Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Docudrama produced at Hernando school focuses on bullying

SPRING HILL — The scene: A girl stands at a window ledge, her brow furrowed, mouth turned down at the edges. The picture is black and white.

Cue the sound of a spooky wind. A wisp of hair floats in slow motion above the girl's face as she looks down into the camera, then up to the sky.

Fade to black.

Does she jump? Or does someone come to her rescue?

An audience found out Thursday night during the premiere of a docudrama called Dear World. Produced by students and the staff at Explorer K-8 School, the project aims to highlight the effects of bullying.

After the credits rolled at Springstead Theater, the audience of students, parents, teachers and School Board members stood and applauded. Superintendent Bryan Blavatt and Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis were among them.

Amy Ranger, the teacher who envisioned the movie, clutched a bouquet of flowers and wiped tears as her co-producer, fellow Explorer teacher Jason Yungmann, stood beside her, beaming in dark suit and tie.

It was a triumphant moment for a crew that spent months on the project.

The climax of the movie — the girl on the ledge contemplating suicide — captures in fiction a tragic reality that spurred the project beyond the five-minute public service announcement Ranger had initially envisioned.

Ranger brainstormed with her 18-year-old daughter, Leah, a student at Springstead High, and they started working on a script. Yungmann would help write and direct the piece, and principal John Stratton gave the okay. They shot the movie on location at the school.

"After each shoot, it began to grow into something more meaningful," Ranger told the audience before the lights went down.

The 30-minute movie tells the story of a bully named Felecia, played by seventh-grader Breanna Johnson, and her victim, Nicole, portrayed by eighth-grader Nicole Genova. Woven within the plot are interviews and statistics.

Stratton helps define bullying. School psychologist Constance Cordill explains the effects. Hernando Deputy Michael Beckwith, a school resource officer, offers a boots-on-the-ground perspective. And a group of Explorer students explains why they think students bully.

"Insecure," they say at one point, almost in chorus.

At one point, a tearful Ranger recalled her own pain as a victim of bullying.

"You can still feel the hurt," she said.

There were some tough scenes for the stars. In one, Breanna dumps salad on top of Nicole's head. In another, Nicole takes a tumble on the hard tile floor of the school hallway after Johnson pushes her from behind.

Breanna didn't have experience as a bully. After the premiere, Stratton called her "one of the sweetest young ladies you'll ever meet."

Breanna can relate to harassment from peers. She was picked on in fifth grade and, more recently, was among a group of Explorer girls called a derogatory name on an anonymous Facebook site. Breanna made it through fine, but others aren't so fortunate, she said earlier this month.

"When someone is bullied, they may not show the pain then, but they will show it later," she said.

Nicole admits she once picked on a girl.

"I realized how stupid it was of me," she said.

Passionate about acting, she was able to conjure real tears as the on-screen victim. It's the editing, though, that makes the movie, she said.

"I think it's beautiful," Genova said. "Mr. Yungmann and Mrs. Ranger have done an amazing job putting it together."

One audience member in particular agreed, and her review bodes well for the Explorer crew's hopes to have the docudrama shown in middle and high schools throughout Florida.

Brooks Rumenik, director of the Safe Schools program for the Florida Department of Education, traveled from Tallahassee for the premiere. Rumenik said she would gladly encourage districts in Florida to use the movie as a resource, but wouldn't stop there.

"The rest of the country is dealing with these same issues," she said.

The production quality makes the movie credible, Rumenik said. But more valuable is that it was created in large part by students, for students.

"They listen to each other," Rumenik said, "and it's more believable."

Yungmann said there is one ultimate measure of success: "For kids to write to our school and say, 'Your movie saved my life.' "

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or

Docudrama produced at Hernando school focuses on bullying 04/16/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 16, 2011 12:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. New DEP secretary says there's no conflict in political side businesses


    TALLAHASSEE — When Noah Valenstein, the newly appointed head of the Department of Environmental Protection, was applying in April to be the state's top environmental regulator, he left one thing off the application: Companies he started and his wife runs have been paid nearly $1 million by politicians and lobbying …

     Noah Valenstein got the job as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday May 23rd, on a unanimous vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. He will take the helm on June 5, with a salary of $150,000 per year. [Florida Governor's Office]
  2. Trump says 'we can use peace' during meeting with Pope Francis


    VATICAN CITY — President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, two leaders with contrasting styles and differing worldviews, met at the Vatican City on Wednesday, setting aside their previous clashes to broadcast a tone of peace for an audience around the globe.

    Pope Francis meets with President Donald Trump on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. [Associated Press]
  3. Pinellas construction licensing board looking for ways to fill financial hole

    Local Government

    LARGO — The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board's interim leader told the governing board Tuesday that the troubled agency is looking for ways to climb out of its

  4. Adam Putnam calls for special session on medical marijuana


    Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam wants state lawmakers to come back to Tallahassee in a special session to finish the work on medical marijuana that they started but didn't finish earlier this month.

    Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam is a candidate for governor in 2018.
  5. We Tried That: Working on a food truck for a day


    What we tried: It seems like everyone and their mother wants to open a food truck.

    Carlynn Crosby prepares food at the Empamamas food truck in the Cigar City Brewing parking lot in Tampa this month. For a variety of reasons, food trucking is not for the faint of heart.