October 2011 Archives
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We very much enjoyed "The Greening of Whitney Brown" -- it's the kind of heartwarming and funny movie we wish there were more of for tweens, and the kind of movie adults can take something away from as well -- and especially loved chatting with Sammi Hanratty, the 16-year-old actress who makes her starring big screen debut here. Sammi's no stranger to acting, but we think this film will knock her into another orbit. She's going places, for sure!
IML: When you first read the script for "The Greening of Whitney Brown," what did you think of the story and the character?
Sammi: I thought Whitney would be a very fun character to play because she has a really big arc in the film, where she starts to realize what truly is important in life. I thought it was a really good message. I was excited to be able to work with the horse, too! I just knew the whole experience would be amazing, and it was!
IML: Before you shot this movie, had you had any previous experience around horses?
Sammi: Not really. But the first day I got on set, they had me standing on a horse, riding backwards, doing crazy things I never thought I'd be doing. I was a little bit scared in the beginning, and I was riding bareback a lot and that was difficult. But the horse trainer really helped me be comfortable with the horse, trusting the horse and having the horse trust me. The horse and I ended up having a really strong connection and I was crying a lot when we had to say goodbye! I did get a pretty cool gift at he end of the movie -- I got my own horse!
IML: What do you think are the main messages in this movie?
Sammi: For me, the main message is that family is the most important thing -- it doesn't matter where you're living as long as your family's there, that's your home. I think it also teaches a lot of people to come back down to earth -- fancy stuff doesn't matter as long as you have people who love you.
IML: In the movie, Whitney also learns what a true friend is. What's your definition of a true friend?
Sammi: Someone who loves you unconditionally. You can be the biggest goofball ever and they'll still love you. Somebody who's there for you no matter what. Someone you can tell the most embarrassing things to and they will laugh it off, they won't care. I'm really blessed because my best friend Stella is amazing. We've gone through everything together growing up.
IML: Is there something specific she's done that made you realize, "Wow, this is a true friend!"?
Sammi: Once we were ice skating, and these guys were just being so rude to me, saying inappropriate bad things. She went over there and started telling them off! She's always got my back.
IML: You also have four older sisters, right? What is that like? Do you get along?
Sammi: Three of my sisters are much older than me so we never really fought. But my sister Danielle and I used to fight so, so much. It would be about the stupidest things, too. We'd get so upset with each other for no reason. Usually, we would just start laughing. If it was really, really bad, I would just walk into her room and say, "I love you!" and that would break the ice! I can't stay mad at my sister Danielle.
IML: What would be your dream project?
Sammi: Honestly, I would love to play a role that pushes me as an actress. Something more difficult and crazy and fun. Maybe a role in an action movie or just a wacky character. I've always wanted to do that.
IML: Are there any specific causes you're passionate about and involved with?
Sammi: I'm a Starlight ambassador for the Starlight Starbright Foundation, and I do work with Ronald McDonald House, both of those serve kids living with serious illness. I'm also involved with Power of Youth. I've gone to the conference every year since they've started it. It's really fun. It helps young people get involved with charities and gives them a good start. I'm really happy to be a part of that again!
IML: Thanks, Sammi -- we wish you AND Whitney lots of luck!
Sammi: Thank you!
Check out the trailer for "The Greening of Whitney Brown":
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Lucas checked in with us recently, talking about his new movie, the lessons we can learn from Fred and how this loveably annoying character came out of his struggles to deal with middle school bullying.
IML: Hey, Lucas! It's great to chat with you again. So tell us a little bit about "Fred 2"!
Lucas: "Fred 2" is a continuation of the first Fred movie, and he's still the same obnoxious Fred. It was really fun to shoot, but weird because it has a Halloween vibe and we had to shoot it in spring! I was so happy with the script and the director, and things came together really well. In this story, Fred has a neighbor who moves in next door to him, and he's really suspicious of the guy. He thinks the neighbor is up to no good and he tries to convince everyone else. It's just Fred getting himself into another mess!
IML: How have things changed for you in the last year, since the first "Fred" movie came out, became a huge hit, and knocked Fred into a different orbit of popularity?
Lucas: I was so grateful to all the fans who loved the first "Fred" movie, and a lot of people discovered Fred that way. It makes me so happy when kids come up to me and say they love the movie. It's just cool how we were able to transition it from the Internet to a more mainstream audience. In terms of my life, my life hasn't changed too much. I don't notice if the fandom has become more intense, because I feel like I live in a little bubble in my small town in Nebraska. I've known everyone here since I was born. I'm just Lucas to them and it's no big deal for them to see me!
IML: Do you feel more pressure to do things you haven't done before with Fred? Do you have to keep giving him new challenges?
Lucas: I don't ever want to bore the fans and do the same old thing. That's why on the Internet recently I've been trying new things. Fred has a Web show called "Figgle Chat" which is Fred's Internet talk show where he asks guests really obnoxious questions, and that's a way for fans to see him in a format online that's not video blogging. I definitely want to try new things and keep it all fresh, and keep the fans excited and engaged.
IML: Last year we talked about why Fred is so appealing. You said it was because people like to root for the underdog and Fred never gives up on what he wants. He's so persistent, and that's kind of inspiring! Do you think he's influenced kids and teens in a positive way, in addition to just making them laugh?
