TO STOP bullying, we have to understand the issues that cause bullies to act out in the first place.
That's why director Amy S. Weber explores a bully's perspective in her film "A Girl Like Her," which opens today.
"We hear so many of the stories from the victim's perspective, and we wanted to offer another side of the story - a story that we very rarely, if ever, get to hear," Weber said.
Weber has written and produced more than 40 award-winning educational documentaries, in which she's explored tough topics facing youth, such as violence and eating disorders. "A Girl Like Her," which is her second full-length feature, tells the story of Jess, a girl bullied by her former friend Avery, and Jess' friend Brian, who sets out to document the tormenting.
The story is told through four different perspectives - the documentary cameras that are filming at the fictional South Brookdale High, Brian's camera, a hidden camera on a dragonfly pin that Jess wears and Avery's camera, which she uses as a video diary.
These four views combine in a found-footage, documentary style.
"In order to bring the most authentic voice to the film, it needed to have a creative approach to it that was believable that all these different perspectives could be collected," Weber said.
Weber said that a more classic film style just wouldn't work to tell this type of story.
"For me, when I developed the story, to tell this in a traditional sense I did not feel would have the authenticity that telling this in this type of genre would."
Weber appears in the film as Amy Gallagher, a filmmaker who is part of the documentary crew at the high school. Weber said that given her experience in making documentaries in high school, stepping in front of the camera was an easy transition. We never see more than a glimpse of Weber, though, which she said was intentional, so as to direct the focus elsewhere.
"We actually reached out to some A-list actors, like Sandra Bullock, Queen Latifah, even Ellen DeGeneres, to see if there was any interest in the project," Weber said. "One of the concerns I had, even though all of those women would have been phenomenal, was that the story wasn't about the filmmaker, the story was about what was unfolding on the other side of the camera, about the kids and their families.
Jess, the victim in "A Girl Like Her," doesn't fit the bully-magnet nerd stereotype. Weber said she wanted a more realistic character to represent the bullied.
Weber said that she's worked with the Peacekeeper Movement to spread the word about its seven-step program for youth to bring positive change about bullying to their communities. The director hopes that "A Girl Like Her" will spark conversation about ways to fight bullying.
"Until we bring kids to the conversation equal to adults, we will not solve this issue," Weber said. "We need their voices."