by Dan Habib, Filmmaker in Residence Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire
The shooting in Newtown, Connecticut caused shock and grief across this country that lingers – as it should – into this new year. We may never know what caused Adam Lanza to take those horrific actions.
What is possible to determine, based on research, are the educational practices that can help identify and support youth with a variety of emotional and behavioral disabilities.
Although his diagnosis is unclear, reports from Newtown indicate that Lanza was isolated, rarely left his home and was clearly experiencing psychological distress. Many students with emotional and behavioral disabilities – which can include depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and many other diagnoses – feel disconnected from their schools and communities.
Lanza’s violence is the exception, not the rule. Students with emotional and behavioral disabilities are more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators. There is a far more widespread crisis for youth in the United States with emotional and behavioral disabilities: low rates of graduation and high rates of incarceration.
Less than 50 percent of students with emotional and behavioral disabilities graduate from high school, and these students are twice as likely as students with other types of disabilities to live in a halfway house, drug treatment center, or on the street after leaving school. A University of New Hampshire study found that 73 percent of the incarcerated youth at the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester, NH, had a diagnosed disability.
Effective school-based interventions can ease the pain of these students, raise graduation rates and help students connect with their community through mentors and peer groups.
Unfortunately, many schools still focus primarily on punitive discipline policies like “zero-tolerance,” which emphasizes the use of suspension and expulsion, and neglect to examine the root causes of problem behavior. Students who are suspended or expelled often drop out of school, which frequently leads to juvenile delinquency, arrests and prison. Zero-tolerance policies do little to improve school safety and disproportionately impact students with emotional and behavioral disabilities as well as students of color.
These grim statistics for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities fueled my desire to create a film that could be a resource to help educators, families and mental health professionals better understand and serve children with behavioral and emotional challenges.
The film Who Cares About Kelsey? focuses on Somersworth (NH) High School student Kelsey Carroll. When Kelsey entered high school, she was a more likely candidate for the juvenile justice system than graduation. She had a diagnosis of ADHD and carried the emotional scars of homelessness and substance abuse, along with actual scars of self-mutilation. As a freshman, she didn’t earn a single academic credit and was suspended for dealing drugs. Many wrote her off as a “problem kid” – destined for drug addiction and jail.
During Kelsey’s freshman year (2006), Somersworth High School had one of the lowest graduation rates in the state (nearly 1 in 10 students dropped out), and discipline issues were rampant. That year, the school implemented a proven approach called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to develop a concise outline of the behaviors that were expected of all students, establish clear guidelines for addressing discipline problems and create systems for identifying students that needed more intensive supports.
For students like Kelsey who were at the greatest risk of dropping out of school, Somersworth also implemented a youth-directed planning model called RENEW (Rehabilitation for Empowerment, Natural Supports, Education, & Work).
The results were dramatic: by 2010, Somersworth High reduced its dropout rate by 75 percent, and behavior problems were down by 65 percent.
Who Cares About Kelsey? is the story of Kelsey’s transformation from a defiant and disruptive high school student to a motivated and self-confident young woman who is living on her own and attending college.
It’s too late to reach Adam Lanza, who serves as a horrific example of a gap in our society’s ability to effectively identify youth in crisis, and intervene with services and supports. But it’s not too late to reach and support more than two million other young people in the United States with emotional and behavioral disabilities.
Who Cares About Kelsey? is screening across the country in 2013. For more information about the film and related mini-films, go to www.whocaresaboutkelsey.com. Dan Habib is Filmmaker in Residence at the UNH Institute on Disability and created the Emmy-nominated film “Including Samuel.”
On October 2nd, I attended a screening of Blue Vinyl (a documentary by Working Films’ cofounder, Judith Helfand about the hazardous effects of Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC) at the Aperture Gallery in NYC. When I stepped out of the elevator onto the 4th floor, I was greeted by enormous photo prints of industrial Louisiana landscapes along the corridor of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Holy Rosary Cemetery and Dow Chemical Corporation (Union Cardbide Complex), Taft, Louisiana, 1998.
