Student Film Stands Up Against Bullying

Louis Polak

Chapman University Graduate Students Use Thesis Film To Combat Bullying


ORANGE, CA – Movies are often cited as negatively influencing children's behavior, but a team of graduate film students at Chapman University's Dodge College hope to do the opposite, by using the story of Annie Baxter to influencing kids to stop bullying.


“1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4% percent of the time," said Professors Debra J. Pepler and Wendy Craig in a recent study on the epidemic of bullying.


After reading this and a number of disturbing findings about bullying early in the pre-production phase, M.F.A directing candidate Gregory Goyins and the rest of the creative team on Chapman’s Dodge College graduate thesis film “The Dead Kid,” were upset but also inspired to use their creative talents to create a short film that could be used as a tool against bullying.


Based on an original story by award-winning author Gillian King, "The Dead Kid" is the story of Annie Baxter, who, at the height of the 1980 Atlanta Child Murders, witnesses a young boy's torment leading up to his eventual disappearance as suspicions surround a pair of bullies and the reclusive proprietor of the towns dump.


Aside from submissions to film festivals, the goal of the students is to distribute the film to schools and anti-bullying organizations across the country as an influential learning tool that kids can identify with.


Although fictional, the narrative plays out a common scenario, a child (Annie in our story) witnesses ongoing acts of bullying by her peers, and does nothing to prevent the torment of someone who used to be her friend in fear of being cast out, only to realize that she was wrong not to act after witnessing the devastation that follows.

The audience discovers through Annie, the harsh consequences of bullying but also the personal consequences of being a follower instead of standing up for what you believe in.

Told from the pre-pubescent and rather naïve view of Annie Baxter, the characters and themes within the film are especially relatable to children and youth, making it an effective tool in positively influencing those who are engaged in acts of bullying right now.

Actress Mandalynn Carlson, who plays the lead, Annie Baxter, has taken an extreme personal interest in the project because she was bullied herself while in school in Michigan, escalating to the point where her parents found it necessary to pull her out of the school system and homeschool her.  Carlson has booked roles on films such as “Machine Gun Preacher” staring Gerard Butler, and TV series including, “CSI:NY” and “Scandal.”


Brothers DJ and Devin Clark play the bullies in the film, but outside of their characters Jimmer and Ted, their roles have often been reversed as the subjects of such torment.  DJ was recently on the popular TV series “Parks and Recreation” and Devin will soon be appearing on a national commercial for Capri-Son.


Other key crew members include, Tansy Simpson as Cinematographer, Andres De La Torre as Editor, Abra Brayman as Art Director, and Jacob Boyett as Production Designer.


The film is scheduled for release on April 19, 2013 and will be screened at the Folino Theatre in Orange, California.