Erahm Christopher ’98 and J.C. Pohl ’98 watched the media reaction to the tragic Columbine High School shootings in 1999 and were left wondering why reporters weren’t asking teens themselves about the cause of the violence inside the school.
There was a story that wasn’t being told, Christopher and Pohl saw. And the aspiring filmmakers quickly found that students were the ones to tell it.
Many teens shared a common sentiment: No one was listening to them, and they felt enormous pressures, from worrying about school and their future to their physical appearances and even learning to drive. Coupled with bullying— a broad term that encompasses physical violence and intimidation as well as gossip and hurtful teasing—teens could easily develop problems that lead to violent behavior. Told right, Christopher and Pohl saw, this was a story that could educate and inspire.
They distributed camcorders to a diverse group of five teens with the direction that, over the course of a year, the students would film anything they thought would reveal who they were and what they were experiencing. From the footage, Christopher and Pohl created “Teen Truth: An Inside Look at Bullying and School Violence.”
“The film gets to the core of the issue,” Christopher says. “We want teens to understand how they’re affecting each other and challenge them to be positive influences.”
At SCU, Christopher studied theatre and communication and Pohl earned a degree in marketing. HRM Film picked up their film in 2006 and promoted it at high schools. Christopher and Pohl developed a curriculum around the film as well as a motivational speaking tour. Tens of thousands have seen it, including over 50 California legislators in the State Capitol at a showing last summer. A prestigious CINE Golden Eagle Award in December brought further attention.
The life-changing response they’ve seen among teens has led Christopher and Pohl to their next project: “Teen Truth: An Inside Look at Drugs and Alcohol Abuse”—which was released last fall. Read more about it at www.teentruthlive.com.