In addition to her debut as a filmmaker with The Student Body, Bailey Webber is an up-and-coming public speaker and has appeared as a guest on several television and radio shows. If you missed Part 1 of our conversation with Bailey, you can find it here and you can meet Bailey, along with her father and Co-Director of the film, Michael Webber, on February 26 at The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt.
Q&A with Bailey Webber – Part 2
What have been the most common responses or reactions from people who’ve seen The Student Body? Have they all been positive?
BW: For about a year the film has played at film festivals and special premieres and screenings around the country and my dad and I have been fortunate enough to attend many of them and engage with the audiences. This gives us a great idea of how people are responding to the story and information and I’m so happy to say that the reaction has been incredible!
We have had adults stand up and explain that the story has completely changed their perspective on themselves, their kids, and others. Students have felt empowered to speak up for the first time and share their own experiences, when before they were too ashamed to say anything. Teachers, doctors and school nurses have thanked us for making the film, have shared their own emotional stories. We receive emails and phone calls from people around the country, encouraging us to keep getting the message out. We even have clinics that want to incorporate the film into their patient programs.
Just this week we spoke with a clinician who has been battling this issue in her own school district for years, but with no success. Months ago she arranged to bring the film to her city and worked to encourage the community to join her in seeing it. The screening was last night and she called us immediately after. She was so excited and explained that the school officials have finally agreed to stop sending out the letters and will be looking for help to approach the issue in a more productive way! We were all so excited! It’s such a game changer and it makes me feel so humbled and overwhelmed to see the film is being used as a tool to help bring about change with these issues.
Do you have any personal advice or a message of hope for kids and teens who’ve been impacted negatively by bullying, BMI report cards or weight teasing?
BW: The biggest thing to know is that you are not alone and your voice does matter. I also want them to know that things can change, but only if we are willing to speak up and engage. Along those lines, there are a few things that I suggest to young people:
- Always be respectful. Taking a stand, speaking your mind and challenging authority doesn’t mean you have the right to disrespect another person in the process. Otherwise, you’ve just done something wrong yourself!
- Find an adult to learn from and help support you. My friend, Maddie, had a strong, smart, loving mother who was willing to stand behind her when she protested. For me, my dad had my back all along the way as I challenged authority at every corner. This can help give you the courage you need when taking on big challenges and getting outside of your comfort zone.
- Know your rights. My dad taught me that 90% of having rights is knowing my rights! Learn from an adult what is possible, what actions you can actually take, and what your rights are. Then bravely exercise those rights! Trust me, it feels great!
- Use your powerful voice! It’s surprising to learn that many people might feel the same way you do, but everyone is just waiting for someone else to speak up. Well, maybe you should be that “someone”! Start the conversation with your peers, your teachers, your parents and your school board. You’ll be amazed at the change that can happen when you finally choose to use your voice. I’ve experienced this twice in high school and you see it in the film. It’s amazing, it’s simple, and it can really change things for the better. You can do it, too!
What was it like to embark on a project this big with your dad as your partner? Did the two of you learn anything new about each other in the process?
BW: Working alongside my dad was amazing! Growing up he always taught my sister and me to tackle big and difficult things, to face our fears, and to overcome any disadvantages that we might have rather than use them as excuses. For me, making this film was an example of all of these things and having my dad mentor and encourage me through the process was everything.
In the beginning, he also explained that this was my project and he will be there to equal my effort, but no more. In other words, if I don’t put in the time, if I don’t do the research, if I don’t do the work, neither will he. But if I give it everything I have no matter how difficult the obstacles, then he will give his everything too. We joke about it now because the film became an obsession for me and I would drag him all over the country and spend the next three years helping me make this film. He even set aside other films he was working on just to help me see this through!
My dad would also assign books for me to read on filmmaking, journalism, writing – and I would read them all! He would give me lists of films to watch and study and take notes on, and then he would discuss them with me. He taught me how to edit, how to write for film, how story works and how to build these big story boards to work from as the production evolved. It was the greatest filmmaking course ever! We had so much fun together and I hope that comes out in the film, especially with the humor that we brought to it. So for me, the experience has changed me forever.
Who do you think could benefit from attending the screening of The Student Body here in Baltimore on February 26th? What overarching message do you hope they will take away from the event?
BW: Public screenings like this are great for parents, students, teachers, lawmakers, and anyone in the healthcare field. All of these groups are represented in the film and will benefit from experiencing the other perspectives in the story. My hope is that people will come away from the film with a greater understanding of the complexity behind obesity and eating disorders and with a new appreciation for the struggles that people have with their weight and body image.
Many thanks to Bailey Webber for taking the time to share about her experience filming The Student Body. If you’d like to see the film and have a chance to ask Bailey and her dad, Michael Webber, more about their experience, join us in Baltimore on February 26 for a FREE SCREENING in recognition of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Attendance is free but space is limited – RSVP Today!