LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, but a creative outlet can help stem the tide while time does its work. This is the insight, brought to life, in a PSA bluntly labeled "Suicide," from nonprofit Mythic Bridge.
Directed by Xander of Backyard Productions, it opens with a young man stumbling onto a rooftop, clutching his phone and walking toward the edge as accusing hisses and whispers swirl around him. He approaches the ledge and looks down, and for a minute we can see his phone messages: They're all from him to his family—an apology for existing that doubles, in this case, as a suicide note.
He climbs the ledge, and the city spreads out below him, dark silhouettes against a gray sky.
But wait! There's a twist.
"CUT!" somebody shouts as he tumbles into oblivion. The sky clears, the camera pulls back, and it turns out we're on Mythic Bridge's set for this very commercial. So meta!
As we pull away, the name of the campaign, "Change the Script," appears. A woman holding the clapperboard stares directly at us, drumming the message in with her eyes. Is she imploring? Is she mad? It's so hard to tell; she walks off so fast.
"Support LGBTQ youth filmmaking workshops," the ad adds, as the actor—whom we now see outfitted with a safety harness—chats with his director.
Co-founded by Gage Cass Woodle and Donald Klein, Mythic Bridge uses filmmaking to help at-risk youth to tell empowering, change-driven stories. The goal here is to raise funds on Crowdrise, where your money can literally help "change the script."
"Mythic Bridge is a safe space for kids," says Klein. "Everyone has their version of how scary coming out was; maybe they didn't have that safe space to lean on. I hope they see the 'Change the Script' campaign and learn that Mythic Bridge is an open door. They should understand that we're here, and we make no judgment."
The "Change the Script" campaign will include other PSAs highlighting various LGBTQ youth challenges, many of which were also directed by Xander. It will also include a portrait series, featuring young people with director credits, as well as their supporters, which include transgender supermodel Geena Rocero, actress Alysia Reiner, director Pamela Romanowsky and actor Christian Campbell.
The past year has been especially fruitful for strong LGBTQ rights advertising, especially around the Pride marches and in light of that nasty North Carolina bathroom drama. In keeping with the theme of social conflict seen here, Inter-LGBT created a dreamlike, stressful ad that positions the life of an at-risk young person as an obstacle course, fraught with hazards.
These narratives aren't always pleasant to watch. But if they make this struggle just a hair more relatable, we're that much closer to a less ugly world, one in which the stuff of who you are isn't an immediate cause for condemnation. It's for this reason that supporting a young community of LGBTQ directors and creatives isn't just helpful for them; it's good for us, too.
"The fact that I have made a film career is an enormous blessing in my life. If it weren't for a few very specific opportunities I had as a young man, I most likely wouldn't have even considered production as a career path or a way to express myself," director Xander says.
"Working with Mythic Bridge gives opportunities where maybe there hasn't been one before, and strong voices to those who may need that foot in the door, or a hand on a camera."
Client: Mythic Bridge
Creative Agency: Happy United/ ECD Jane Keller
Creative Agency: Rabbit, Rabbit & Partners/ECD: Brian Lightbody
Writer: Kate Lummus
Production Company: Backyard
Producer: Josh Jupiter
Casting Director: Erica Palgon, Erica Palgon Casting & Beyond
Editorial: Happy United
Editor: Jane Keller
Post Production: Significant Others
Executive Producer: Sarah Roebuck
Producer: Alek Rost
Flame Artist: Betty Cameron
Music Company: duotone Audio Post
Creative Director: Jack Livesey
Executive Producer: Ross Hopman
Managing Director: David Leinheardt
Composer: Brad Fischer
Producer: Giovonni Lobato
Audio Post: duotone Audio Post
Sound Designer/Mixer: Andy Green
Executive Producer, Audio Post: Greg Tiefenbrun
Colorist: Alex Bickel, Color Collective
Title Design: Susan Armstrong, Great Five Lakes
Hero: Malcolm Xavier
Director: Emerald Sullivan