Following is an article about Professor Child and the film “Children and Divorce” that was published in the The Bend Bulletin, Friday, September 21, 2012. The story was written by reporter Alandra Johnson
Videos for kids, by kids
Local business makes videos to share children’s perspectives on tough issues
By Alandra Johnson,
A few years ago, Jenni O’Keefe’s nephew died and she wanted to find something for her niece to help her deal with the grief of losing her brother.
“I wanted to give her messages from other kids who had gone through it and survived,” said O’Keefe, who lives in Bend.
She didn’t have a precise idea what she was looking for, but O’Keefe knew she wasn’t finding it.
Through this experience, O’Keefe– who has a marketing background– saw a need.
She joined up with other local moms, a therapist and a teacher to creative Professor Child. The business creates short films in which children explain their feelings on a certain topic. The goal is for kids to express, in their own words, how events have affected them and to offer advice to kids who many be going through something similar.
The first video Professor Child created, which is available, focuses on divorce. Another film about being a silbling of someone with autism will be available in early October. Two more films are also in the works and should be completed by the end of the year– one is about children who have parents serving in the military overseas another is about children who have experienced a death in the family.
“It’s more powerful to produce tools for children, by children,” said O’Keefe.
The videos are intended for use by therapists, teachers and parents.
How it works
O’Keefe said she and her business partners decided to make the first film about divorce because it is an event that affects many children. They thought it would be easier to find children who could talk about it. For the first film, they were about to find enough children through acquaintances and other contacts.
On the day of filming, all of the children, typically age 7 to 16, gather together. Each child talks with the therapist, Sharon Richards, one-on-one. The approximately 30-minutes sessions are unscripted, although the questions are prepared in advance. O’Keefe said they have no agenda and are “not putting our own spin on it.” At the end, the team works with a professional video producer to edit the interviews down to 30 to 45 minutes.
While one child is being interviewed, the teacher, Rory Kidder, runs a group with the other children. O’Keefe said one side benefit to the project is watching the children from similar backgrounds interact. This was particularly apparent during the session involving children with sibling who have autism. “It was fascinating to listen to these kids talk to each other,” said O’Keefe. Some shared feelings they had never talked about before– and they realized there were other kids out there who felt just the same way. That was powerful, O’Keefe said.
O’Keefe said most children seem happy to participate. “They are so honest and so happy to have a venue to tell their story.”
This is work the group members are passionate about and have worked on in their spare time– O’Keefe said they have met up a few times a week over the course of more than a year to make Professor Child a reality.
In the divorce film, some children talk about how they are still sad, while others say they are happy that their parents aren’t fighting anymore. O’Keefe said the hope is for a child watching to find a nugget that is relatable. She loves seeing the variety of responses and also that the film feels hopeful in the end.
“I want there to be that feeling of hope and of knowing you’re not alone,” said O’Keefe.
So far, the divorce video has been purchased almost equally by parents and therapists, according to O’Keefe. She said one therapist is showing it not to children, but to a group of divorced parents. The DVD Costs $34.95 and comes with a corresponding workbook with more than 30 pages of related material, designed by Professor Child.
“This is a dream come true,” said O’Keefe.
Ideally the group will produce three to four films a year and, as O’Keefe see it, the material is endless.