Yes. In retrospect, that’s probably the gift from the negative experience. It allowed me to listen more, be more perceptive and really look at people. As a kid, my mother and family thought something was wrong with me because I didn’t talk a lot; I didn’t cry a lot. It’s just one of those things where I have always been,on some deeper level, an introvert. With being an introvert, people think you are being shy, but you are honestly paying more attention as opposed to always feeling a need to speak.

I just read this [concept of being alone and accepting it] in a book last night [Harry Lorayne’s Secrets of Mind Power].  “We are truly alone as people.” If you learn to accept being alone, and be comfortable with who you are then you get to develop the skill of listening.

LALIC: Has your work with Youth Advocate Program, Inc. (YAP) influenced this project? If so, how?

KD: Once again, giving thanks to synchronicity, I was just reading [Harry Lorayne’s Secrets of Mind Power] last night that you learn from everybody you interact with once you accept this principle in your life. Nothing or no one that you meet is not an opportunity to learn. First of all I give thanks to Derrick Jones (Director at YAP), and YAP for giving me the opportunity to be a youth advocate worker.

Going into it, you hear that these kids have committed violent crimes and instead of sending them to jail, you need to mentor them. Anybody who hasn’t interacted with any children in the juvenile justice system
thinks that these are the “bad kids.” I myself was guilty of this [way of thinking].  Society tells us this. They are not the bad kids. I have learned that these are kids with stories.

Their personal experiences shaped them, developed them into these people who feel that this path of criminal behavior is their only outlet. You really have to understand that people are definitely a product of their environment, their experiences, and what they are being exposed to. If you don’t know better, you can’t do better.

They are often put in a box; I hate to use this word, but it is [often] a ghetto box. Ultimately, though, these kids want better. They always enjoy things you would never expect them to like visiting a museum or a Disney kid movie. We often feel that we cannot make an impact, but everything you do or say around them makes an impact.

As far as the working on the film, the whole cast is kids. It really gave me a perspective on interacting with them on their level, and letting down the adult guard. The experience at YAP has helped me develop my adult side and ability to connect with children. It’s like any situation involving interaction; you have to learn the rules like in the corporate world – shake hands, exchange business cards and more. The same thing applies in the young adult world. They have their own identities, but they are looking up to you.

LALIC: What do you hope parents and children take away from the film?
KD: I heard Bill Cosby say this on  the Oprah Winfrey [show]. “Hurt people, hurt people. The story is written in such a way that [the audience] will get to see that. London, the young girl that is carrying out the bullying, is being abused at home.

When [kids] come outside of that abused environment, they empower themselves to be popular and the center of attention, because it’s not received at home. They carry this mask personality, but in actuality, privately, they are suffering. They project it out onto other individuals, because they have no other way of really dealing with it. This is happening all across the world.
People that have been hurt feel its ok to hurt others.We have to somehow find a  way to change. Each one teach one.You really can make an impact if you choose to make an impact in the smallest way -random acts of kindness.
LALIC: Are there plans to do anything beyond the film?
KD:  Mark, Tova (REDirection Media), and I are discussing how we can use this as a teaching tool, beginning with schools. The film is being done in a unique way because it’s followed by a documentary that goes behind the scenes, and [shows] how we motivated these kids.
This project reminds me of Will Smith’s reference to The Alchemist. You take lead and turn it into gold.
We had little or nothing to work with. No budget. We just did something from the heart and soul, and we found a way to make it happen.
LALIC: You are self taught. What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?

KD: Just do it! Do not wait for the Hollywood format. You might read a book, and it says you need to do a film this way or that way, but technology has made it so that anyone with ingenuity or imagination can take the time and make a film – a good respectable film that people want to see it. Believe in yourself. I started off as a hobbyist with a camcorder that you can pick up anywhere.

Let your passion grow, and take it to the next level. It’s partly my personality, I get bored quickly. I want to see how far I can go with what interests me. If you develop that kind of [inner] nudging, you’ll go far.

You have the freedom to develop and create ideas that are your own. We are living in an imaginative and creative world. Do what you want, and let the critics criticize. Critics don’t do anything but criticize. They are not in the creative process. Do what you need to do until you have access to do more. Get it done!

Emelda De Coteau
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One Reply to “Talking with Filmmaker Keston De Coteau about "Intimidation"”

  1. Wow! I love this concept. I was bullied for the majority of my school years as a youth and it had an extremely negative impact on my self-esteem as a child, and the reverberations are still felt as an adult as well. I can't wait for the opportunity to view this film. Great job, KeyStone Productions! 🙂

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