Students play lead role in video production
The halls of Scarborough High School turned into a film sound stage last week when Project Aware, a Saco-based youth empowerment organization, was in Scarborough to film the final scenes of a 30-minute video on teen sexual awareness on Friday, July 27.
The film, still untitled, features students from all over Maine who served as the film’s cast and crew.
“Our goal is always to empower young people to lead,” said Carl Lakari, the executive director and co-founder of Project Aware. “We support them in creating a quality product that deals with a very important issue.”
Since its inception in 2003, Project Aware has created films dealing with such subjects as bullying, alcohol and prescription drug abuse, teen anxiety and depression, role models, tobacco use and relationships between parents and children.
The idea behind the videos, created through Project Aware’s Reel Life Program, is to give teenagers the information they need to make informed decisions.
“We want teens to make healthy choices and be healthy in all aspects of their lives. In this case, it is sexual health,” Lakari said last week.
Lakari said the Family Planning Association approached Project Aware last year to create a film about teen sexuality. From there, 20 to 30 students came together to brainstorm what they thought the film should be about. Three students took the lead in writing the script of the film.
“I was amazed at how open these students were talking about the issue,” Lakari said. “I grew up in a pretty conservative environment where you didn’t talk about sex.”
Shooting began, he said, this spring. Once the film is completed in October, the Family Planning Association, based in Augusta, will use the video as part of its pregnancy prevention program to reach students in the area, around the state, and perhaps nationally.
“We’ve done a great service in raising awareness about something that is important,” Lakari told the cast and crew upon wrapping up filming last week.
The film, Lakari said, is roughly a half hour long and includes four short scenarios about sexuality teenagers could face.
Aleah Graham, 16, one of the film’s actors, said Project Aware films help bring light to subjects that are often too difficult to discuss.
“I think it puts a positive spin on a difficult subject. It is important for kids to feel comfortable talking about these subjects because talking about things can really help fix problems,” said Graham, a resident of Limerick and a student at the New School in Kennebunk.
She hopes the film will help helps to open the lines of communication between teens and their parents around teen sexuality.
“I hope it starts a conversation. Everyone is going to have sex. People need to be able to have a conversation about it, feel comfortable with it and enjoy it in a safe way,” said Graham, who co-created “Influenced,” a 2009 film about how adults serve as role models for children and influence the choices they make. She was also involved with “Shoestrings for Mackenzie” a 2012 film from Project Aware.
Josh Devou, the president-elect of the Project Aware Board of Directors and one of the actors in the teen sexual awareness film, said videos are the perfect way to fuel the conversations teens should be having.
“The best part of Project Aware is, it is young people talking to young people,” said Devou, 17, of Levant. “Making videos is a great way to bring the issue to light and say that it is important to us and needs to be discussed.”
“Video is where a lot of youth are getting their information now,” Lakari said. “It’s a great way to connect with young people and a great way to tell a story in an efficient manner, especially if it is high quality.”
Kaylee Millett, who served as the line producer for the film and has worked with Project Aware on videos for the Department of Education on physical education, nutrition, bullying and tobacco use, said she enjoys the opportunity to connect with other youth through Project Aware.
“The biggest thing I get out of this is the writing and hearing what other kids have to say,” said Millett, 17, who is heading to Suffolk University to study film production. “The brainstorm sessions are where I get a lot of my education (about teen issues).”
“It is nice to hear from everyone,” Millett added. “There are a lot of opinions out there. There is not just one opinion on things.”
Devou has been involved with the organization since last year, when he got involved in “The Road Back,” a movie Project Aware did on teen anxiety and depression. He said he originally volunteered to be on the crew of the film, but ended up with the role of Christian, one of the film’s main characters.
Devou said he had never done any acting prior to “The Road Back.” He has since performed in a one-act play festival at Hermon High School, where he will be starting his senior year next month. He earned an all-festival acting award at the Maine Drama Festival for the performance. Getting involved with Project Aware, he said, sparked his interest in acting.
“With Project Aware, you don’t have to have a certain skill going in. You’ll pick it up fast. We welcome everyone, so don’t be afraid to get involved,” Devou said.
Lakari said the teen sexual awareness video may just be the start of Project Aware’s partnership with Scarborough High School. He said he has met with principal Dean Auriemma and substance abuse counselor Molly Montgomery about doing a 30-minute video project about substance abuse with students over the course of the school year. He is looking for businesses, individuals, or grant sources to fund the $30,000 project.
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