The Union Carbide Corporation purchased the property of the Holy Rosary Church, built circa 1866. A replacement church was constructed in the 1960s in nearby Hahnville, but the cemetery was left behind. In 2009, Dow (which now owns the complex) leaked 26,720 pounds of vaporized ethyl acrylate (EA), a Class II toxic air pollutant, into the atmosphere. No fine was levied, but Dow has pledged a $100,000 contribution to the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children, which is led by the wife of the current governor of Louisiana.
As I made my way around the gallery, I started to see the connection to this Blue Vinyl screening. The photos on display are a part of Petrochemical America: Picturing Cancer Alley, a collaboration between photographer Richard Misratch and landscape architect Kate Orff, which presents itself in a 240 page book exploring this region of intense chemical production and the detrimental effects the byproduct has on the land and the human beings that live right next door, in direct line of toxic chemicals.
A giant map that identified every chemical component manufactured by these factories took over one wall of the exhibit.
A map displaying the entire area of the United States connected to the Mississippi River as “Cancer Alley”.
After the screening, Gina Wirth of SCAPE led a discussion with environmental health historian David Rosner (who appears in the film) and Mike Schade (a co-creator of the campaign that was built around Blue Vinyl), Campaign Coordinator for the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ). The Petrochemical America exhibit paired with the Blue Vinyl screening really brought back memories for David as he had spent a lot of time in Louisiana working on PVC related cases and he recounted stories of his time in Cancer Alley.
Although the film has been out in the world for 10 years, CHEJ continually uses it to hold screenings and discussions as it is still relevant to the issues faced by communities that live in close proximity to toxic chemical plants. Mike highlighted the successes CHEJ has had in getting corporations to phase out PVC products. These companies include Apple, Google, Target, and IKEA among many more. Currently they are focused on getting more NYC schools to go PVC-free. According to a CHEJ factsheet “children coming into contact with vinyl flooring have been found to have a higher risk of developing asthma, the #1 cause of school absenteeism and a leading cause of hospitalization for children”. You can read more facts about affects of PVC on children’s health on the CHEJ website. Below are some ways that you can take action now!
Switch to green cleaning products in your home.
Chemicals in traditional cleaning products can cause serious health problems in children, including, neurological disorders, learning disabilities, and reproductive problems. Use our green cleaning resources to make the switch in your home, school, or wherever you use cleaning products.
Form a Green Flag Team in your school.
CEHP’s Green Flag Schools Program for Environmental Leadership provides a framework for students to become environmental leaders and contribute to positive change in their communities. Through the program, students of all ages learn environmental concepts, investigate their schools, and identify solutions for making their schools safer and healthier. Download the Green Flag start-up materials.
The Waiting Room, supported in part by our friends at The Fledgling Fund, is a film and hyper-local media project that presents a day-in-the-life perspective for patients and their caregivers in Highland Hospital’s E.R. waiting room. The film by Pete Nicks recently picked up the Special Jury prize at Silverdocs and is described by Variety as a “rock-solid vertié docu that provides ample evidence why our national health care system needs fixing.”Currently, tens of thousands of patients are not receiving the medical attention they need due to lack of health care as well as hospitals being underfunded. The Waiting Room is set for theatrical release this September and will premiere in New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The team behind The Waiting Room needs your help in getting the voices of both the patients and caregivers heard to a wider audience across the nation. They have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund The Waiting Room Storytelling Project with a deadline of July 27 to reach their goal. Help call attention to the thousands of underserved patients by making a pledge here.
Do you live in a community that has been impacted or likely to be by mountaintop removal, fracking, or a coal-fired power plant? Are you in a community where alternative energy solutions are being implemented?
Or, have you already hosted one of the Reel Power films and would like to explore the related issues around coal, gas, climate change and renewable energy solutions with your community? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the Reel Power Film Festival may be for you.
Working Films is pleased to announce the launch of the Reel Power Film Festival and a Grassroots Mini-grant Opportunity. Reel Power is a collection of films that tell stories from the frontlines of our energy crisis and into our energy future and have the power to get your community talking and taking action. While anyone can host a Reel Power Film Festival, organizations and grassroots groups that are impacted by natural resource extraction, climate change or are tapping into renewable energy solutions are invited to apply for one of fourteen mini-grants to support their event.
