One person can make a difference; together we can change the world. This is the personal motto of Saidat, an artist and motivational speaker who tours in schools to talk about bullying. It was this motto, along with the troubling news of teenage suicide, that inspired Saidat to create a film that hopes to help young people get a grasp on the reality and consequences of bullying.
“We thought students need to see something that’s real and that [bullying] is not a play thing,” says Saidat, who took on the role of executive producer. “Melissa Rainsforth, who is the screenplay writer for the film, wrote a script and wrote from her heart. I feel in love with the script to I decided to produce it.”
The film, What Have We Done, aims to say something different about bullying from what’s prevalent in popular culture.
“In our TV shows you see everything worked out in the end,” says Saidat. “In real life things don’t always work out, so we wanted to show the bully that there are consequences to their actions, to show bystanders that there is something they can do to stop the cycle and to bring awareness to the world in general that there are a lot of youth hurting.”
Two years in the making, the film has gone through its own struggles, especially getting school boards involved with an emotionally charged film of this nature.
“We thought we’d just make the film public and have educators come on their own time,” Saidat says. “Hopefully they’d be able to bring it into more schools and settings where students can be able to see it.” Some of these hesitations were shared with the cast of the film, namely fourth year Western student Gucio Jim-Poweski.
Jim-Poweski, who became acquainted with Saidat through other youth events, stars in What Have We Done as the bully victim.
“When I first got involved in the project, I was a little unsure if I would be able to do it because it is very heavy. Would I myself be able to handle it?” Jim-Poweski explains. “But I felt as we worked together as a cast we were supporting each other. We each brought in our own different experience and because of that it made the process a lot smoother.”
After completing the project, Jim-Poweski hopes that people will watch the film and develop their sense of self and other.
“We often antagonize people or we just do things without concerns of how that might affect others. We live in a world with billions of others, we can’t get by in this world without interacting and understanding people.”
This self and community awareness is also what Saidat has focused her career on.
“I’ve made videos about confidence, videos about how to report bullying, and other resources to help students deal with those kinds of things,” Saidat says. “I plan on making more, touring with my program all over North America, and I’ve actually written a children’s book.”
Before Saidat moves onto these other projects, she still has the debut of What Have We Done to look forward to at the end of the month. Premiering at the Wolf Performance Hall at the London Public Library’s Central branch Friday, January 25, the film’s only charge for admission is a donation to the London Anti-Bullying Coalition. With all these projects, Saidat still has the same goal in mind.
“If it’s just one person who gets a positive message that impacts their life, then I believe that what I’m doing has been worth it.”