Directing Change Connects Students with Pros in Film Making and the Entertainment Industry

The Directing Change Student Film Contest is pleased to announce some of the statewide judges for the 2015 contest. This year’s judges will include distinguished film makers and members of the entertainment industry, including “Lord of the Rings” trilogy producers Mark Ordesky and Jane Fleming, Scott Budnick, executive producer of “Due Date” and “Starsky & Hutch,” as well as James Lecesne, founder ofThe Trevor Project.

Directing Change is also excited to announce a partnership with the talented rising teen pop star Meredith O’Connor. Meredith is a singer, actress and anti-bullying activist who is passionate about being a positive role model to young people. She travels around the world to countries like England, Australia, Greece and Singapore bringing her anti-bullying message to schools and speaking to youth about her own experience overcoming bullying and other obstacles, and her music videos have attracted over two million views on YouTube. Meredith’s music includes meaningful lyrics, catchy melodies and powerful messages that encourage teens to be inclusive and tolerant of one another’s differences. Meredith’s second single, “The Game,” was written to address bullying and was composed to touch the lives of young people.

Along with being a statewide judge for this year’s contest, Meredith will share information about Directing Change with students as she tours schools in California and will make her music available to support our young film makers. To learn more about Meredith and hear some of her inspirational songs, please visit:

Directing Change is honored to have the continued support of Bradley Buecker, director and producer for “GLEE.” Mr. Buecker has participated as a guest speaker the last two years at the Directing Change award ceremony, and is participating this year as a judge. He was kind enough to offer his time to meet with a student for a Skype session that was awarded randomly to one student who entered the “Ending the Silence of Mental Illness” category last year. The award went to Nick Walker, a graduate of Canyon High School in Orange County, Calif. Nick won 3rd place statewide last year for his film “If We All Speak Loud Enough.” Nick’s film is also being utilized by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in its presentations to schools of “Ending the Silence,” which focuses on raising awareness and reducing stigma surrounding mental illness. Here is what Nick had to say about the experience of speaking with Mr. Buecker:

“I’m not sure that I could begin to explain how valuable my one-on-one meeting with Brad Buecker was. Being able to have an open discussion with an actual working professional in the industry is extremely rare, and gaining the opportunity to have that is like winning the lottery. Mr. Buecker full-heartedly and thoroughly answered all the questions I threw at him, and gave me some advice that you don’t get even in film school. We spoke about breaking into the business, becoming a director, and talked extensively about his directing process from script to screen. I learned so much in the half hour that I spoke with him, and all of his advice will stay in my mind for a while to come. We are now even discussing a chance for me to shadow him on set and see his work in person. Thanks so much to Directing Change for this incredible opportunity!”

Scott Budnick, returning statewide judge and the executive producer of many popular films including “Due Date” and “Starsky and Hutch,” donated his time for a one-on-one Skype session with two Directing Change students. The student winners, Nico Herschel and Eliza Kim from the University of California San Diego, had the chance to talk to Mr. Budnick about a variety of topics including his work to improve the outcome of formerly incarcerated individuals and to build healthier communities.

“We asked Scott about similarities in building trusted relationships with people who might handle varying degrees of social isolation and depression. Scott emphasized that being straight to the point and establishing an immediate sense of honesty in your communication are key in making the most of your ability to connect, to reach out and to help…In deep honesty, thank you Directing Change, thank you Scott, for this opportunity,” Nico said.

Directing Change is part of statewide efforts to prevent suicide, reduce stigma and discrimination related to mental illness and to promote the mental health and wellness of students. These initiatives are funded by the Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63) and administered by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities.

We are still looking for judges for this year’s film contest. Visit for more information and to sign up!