This story was clarified on July 16, 2014. An explanation follows the story.
Four Sherwood High School juniors are spending their summer trying to raise money to attend a leadership conference and Teen Video Awards show, after learning that their anti-bullying video was selected as a finalist in a global competition.
Anya Mudryakova, Savannah Suser, Diane Trieu and Emily Gilburt wrote, directed and acted in the video “One” as a project at the school, which is in Sandy Spring. The assignment required students to create an anti-bullying video, and they were encouraged to submit them to the Great American No Bull Challenge competition.
The contest is presented by a social action organization whose goal is to inspire teens around the world to take a stand against bullying, and to promote digital responsibility, leadership and social action through filmmaking.
The girls have been best friends since their freshman year. Even though they were in separate health classes, they decided to work together to create the video.
Anya, 16, of Olney, took charge. The girls got together after school to brainstorm and they came up with their theme: One person can make a difference.
“We came up with the story,” she said. “It was pretty easy, since every one of us has been bullied.”
“It was really beautiful how it just came together,” said Emily, 15, of Silver Spring.
Their video is at youtube.com/watch?v=HDwWTXIJX9s.
Diane, 16, of Brookeville, portrayed the main character who was bullied, because while the girls all said they had been bullied, she thought she could relate the best.
“I guess I have been bullied because my personality is different,” she said. “I am more outgoing, and I guess that is looked down upon by others. It’s been ongoing, but lessened after I started high school.”
Diane said because of her past experiences and some teenage heartbreak, it was easy for her to play the part.
“My boyfriend had just broke up with me, so I had been really sad the entire week we filmed it,” she said. “That made it pretty easy to play the character.”
Emily said that in contrast, it was hard to play a “terrible character,” having to laugh at and make fun of her best friend.
Their friend Nick Nguyen played a nasty character who turns good. He was the “one” that made a difference.
“Nick has also dealt with bullying before, so that helped to make our video more realistic,” Anya said.
They also got help from classmates who stayed after school to participate and teachers who offered guidance.
Anya, who wants to study filmmaking in college, spent hours editing the video.
They first entered it into the Sherwood Film Festival. Many of their classmates and teachers told them the video was inspirational and several said it made them cry.
The No Bull Challenge entries were posted online. The girls shared the link with friends and family who voted for it. Out of hundreds of entries, their video earned a spot in the top 50.
The girls learned in March from their teacher Mathew Parsons that judges had selected their video as one of 15 finalists, which resulted in lots of screaming and excitement.
Although they had received positive feedback from those who had seen it, the girls were still pleasantly surprised at their success.
“I think it was just our message,” Diane said. “And it wasn’t over-dramatized. People could relate to it.”
As finalists, the girls were invited to attend the leadership conference and awards program Aug. 9 in Los Angeles.
“The problem is that they sent one plane ticket and two tickets to the show, and obviously there are four of us that all worked hard and deserve to go,” Anya said.
The girls decided Anya should represent them because she did the most work, but they hope to raise more money so they can all attend.
“The show will feature a red carpet — it’s very formal — and they show all the winning films,” Anya said. “There are prizes like scholarships and laptops, and you get to work with a film director. The top film will be shown at the Sundance Film Festival.”
The girls have set up a crowdsourcing site, gofundme.com/ourstudentfilm, and have raised $1,095 as of Thursday, mostly from friends and relatives. They hope to raise $2,500, and need to do so quickly, as air fares continue to rise.
They’ve distributed fliers and are trying to organize a bake sale and a walk.
They are also using Facebook — facebook.com/Ourstudentfilm — to generate support.
“While making the video, we had to look at how others view bullying, and learned that it is very real,” Anya said. “I think there will always be bullying, but we learned how important it is to be that one person, and what a difference reaching out to someone can make.”
This story was clarified to indicate that Sherwood High School is in Sandy Spring.