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?
|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.
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?
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?
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.
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!