May 15, 2014, Pittsburgh, PA "You're not supposed to text and drive, dummy!" shouts a brown-haired girl to her classmate, a 6-year-old boy who had just crashed his red powered SUV into her pink Mini Cooper. The boy, unaware of his surroundings while busy playing with a toy cell phone, responds, "But my big sister does it all the time!"
This is just one scene from "Kid-Friendly Advice," a 90 second texting and driving PSA created by Bishop McCort High School senior Ryan King. His video was selected from hundreds of entries as a winner of the Edgar Snyder & Associates "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest. He received $2,500 which he will put toward film school tuition this fall.
"Words to be Heard" challenges students across Western PA to create projects discouraging their peers from underage drinking, drunk driving, or texting while driving. Students had the option of submitting entries in the form of videos, PowerPoint presentations, websites, essays, or any other creative format of their choice. Attorney Edgar Snyder personally presented the scholarship awards to students and their parents at a dinner held on May 12th in their honor.
King wanted to use his video production experience to drive home a message that would resonate with his peers. But after some preliminary research on YouTube, he realized that most of the PSAs out there seemed to use the same, depressing approach.
"Somebody texts their friend, brother, or sister, a text message pops up, and then they get into a crash." said King. "But there's just so many of them; I'm not sure they still grab teenagers' attention."
King's production, however, provides comic relief in the conversation about texting and driving, addressing this serious topic in a fresh way.
My goal in life is to somehow change the world, and I think reaching out to people through film and storytelling is my golden opportunityRyan King
The video opens, like many of these PSAs do, with a teenage girl driving down a road while texting a friend. This girl, however, is dropping her 6-year-old brother off at school. The video's focus shifts to the little brother and the lesson he learns at school that day: texting while driving, or even just pretending to, can make you lose friends. Words appear on the screen, "It's not just your life. They look up to you. Set an example. Don't text and drive."
From a young age, King has dreamed of being a movie producer. He has worked on numerous other film projects from the scripting of a prom fashion show to co-directing a dinner theater. "My ambition is to tell stories of love, horror, comedy, drama, triumph, and defeat," he says.
Working with children was a new experience for him, making this project different than others he had worked on in the past. King remarked, "I'm quite impressed by the kids and how they took direction. The grade school was very cooperative."
King spent two weeks writing the script, and went through multiple drafts to ensure the video would not be too long and lose the audience's interest. He spent three days filming, and then edited the footage on his laptop.
One of the biggest challenges, he says, was finding the props. King took to Facebook and Twitter to find the electric cars and toy cell phone.
"Year after year I am blown away by the new ways students present this message to make it resonate with their peers," says Attorney Edgar Snyder. "I think the biggest benefit to the students isn't the scholarship money itself, but the conversations started about the dangers of drunk driving and texting while driving."
Since the scholarship contest's inception in 2007, the law firm has awarded 70 scholarships totaling over $100,000.
The winners were selected during a luncheon at the offices of Edgar Snyder & Associates by a panel of judges who advocate teen safety in their communities: Debra Iwaniec, President of the Trooper Iwaniec Memorial Foundation and Health & Physical Education Teacher at Yough High School; Trooper Robin M. Mungo, PR Officer of the PA State Police, Troop B Pittsburgh; Brady Sheehan, Duquesne University Student and 2013 Words to be Heard Scholarship Winner; Deputy Jason Tarap, Crime Prevention Specialist, Allegheny County Sheriff's Office; and Chris Vitale MSN, RN, Injury Prevention Manager at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
This fall, King will join his brother at Chapman University in California to earn a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Creative Film Producing.
"My goal in life is to somehow change the world, and I think reaching out to people through film and storytelling is my golden opportunity," he said.
View the winning entries and learn more about the Edgar Snyder & Associates "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest here.
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