LOS ANGELES–()–Directing Change Program & Film Contest announced the 7th annual statewide winners at an awards ceremony on Tues., May 21 at The Theatre at The Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Honors were presented to youth filmmakers from across California for their short films to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention. Actress Justina Machado, star of the reimagined TV classic One Day at a Time was honored for her portrayal in the “Hello Penelope” episode. Also in attendance were California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, his wife and founder of FundaMental Change Angela Padilla, “A Million Little Things” actress Lizzy Greene and “The Fosters” actor Kalama Epstein.

Participating students competed by submitting 60-second films in three categories: suicide prevention, mental health matters and Through the Lens of Culture, a category that encouraged participants to choose suicide prevention or mental health as a focus, but with additional requirements including creating a film in a non-English language and/or with focus on how different cultures view these topics. Additional categories include two 30-second categories in Animated Short with the focus of suicide prevention, and SanaMente where participants entered Spanish-language films to promote mental health in the Latino community. New this year is the Walk In Our Shoes category designed for middle school students only. As the category suggests, it instructed youth to create a 60-second film to help others develop compassion for the challenge’s others might be facing and demonstrate what actions can be taken to support them.

The awards ceremony also celebrates outstanding achievement by directors, producers and actors of film and television who serve as role models to the aspiring student filmmakers in the audience by using their platform to draw attention to mental health. Justina Machado received the Directing Change Award of Excellence for Mental Health Messaging specifically for her portrayal in the “Hello Penelope” episode on “One Day at a Time.” Justina’s compassion for her character as an Army veteran, newly single mother raising two children, struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder was done in a moving and authentic way that provided both humor and seriousness when dealing with sensitive topics concerning mental health.

Presented by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) and Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement, the Directing Change Program & Film Contest received 1,063 film submissions from 3,346 youth and young adults throughout California 170 schools and community-based organizations.

An audience of more than 1,100 students from 21 Los Angeles-area middle and high schools, family and classmates viewed the films, cheered on the honorees and were treated to a musical performance by students from Encore High School in Riverside, CA, and William J. Pete Knight High School and Highland High School in Palmdale, CA.

To view films and for a complete list of statewide and regional winners, honorable mentions and special recognitions, visit directingchangeca.org. The statewide winners of the 2019 Directing Change Film Contest are as follows:

High School/Youth and Young Adult Mental Health Matters

1st Place: “The Weight”

Orange County

Canyon High School

Filmmakers: Vito Lyles, Neema Wangyal, Nick Sherman, Colette Grob

Advisor: Alex Graham

2nd Place: “Speak Up”

Tri-City (Los Angeles County)

Claremont High School

Filmmakers: Dylan Divine-Sicherman, Jenna Gossett, Therese Reisch, Thomas St. John

Advisor: Sara Hills

3rd Place: “Rainy Days”

Butte County

Pleasant Valley High School

Filmmakers: DJ Merrill and Aidan Osgood

Advisor: Michael Peck

High School/Youth and Young Adult Suicide Prevention

1st Place: “Direct Message”

Riverside County

Encore High School

Filmmakers: Taylor Krutsch, Joshua Guerrero, Alexis Paramo

Advisor: Jared Nelson

2nd Place: “Reaching Out”

Alameda County

Mission San Jose High School

Filmmakers: Chiron Tran, Emeline Tu, Anthony Gao, Eddie Chang, Andrew Wang, Patrick Lu, Vaidehi Raman

Advisor: Belinda Eugster

3rd Place: “A Journey You Don’t Fight Alone”

Riverside County

Eleanor Roosevelt High School

Filmmakers: Tanaka Agere, Allysa Cabatingan, Gianna Barrantes, Daniel Melgoza

Advisor: Jacob Fuller

Through the Lens of Culture –Suicide Prevention

1st Place: “Hidden”

Sacramento County

Franklin High School

Filmmakers: Ethan Ocampo and Jonathan Ocampo

Advisor: Brad Clark

2nd Place: “The Puppet”

Alameda County

Dublin High School

Filmmakers: Collette Lee and Josephine Kao

Advisor: Michael D’Ambrosio

3rd Place: “We Are”

Sacramento County

Sacramento Native American Health Center

Filmmakers: Raevana Jordan, Angelina Hinojosa, Mireya Aguilar, Reyna Jordan

Advisor: Jeanine Gaines

Through the Lens of Culture –Mental Health Matters

1st Place: “La Ropa Sucia”

