August 20, 2012

Bullying Film Wins Big

This high school senior used his experiences being bullied in a movie to help others.

Austin Barker: Words hurt just as much as punching.

Jessica: Austin Barker says he endured years of bullying, in both elementary and middle school.

Austin: I went through terrible stuff. They would beat me up. They would do terrible things to me. They would shoot me with BB guns. They would – they would just tear me down emotionally.

“It scared me. And I was upset, and felt helpless. There was nothing I could do. You can’t call a cop on a 15 year-old for giving your kid a wedgie.”

Austin: I really just kind of had to stick through it, and just kind of wait for a better day.

Jessica: Those better days started to come in high school when Austin got involved in theater and broadcast journalism. He says those programs ignited his passion for filmmaking. And he gained a reputation for making funny videos for the school’s TV station.

That is when a teacher involved with the school’s anti-bullying project told Austin about a short film contest about something Austin was all too familiar with.

Austin: She just said, ‘Hey, we have this contest, and we need to make a short film on bullying. Do you have any ideas for maybe a movie on bullying?’ And I was just like, ‘Actually, I do.’

“There’s one thing you can count on in high school…is that people are always talking.”

Jessica: In just a few weeks, Austin shot and edited his film, called “The Formula: a High School Thesis.” He entered it in the No-Bull Challenge, a student video competition designed to help stop bullying.

Austin: What the film says is you may not realize it, but you could be hurting someone right now and not even know it.

Jessica: He says he hoped his video would win the competition, but that his main goal was to get people thinking about the consequences of their words and actions.

Austin: I broadcasted the full movie to the entire school, and the support for it just took off. They really loved it, and it really affected them in the way I wanted to affect them.

“I’m very proud of him, because what he went through was very traumatic and very debilitating, emotionally. And he rose above it.”

Jessica: Austin didn’t just rise above the bullying, he ended up taking home the award for documentary of the year in the No Bull Competition. Austin won a $5,000 scholarship. And his documentary will be submitted to one of the most prestigious festivals in the world: the Sundance Film Festival.

We hope to see more great work from Austin.


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