We’ll offer mini-grants to frontline groups that are interested in bringing two or more of the films to their community this Spring or Summer. These grants of $250 cash with $500 additional in-kind will cover screening fees and other resources needed to put on a stellar event (such as venue rental, get the word out materials, etc.). Two to four of these events will receive a higher level of in-kind support valued at an additional $2500.
For more information on the Reel Power Film Festival, mini-grants and how to apply, please visit workingfilms.org/reelpowergrants. Contact Reel Power director Kristin Henry at khenry [at] workingfilms.org if you have additional questions along the way.
STEPHANIE BLEYER produces engagement campaigns and raises funds for social issue documentaries. Some of her current and past clients include Academy Award nominees Gasland and Sun Come Up, BBC’s Why Poverty?, The Documentary Group’s 10×10, Errol Morris’ Standard Operating Procedure, Planet Green’s No Impact Man, PBS’ To Be Heard and OWN’s One Lucky Elephant. Stephanie has studied organic farming in Italy, bicycled across Cuba on a grant to study sustainable energy, created a documentary for Oxygen about her social action bicycle trip from Seattle to Washington D.C., produced a 35-city bus tour for the Eat Well Guide to promote family farming, produced an international conference for a 9/11 family group, produced the opening of Mercy Corps’ Action Center to End World Hunger, worked at a performing arts school for street boys in Kenya and managed displacement camps for thousands of tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka. Stephanie holds a Masters of Public Administration from New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service.
Stephanie Bleyer has a lot on her plate. How does she keep up with it all? Here’s what she told us:
I always have at least four interns working with me; they are my tentacles, my foot soldiers and my secret weapon. On average, 25% of the tasks I assign my interns are administrative and the rest of the work is challenging, creative and cerebral. To keep them engaged, I know I need to build their skill set and give them a sense of ownership over their work. I give them a lot of responsibility with minimal oversight, which empowers them and saves me a hell of a lot of time. There’s usually a one-month learning curve, I start out slow with them and then build up so they take on more and more responsibility and require less and less of my time.
Many social issue filmmakers involved in outreach and engagement campaigns would like to work with interns but are worried about quality control. How do you give meaningful work to interns and assure excellent outcomes?
The quality of interns can vary pretty widely but I’ve figured out a few simple ways to insure some quality control:
1. I only hire grad students, never post-grads and rarely undergrads (unless they are experienced and exceptionally mature). Post-grads will either quit on you once they find a paying gig or they will expect you to start paying them within a month of working. My interns work virtually so it doesn’t matter where they live but it does matter to me that they are current students enrolled in quality programs.
2. I don’t hire film students because they rarely care about learning about outreach and engagement. I hire writers and organizers, students studying marketing and communications and young people who are very passionate about the issue that the film addresses.
3. I post my job ad on career boards for the top schools in the country, never on craigslist or on filmmaking job boards and rarely Idealist. I also distribute the job ad through my social network and on the Facebook page for the film so I can find interns who are already familiar with the film.
During a number of our recent trainings and consultations, filmmakers have expressed concern that it takes too much time to train and manage interns. How extensive is your orientation and training of interns?
If you choose the right interns you shouldn’t need more than a one-hour orientation. I require them to read every page on the film’s website before the orientation and I expect that for the first month they’ll need some guidance and that it will lessen over time.
How often to you check-in with them and how do you make sure they are “on track”?
My interns check in every Monday morning and Friday afternoon. We email throughout the week and they call me when they’re stuck. We meet face-to-face maybe once or twice during the internship.
How do you create incentives for unpaid interns to stick with a project?
I incentivize interns in three ways:
1) I organize career building brown bag luncheons twice throughout the semester. During the brown bag I give them an hour lecture about getting, finding and keeping a job. Part two of the career-building luncheon is a one-on-one session where I rip their resumes to shreds and help them rebuild it. They love this.
2) I challenge them.
3) I only ask that they work 10 hours/week.
Are there pitfalls that you have learned to avoid in your experience with interns?
Top 5 lessons:
1) Commitment. I just lost two interns in a two-week time period. Two of these interns were grad students but weren’t receiving credit, and mid-semester they felt overwhelmed with the internship and school and work. If they were receiving credit, it would have prevented them from leaving. I make it very clear up front that I need a four-month commitment, and 99% of the time the interns live up to their commitment.