San Bernardino County

Health RC Youth Leaders

Filmmakers: Natalie M, Ana F, Zane G, Dinidu R, Camille S, Love B, Marissa C, Gianna S, Brynn B

Advisor: Joanna Marrufo

2nd Place: “Suffering with Stigmas”

Sacramento County

Franklin High School

Filmmakers: Andres Garcia

Advisor: Brad Clark

3rd Place: “Falling in Silence”

Riverside County

Encore High School

Filmmakers: Adam R., Danik S., Andrea L., Zoey C.

Advisor: Jared Nelson


1st Place: “Unidos Juntos”

Los Angeles County


Filmmakers: Peter Guan and Aileen Ramos

Advisor: Dr. Saeromi Kim

2nd Place: “La Vida Nunca Para”

Riverside County

Encore High School

Filmmakers: Andrea Leon

Advisor: Jared Nelson

3rd Place: “Mi Vida”

Tri-City (Los Angeles County)

School of Arts and Enterprise

Filmmakers: Bahia Hussein, Cassandra Alatorre, Reina Buelna, Alexis Quezada, Seth Corwin

Advisor: Ryan Metzler

Animated Short

1st Place: “Petals”

Tri-City (Los Angeles County)

Claremont High School

Filmmakers: Colin Kirkpatrick, Gabriel Gonzalez, Jade Sleiman, Monique Layseca, Eli Kupetz

Advisor: Sara Hills

2nd Place: “Not Alone”

Alameda County

Irvington High School

Filmmakers: Kripa Kini

Advisor: Shiloh Burton

3rd Place: “Reach Out”

Orange County

Samueli Academy

Filmmakers: Mila Daniel, Markov Zarate, Camryn Lujan

Advisor: Aimee Bilderback

Walk in our Shoes “The Superhero in Each of Us”

1st Place: “How to Help a Friend”

San Diego County

San Pasqual Union

Filmmakers: Matisse Koser

Advisor: Breeanna Hupp

2nd Place: “Keep an Eye on Me”

Riverside County

David A Brown Middle School

Filmmakers: Angelo Gilbert, Katelyn Dwelley, Ellis Garrett, Madeline Bielman

Advisor: Amy Pitotti

3rd Place: “All You Need is a Friend”

Los Angeles County

Palms Middle School

Filmmakers: Kalyra Thompson, Victoria Valdez, Leslie Garlington

Advisor: Irene Clark

Walk in our Shoes “Mental Health and Words Matter”

1st Place: “Anxiety”

San Diego County

Mission Middle School

Filmmakers: Angie, Ariana, Sara and Malana

Advisor: Tamara Whitney

2nd Place: “Beyond Anorexia”

Los Angeles County

Kranz Intermediate School

Filmmakers: Frances Sweeney, Ashley Erazo and April Martinez

Advisor: Bernadette Dincin

3rd Place: “Feeding My Heart”

San Diego County

Mission Middle School

Filmmakers: Paula, Ariana and Angie

Advisor: Tamara Whitney

*Additional photos available upon request.

About Directing Change

The Directing Change Program & Film Contest is part of Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement. The program offers young people the exciting opportunity to participate in the movement by creating 60-second films about suicide prevention and mental health that are used to support awareness, education and advocacy efforts on these topics. Learning objectives surrounding mental health and suicide prevention are integrated into the submission categories of the film contest, giving young people the opportunity to critically explore these topics. Program participants – whether they are making a film, acting as an adult advisor, or judging the films – are exposed to appropriate messaging about these topics, warning signs, how to appropriately respond to someone in distress, where to seek help, as well as how to stand up for others who are experiencing a mental health challenge. In addition, schools and organizations are offered free prevention programs and educational resources. For more information visit www.directingchange.org

About the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA)

CalMHSA is a partnership of California counties working together to prevent mental illness and promote mental health by implementing Prevention and Early Intervention programs that are a critical part of the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63). The Directing Change Program & Student Film Contest is one of numerous programs that are part of comprehensive statewide efforts to prevent suicide, reduce stigma and discrimination related to mental illness, and to promote the mental health and wellness of students. For more information, visit www.calmhsa.org.


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