Announcing the Statewide Winners of the 2019 Directing Change Film Contest

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.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, FundaMental Change founder Angela Padilla

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 language different than English 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.

Lizzy Greene, Alex Padilla, Angela Padilla, Kalama Epstein

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.

Justina Machado

Presented by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) and Each Mind Matters, 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 an interpretive dance routine from Encore High School, and a musical performance by students from 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 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, and 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, and 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, April Martinez
Advisor: Bernadette Dincin

3rd Place: “Feeding My Heart”
San Diego County
Mission Middle School
Filmmakers: Paula, Ariana and Angie
Advisor: Tamara Whitney