2) Generation Text. Most of my interns are afraid of calling people up on the telephone and I have to constantly push them to pick up the phone if they haven’t received a response to their emails.
3) Communication. Because my interns all work virtually, I need them to over-communicate with me. I constantly have to remind my interns to let me know where things stand.
4) Overwork. I have a tendency to pile work on my interns expecting they’ll get it all done efficiently and well. I’ll have the rare intern who can’t meet deadlines and ultimately creates more work for me with the quality of their work. They don’t last.
5) Dear Stephanie Bleyer. This is not a pitfall; it’s just a funny thing that every single one of my interns does when they first start with me. They think the proper way to address someone in an email is Dear first name, last name.
To inquire about Stephanie Bleyer’s audience outreach and engagement services, contact her directly at email@example.com.
How do you make your documentary film resonate with local audiences and issues? How do you build a bridge between community activist groups and the movements in your film? Watch how Deep Down’s film team is bringing together grassroots leaders from Appalachia with community leaders from across the country engaged in similar struggles.
Deep Down’s protagonist Beverly May, co-director Jen Gilomen, and outreach director Lora Smith traveled to Chicago for an ITVS Community Cinema Screening partnered with members of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO). The group toured the Little Village neighborhood, a community known as “The Midwest Mexico,” to learn about their struggle to fight the abuses of several toxic industries including two massive coal powered power plant that are poisoning their air and people.
IMPACT is a series of videos created by Working Films and The Fledgling Fund focused on building film campaigns that ignite social change. Previous videos include “No Impact Man: Activating Your Audience” and “IMPACT: A Funder’s Perspective.”
Politicians and corporate interests have mounted a formidable public relations campaign promoting “clean coal” as a solution to our energy/climate problem. Despite major concerns on the part of scientists and environmental groups, there has been little public education about this issue, which is a central element of President Obama’s energy policy. Dirty Business is the first major public media project to explain and demystify “clean coal” and to explore the extent to which increased energy efficiency and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar thermal power might make “clean coal” unnecessary and uneconomical.
Take action with Reel Power and Dirty Business to educate your community about the truth behind “clean coal.”
For a solid piece of investigative, in-depth reporting on the full costs of coal, it really doesn’t get much better than Dirty Business. Interest in the film is truly amazing, as is the feedback that we have been getting from people who have shown the film. Here is a recent quote from the Northeast:
“Our Coal Night with Wellesley College was a great success in large part because of the screening of Dirty Business. The 45 students in attendance all enjoyed the film and asked incredible questions of our panel after. I have a few other campuses interested in screening the film, and I am excited to share it with them. Thank you for this opportunity!”
- Drew Grande, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Organizer
People all over the country are screening Dirty Business to help educate their communities and to inspire audiences into action! In Kansas, community organizers hosted screenings to help build local awareness of the dangers of coal pollution in opposition to the construction of another coal plant in their area. In Iowa, students at Iowa State screened Dirty Business to inspire more students and administrators to get their campus off coal. In Georgia, Dirty Business was shown at the EcoFocus Film Festival.
During last night’s State of the Union, President Obama called for a clean energy future, but then rattled off a list of our dirty energy past with clean coal and natural gas leading the pack. The films involved with Reel Power: Films Fueling the Energy Revolution uncover the truth behind these so-called “clean” technologies, showing the damaging effects of climate change on populations across the globe, and offering real energy solutions.
It was announced on Tuesday that Gasland and Sun Come Up have both been nominated for Oscars. Gasland, about natural gas drilling and the threat it poses to the Marcellus Shale region of the eastern United States, is nominated for Best Feature Documentary. Sun Come Up, a story that follows the relocation of some of the world’s first environmental refugees, is nominated for Best Short Subject Documentary. Congratulations to directors Josh Fox, Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger!
Another Reel Power film receiving a distinguished honor this month is Deep Down: A story from the heart of coal country, which premiered on the Emmy-award winning PBS series Independent Lens in November. The filmmakers of Deep Down have received a major honor from the U.S. State Department in being selected for the American Documentary Showcase. The film’s participation in this prestigious cultural diplomacy program will draw international attention to the subject of mountaintop removal coal mining and community organizing in Appalachia.
