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Review for SCENARIOS USA , Brooklyn, NY, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

In the summer of 2014, I received a call from the universe. In this case, the spokesperson for the universe was named Rob York, and Rob was extending an invite from Maura Minsky and all the great people at Scenarios USA to direct a film for them. I said yes and since then, I have been giving my time and creative energies to this amazing organization. Scenarios USA is a non-profit that holds a competition every two years for high school students across America, where students are encouraged to submit stories that are either based on their own life stories or inspired by experiences that have affected them as teenagers. Three winning students are chosen, and those students are paired with Hollywood-based filmmakers to develop their stories into short films. The films are shot in the winning students' hometowns, air on Showtime Networks, and are sold to high schools across the country as part of a class curriculum.

As a director, Scenarios USA paired me with one of the winning students of their 2014 contest, an amazing young writer named Skyler Edge, who had written a story giving voice to modern-day trans teenagers discovering their true selves. This story became the film HOUSE NOT HOME'written by Skyler, produced by Scenarios USA and directed by me'and since its making, it has aired dozens of times on Showtime Networks, gone to multiple domestic and international film festivals'including NewFest, OutFest Fusion and the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival'and won multiple awards, including Best Transgender North American Short at the North Carolina Gay + Lesbian Film Festival.

One month after we finished shooting HOUSE NOT HOME in Skyler's hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, about 250 miles away, a Cincinnati teenager killed herself by walking in front of a truck on a dark highway. Her name was Leelah Alcorn. Leelah was assigned male at birth and her parents refused to call her anything but by her birth name Joshua and even sent her to 'conversion therapy' to stop her from being who she was. At school, Leelah experienced the kind of bullying that Terran Spring, the main character in HOUSE NOT HOME, experiences throughout the course of the film. Leelah left an incredibly emotional suicide note on Tumblr, which was also a call to action, and we quote it at the beginning of HOUSE NOT HOME:
'The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was, they're treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be talked about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something.'

I hope that Leelah is looking down on me right now, because I want to tell her this: Leelah, thanks to the incredible work of Scenarios USA, your words are being studied in high school classrooms all across the country. And Skyler, thanks to Scenarios USA, your inspiring story is being seen throughout the world. This is an organization that is truly changing the world by empowering youth to tell their stories and amplifying voices that need to be heard, now more than ever. It is an honor and a pleasure to have Scenarios USA at the heart of #MyGivingStory.

Role:  General Member of the Public