What am I trying to accomplish by making my movie, new play and possibly TV series WalledIN? A seventeen-year-old’s story about her struggles with mental health and her coping resources. You’re a male actor of a certain background and age. What do you know about this subject?
I know a fair amount: personal and professional lived experience. I am highly educated invested in the topics and I am a creator.
What I wish to offer the world through my work is a chance to participate in an important conversation after attending a screening, or production of WalledIN. I believe mental health in our youth and in general is one of the major challenges for our world in the next twenty-five years. If you don’t believe me, read the headlines in almost every major news platform as kids head back to school.
I believe some way or another we will be forced to create new resources, revamped systems, new investments, new education and breakthroughs in science and technology all to support mental health.
I believe our school systems need to change to accommodate trauma sensitive programming, further educated staff, teachers and administrators so school is more than a place for education, but a safe place for social interaction and life experience.
I believe the police in our neighborhoods need to be educated and practise a new supportive form of de-escalation as they come upon certain circumstances.
I believe the neighborhood/community like: bus drivers, merchants, post office, delivery services, restaurants and stores need to become more aware of their surroundings, who their customers are and what are their needs.
And so on and so on…
Why do I believe in all these things? Here are a few reasons: social media, cell phones and access to information and disinformation at the touch of a button, climate change, privatization of health care, the public school system, the divide between the classes, and the social movements of today.
As I walk down the street, I find myself clapping my hands, and screaming ‘heads up,’ as young people come within one step of bumping into me because their eyes are looking down at a phone. I try to step aside and make sure I don’t bump into anyone, but on a crowded street it can become an unwelcome obstacle. Go to a school campus and see who is talking and listening or who is on their phone talking at someone or not at all.
The bullying and provocations from kids on social media is out of control. Influencers are constantly marketing goods and services that most people cannot afford or don’t even need. Over all, the pressures on kids to be like someone else is unnecessarily high. I know it is a thing for a teenager to feel that kind of pressure, but it appears to be on steroids.
Notwithstanding, there are thousands of opportunities online for kids to learn, explore, expand, connect and share their talents, ideas and thoughts today more than in past generations. I also believe that the speed at which information is moving is too fast for most human minds to safely comprehend in real time, let alone fresh young minds. Look at the brilliant advancements in AI and the discussion being brought to the world’s attention right now by the WGA, SAG-AFTRA and other industries by unions taking a stand before it’s too late for people who are just trying to make a living wage.
Advancement in technology is amazing, so important and so is how it is regulated so we can advance with it.
The divide between the classes seems to be an unfortunate reality and evolution within a capitalist society. A piece of paper called ‘money,’ is agreed upon by the population as the common goal: collect as much as you can, charge as much as you can, save as much as you can, work as hard as you can and only focus on this piece of paper. Are you the best, the most famous, the most important? Will you vote for me or pressure your neighbor by making it harder for them to vote for whom they believe in so your person can win?
I can go on and on, but do you really care. I believe positive moves and healthy directions come in the form of conversations, connections and respectful communications.
It is like we are in a time where we can either make a horrible decision and the results could be disastrous for thousands and/or ourselves, or we can make difficult healthy, bold decisions and evolve with the help of technology into a better time.
Therefore, our youth deserve every positive, creative, proactive, intelligent, logical opportunity within their education systems, and community to become good people. Taking care of their mental health is one of the most important challenges of our time.
If we take care of each other by educated awareness, sensitivity and inclusive systems.: we end up taking care of everybody tomorrow.
I am grateful you took the time to read this opinion piece, and I hope it connects with you in some way, and if I’m lucky you could be interested in joining, supporting or teaming up with WalledIN, the Conversation.
Take a look at what’s happening with my project and reach out.
Al works in film/tv and the theatre in New York, Toronto, and Los Angeles some highlights include: the award-winning short film Walled IN (written & produced by Al), Workin’ Moms, The Umbrella Academy, The Novice, Nikita, How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days, Showtime’s Street Time, Off Broadway: The Interrogation, Will (written by Al), 2013 Winner! LA Drama Critics Awards for Best Production, Director, Adaptation, CYRANO (World Premiere, DeafWest/Fountain Theatre), 2011 Ovation & LA Weekly Award winning Best Musical, Best Musical Director, Best Director, HOBOKEN TO HOLLYWOOD, The Sunshine Boys (with Hal Linden and Allan Miller) plus, many more. Today, Al is a finalist at the Actors Studio and works as an actor, writer, filmmaker and acting professor in Toronto.