These films are extending their reach and receiving critical acclaim, exemplifying the important role documentary films play in social justice movements. Join us and help educate your community by signing up to screen a Reel Power film today. Our film for February isDirty Business, an exploration into the science and politics behind “clean coal.”
Dates and Venues 2011
Session 1: May 15-21, Romania
Session 2: July 3-9, Italy
Session 3: September/October, venue t.b.c.
APPLICATION DEADLINE: MARCH 4, 2011 ESoDoc (European Social Documentary) is now accepting applications for their 2011 trainings. ESoDoc is a training initiative that takes up the challenge of bringing together the demands of different players now involved in documentary film-production. Their focus is on a special genre of documentary production that is particularly suitable for the new multi-platform world: documentaries that draw attention to human rights, social justice and environmental protection.
Last year, Working Films participated in two extraordinary ESoDoc trainings. At the Italy training in October, Robert opened the session with a look at how filmmakers can ensure their films have authentic impact. He was also among a group of experts that trained 22 participants on how to best present their project during pitching forums and at markets. The session ended with an actual public pitching forum held in cooperation with the University of Catania and with the financial support of the Regional Province of Catania. At ESoDoc India in Naukuchiatal last December, I led European and Indian filmmakers in a session on creating a dynamic film campaign to increase the film’s distribution, financing, and impact. This cross cultural and cross market retreat aimed to develop documentary projects that have a potential for the Indian and European audiovisual market and which succeed to respond not only to the distinct market needs of the broadcast industries in both regions but also – and especially – to respond to the communication needs of the NGO sector worldwide.
About Deep Down Deep Down is a feature-length documentary by directors Sally Rubin and Jen Gilomen that explores the true cost of mountaintop removal coal mining in the Central Appalachian Mountains. The film follows Beverly May and Terry Ratliff, friends who grew up together on opposite sides of a mountain ridge in eastern Kentucky, as they find themselves in a contentious struggle dividing their community and the world: who controls, consumes, and beneﬁts from our planet’s shrinking supply of natural resources? While Beverly organizes her neighbors to stop a looming mountaintop removal coal mining operation, Terry considers leasing his family’s land — a decision that could destroy both of their homes. Through a complex human story that cuts across environment, economics, community, and culture, Deep Down ties us to our own choices, and reveals the devastating impact of our energy consumption on local communities trapped at the nexus of fossil fuel economies and politics. In the face of extraordinary environmental and human injustices faced by many communities in Appalachia, the film ultimately unfolds as a hopeful story about our nation’s most profound source of power- the power of citizens to create a sustainable, democratic and just future.
Deep Down and Reel Power at Appalachia Rising
In September, Reel Power filmmakers joined with communities like those you’ll meet in Deep Down at Appalachia Rising, a conference and day of action organized by grassroots leaders from the Appalachian coalfields calling for an end to mountaintop removal coal mining. The conference included a weekend of workshops on energy issues and organizing skills. Working Films and Reel Power filmmakers participated in a media training for activists and joined with other filmmakers at the event to promote the role of documentary films in the climate justice movement.
Part of the Reel Power team with Filmmakers Rising
On Monday September 27th, Deep Down’s co-director Jen Gilomen joined in solidarity with Beverly May, the film’s protagonist, and thousands of Appalachian community members and activists during a peaceful protest and march through the D.C. streets that passed by the offices of the E.P.A. and PNC Bank, a leading financier of mountaintop removal, before arriving at the White House. Beverly and Jen were arrested along with over 100 other patriotic citizens during a planned non-violent sit-in outside of the White House calling on our government to end mountaintop removal mining. All arrested were released that day but the message was loud and clear- mountaintop removal and the destruction of Appalachian watersheds, land and communities must end and solutions to the problem must be found.
Filmmaker Jen Gilomen participates in direct action at Appalachia Rising
Join the makers of Deep Down and community members in Appalachia like Beverly May taking action for a just energy and climate future by bringing the Reel Power Film series to your community.