When we spoke with Baron Ellis, an aspiring filmmaker, he was relaxing in his room having graduated from Palms Middle School Modern Media and Communications Magnet in Los Angeles County. Baron’s short film “Online Dangers: The Power of Our Words” won first place in the Walk in Our Shoes category.

This category challenged young filmmakers to showcase what it is like to “walk in the shoes” of someone experiencing a mental health challenge. Baron’s film focuses on cyberbullying and follows a young boy’s breakdown after his social media posts receive cruel comments. His friend, Lucas, notices this online exchange and changes the boy’s attitude with kindness and words of encouragement. Baron’s film reminds viewers that it is easy to make someone’s day and that “the words you say can change someone’s life.”

Did producing this film change your perspective on mental health?

Prior to making this film, I didn’t know very much about cyberbullying or mental health. After talking to my friends about their mental health issues and brainstorming with my classmates, it helped me understand the struggles of mental health.

What do you hope someone takes away or learns after watching your film?

I hope people realize that they may be surrounded by friends or family with mental health issues, who don’t know how to ask for help. I tried to simplify the message by giving one good piece of advice: to spread positivity. Something as simple as a compliment can change someone’s perspective of themselves.

What made you choose cyberbullying as a focus?

Most of my friends have had problems with cyberbullying, and I wanted to produce a film with a realistic portrayal of mental health issues affecting my generation.

How are you going to continue ‘directing change’ when you return to in-person school this fall?

I’ll keep myself up-to-date with current events and learn more about film technique. I will try my best to make more impactful films regarding mental health.

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