“LIKE US” is an independent film about acceptance, belonging, friendship, and ourselves. The film raises awareness of the nuanced and widespread nature of bullying and serves as a prevention tool to be shared with other schools.
LIKE US is an independent, anti-bullying short film about a topic that is close to many of us (myself and my brother included). It's a story about how self-identified misfits come together to achieve something greater, overcome their fears, and help one of their own. It's also a story about perseverance, belonging, and all of us.
As part of the media arts and filmmaking classes we offer, I was hired by the Family School Association Performing Arts Program in Jersey City, NJ, to lead the instructional writing team, direct, and produce a film for students and by students. We wanted to teach students how to create a story they could relate to while also solving an ethical dilemma in a positive way to inspire other students. The project spanned over 9 months, included over 80 students and adults, and was filmed at 6 locations across multiple neighborhoods in Jersey City, NJ.
Our goal is to build upon our work to create LIKE US Academy to teach film-creation with messages of acceptance in Jersey City and schools around the country in an effort to help as many students, families, and administrators as possible. With almost 40 hours of rehearsal and film footage captured, most of our 30+ scenes completed, and post-production on the horizon, we are almost there. LIKE US will be featured in the Golden Door International Film Festival in Fall 2019.
The Shooting Star Youth Challenge is coming to town, and Cory, Fatin, Lana, Astrid, and Trevor have each been unable to find a team. When their Principal asks the group of outcasts—each facing bullying and rejection for their nonbinary gender identity, recent loss from cancer, unconventional interests, or other reasons—to work together for the competition, some of the students are not too happy. To make matters worse, as the big day approaches, the team members are shaken by comments made online and in person about them, and they fear they will never be accepted for who they are. Yet together they rebuild their confidence and get ready to compete. However, in a moment of desperation, Lana confides in her teammates about a problem that is a much larger challenge than shooting a basket or nailing a comedy routine. When the C Flats step up to help their new friend, we see that what makes these kids winners are not the skills they bring to Shooting Star but the size of their hearts and being true to themselves.
Introducing Jonah Briggs, Holloway Cunningham, Leo Frohwirth, Billie Jo Rivero and Sofia Santomauro in leading roles. With Sam Pesin, Michele Sorvino, Radhika Konda, Meredith Burns, Chase Steele Greye, Vincent Leggio, Afeez Abiodun and Gina Garofalo- Irizarry.
Music by Stephen Ulrich. Song in opening scene: “It’s Hard To Hurt Someone” by Val Emmich. Song in final scene and movie trailer: “Take It All To Heart” by Val Emmich. Song in stairwell scene: “Wandering” (Lana’s Song) by Chrissy Roberts. Song in competition scene: “Waterfall” by Chrissy Roberts.
From Our Film Poster
FSA Performing Arts Program and the students of The Ethical Community Charter School (TECCS) in association with THISLEARNING® present a Kris Van Nest film. Written by Arko Aditya, Abigail Wallace Burch, Ariyana Clinton, Tala Issa, Kate Lester, Leo McCartin, Billie Jo Rivero, William Santomauro, Daphne Stifelman, Stevie Vago, Ann E. Wallace, and Kris Van Nest. Casting by Meghan Rafferty and Kris Van Nest. Music by Stephen Ulrich. Songs by Val Emmich and Chrissy Roberts. Costume Design by Noreen Francis Heard and Ann E. Wallace. Director Of Photography and Edited by Kris Van Nest. Co-Executive Producers Noreen Heard, Brindha Dhanabalan, Srinivasan Ganesan, Vivian and Billie Santomauro. Executive Producers Family School Association of TECCS and THISLEARNING. Produced by Kim Correro, Ann E. Wallace, and Kris Van Nest. Assistant Director Ann E. Wallace. Directed by Kris Van Nest.