In the Middle
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(Nov 13, 2008)
Divorce and its impact continues to be a significant traumatic event in the lives of children. Anger, Anxiety and Depression plague children of divorce. All too often, these families are devastated and broken; left to recapture some semblance of balance. With the painful end of a relationship, and legal battles over support and custody, the first several months or even years promise a rich opportunity for more turmoil.
With the goal to create a tool for understanding and healing, ErieKIDS has produced In the Middle; our third musical short-film. This chapter in the ErieKIDS Emotional Intelligence series highlights depression as a result of a difficult divorce. Our lead character demonstrates typical depressive symptoms as she endures the impact of the divorce. While sensitive to such a difficult subject, ErieKIDS has not shied away from the realities of the conflict.
This broadcast-ready movie is packed with 5 songs that tell the story in a way kids can connect with. Let's Go, You Don't Know Me, I Got This, Standing Alone and Love it Seems anchor the message of pain that can only be eased by the love of a parent and the care of friends. The movie website offers information about the movie, cast, composers and links to local, state, and national mental health organizations.
The target audience is Pre-K 8th Grade. The DVD also includes an easy-to-use classroom curriculum, information for parents and a referral form that kids can use to alert adults of their concerns.
ErieKIDS In the Middle takes a familiar topic a teenager who feels caught in the middle of her parents divorce and isolated from her peers and approaches it with a fresh, cinematically daring approach that gets to the emotional and psychological core of the topic without the sort of moralizing or sentimentality that would turn off teenagers to the film s valuable message. The challenge with teenagers is to teach them without preaching to them, to relate to them without talking down to them, and to tell them less than what you know without seeming insincere or emotionally distant, and it s clear in every frame of In the Middle that filmmaker, licensed social worker, and family therapist Jeffrey Natalie has the empathy, knowledge, and talent to make his message ring true.
Earning young people s trust is just as important in a film as it is in a classroom or in therapy, and In the Middle meets this challenge head on, largely through the efforts of a wonderfully talented ensemble cast of kids who make the characters and situations seem authentic and real. Even when the characters burst into song, it takes you deeper into the story and its message rather than jarring you out of it, in part because the songs are so well-crafted and thought-provoking (and also because these kids can really sing).
In the Middle is compelling, challenging drama that lets you know from the outset that you re in for a high-intensity examination of the emotional and psychological toll a divorce can take on a teen who feels both trapped in her parents conflict and cut off from other teens, with the sense that no one in the world knows or understands what she s experiencing. Natalie and his cast tackle this difficult subject with passion and grace and compelling, risk-taking filmmaking. In the Middle approaches the subject through three dramatic techniques: straightforward dialogue among the teenagers and between the in the middle teen and her parents, through original songs performed by the cast that occasionally bend believability but never break it, and meaningful encounters with Dr. Feelgood, who appears in spectral form and guides the characters with some gentle but cogent psychoanalytic insight that delivers the message of In the Middle without ever overwhelming the story or reducing its dramatic impact. It s this melding of techniques that makes In the Middle so watchable and powerful and elevates it above After School Special cliché. While the film s main points are pretty simple don t shut out your friends when you re hurting, because they can understand and they can help; and don t be afraid or ashamed to seek help when you re experiencing symptoms of depression it s this mix of dramatic dialogue, song, and special effect that get them across so well.
All in all, ErieKIDS In the Middle is a moving and beautifully crafted teen drama built around a terrific cast, a clearly delivered message, and a brave, contemporary filmmaking style that gets right to the heart of the subject and is perfectly pitched to reach kids who might not get that message any other way. This is an important film for teens who find themselves in an all-too-common point of crisis, and I hope it reaches the kids who need it most. --Stephen Nathans-Kelly, Editor-in-Chief, EventDV & EMedialive.com
In the Middle is a phenomenal ErieKIDS production. Although the cinematography, editing and sound quality are excellent, the plot is what makes this movie tug at adults heartstrings and speak to teenagers in turmoil. The messages to teens are clear: you are not alone; you need to take care of yourself; and you must ask for and accept help. The movie focuses on the pain of divorce, but the emotions and lessons of the film can easily translate into many different situations.
The part of the movie that spoke to me was the song You Don t Know Me. What teenager has not felt that his or her parents at some point have lost touch with who they ve become, sometimes overnight? The poignant lyrics brought back memories of those same feelings in my own life. The movie achieves its goal of having the viewer relate to what s happening on the screen as they take some emotional inventory, remembering what it is to be young and misunderstood.One of the most important messages in the film was the explanation that it s normal for depressed kids to feel angry. Both adults and children need to hear this message and remember it. I think that bit of knowledge can go a long way toward recreating understanding between adults and kids who are hurting.
In the Middle is a beautiful and artfully crafted depiction of what it s like to be a teenager who needs help but fears it can t be found. My hope is that as many teenagers as possible will view this movie and gain support and hope from its messages. It s clear that Jeff Natalie poured his heart and soul and countless hours into this production. Let s hope it can touch the hearts and souls of the kids who need it most. --Karla Mullenax Wludyga Director of Public Relations & Communications and Special Assistant to the President, Gannon University Former television news anchor, WJET