Lucas: I think as a character, Fred is obviously different. Fred could, if he wanted to, just hide who he really is and go to school and pretend he's Kevin and Judy and all of them. But instead, he is who he is. He doesn't change himself for anyone. And I think that's a good thing for all of us to see. We're always trying to be what is "normal" and we're so scared of what our peers will think of us if we do something we want to do and don't know if everyone will approve of it. So I think that's a good lesson to put out there.
IML: It is nice to see Fred just keep doing his thing, no matter what people think! At this point, it's been a few years since you created Fred. Do you feel like you have a split personality sometimes?
Lucas: Yeah, I'm actually surprised that I don't have a mental disorder by now! I feel like most of the world knows me by a name that's not my own. It's the weirdest thing. What helps is that when I go to my school in my hometown, nobody really talks about Fred and I like it like that. I still feel weird when people talk about Fred at school. I don't want to be viewed as an entertainer or an actor. I don't take it personally that some younger viewers don't even know that there is a Lucas -- they think Fred is a real person.
IML: Has Fred helped you, as Lucas?
Lucas: Definitely. In middle school, I was always kind of a loser in my class. I was really shy and weird, and I only had a couple of friends. That's when I started making videos, and I think it was a way I could just turn all that negativity off. I coped with the bullying by making people laugh and doing comedy, and getting totally engulfed in the comedy world. It was something to do and not worry about the pressures of people at school. I could just make videos and be creative.
IML: And we're glad you did! Okay, here's a fun Halloween question before we let you go. What was the most memorable Halloween costume?
Lucas: I would usually dress up as something funny. But one year, for a change I dressed up as something scary -- I don't remember exactly what it was, a demon or something like that. That was totally the most memorable because I wouldn't take myself seriously but that night I did, and I feel like it was the one time in my life when I was actually scary!
IML: Thanks, Lucas! Good luck with the movie...and Happy Halloween!
Lucas: Thank you!
Learn more about "Fred 2: Night of the Living Fred" at www.nick.com/
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Reality TV has become more than just a trend in entertainment -- it's shaping up to be a whole extra genre that might be here to stay. Is that a good thing?
We were very interested to read the results of a recent survey from the Girl Scout Research Institute called "Real to Me: Girls and Reality TV," which picked the brains of tween and teen girls who regularly watch reality television shows, and those who don't watch them. Here's what they found out:
- 86% of the girls think reality TV shows pit girls against one another in order to make things more "exciting".
- Of the girls who watch reality TV shows, 78% said that "gossip is a normal part of a relationship between girls." Of the girls who don't watch reality TV, only 54% agreed with that statement.
- Reality TV viewers are more likely than non-viewers to say "girls often have to compete for a guy's attention" (74% vs. 63%), and are happier when they're dating someone or have a boyfriend/significant other (49% vs. 28%).
- Of the girls who watch reality TV, 74% said they spend a lot of time on their appearance, while only 42% of the girls who don't watch it said the same thing.
- Most of the viewers describe themselves as "mature, a good influence, smart, funny, and outgoing."
- They're more likely than girls who don't watch to aim for leadership in life (46% vs. 27%) and see themselves as role models for other girls (75% vs. 61%).
- 68% of girls agree that reality shows "make me think I can achieve anything in life" and 48% agreed that they "help me realize there are people out there like me."
- 75% of girls say that reality TV depicts people with different backgrounds and beliefs.
- 62% of girls say that these types of shows have raised their awareness of social issues and causes.
In the end, we guess it's most important to remember that reality TV is not reality; if you watch it the way you might watch "fictional" television, it's easier to separate out the mixed messages. These shows might be created by other people, but what really matters is what you create out of them for yourself!
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We had fun talking to Josh about this challenging role and his take on the issue of bullying.
IML: Hi Josh! Tell us a little bit about "Snowmen" and about the character you play. It looks like a great movie.
Josh: "Snowmen" is a family film that deals with some elements that aren't typically shown in family films. It really tugs at your emotions. It'll make you laugh and cry. Billy, the main character, is diagnosed with cancer when he's very young, and when he turns about ten or eleven, he beats it, and is in remission. And then, when he becomes sick and assumes he has cancer again, he decides that he wants to be remembered in some way. So he and his friends decide to set the world's record for the amount or snowmen built in one day.
So the character I play in the movie, Jason, is actually the bully, and he doesn't want Billy to be remembered. My character thinks that he's the only person in the school who should be respected and cared about, so when the other kids are building the snowmen, I destroy them, and insult the kid. But this is all just a front, and I have deep inner emotions and characteristics that make Jason much deeper. Usually the bully in family movies is shown is a sort of "PG rated" way. And there's nothing wrong with that. But this movie is special, because there's so much more that this kid is going through. There's one scene that gets very edgy, and it's really scary, but in a good way. In a way that some kids will need to see to know that bullying is bad. And that's why it's so great to have this movie, because anti-bullying is huge right now. And it's so important in the lives of so many people. You get to see what some of the repercussions of bullying are.
IML: It sounds like the movie explores the motivations behind bullying, and why your character acts the way he does. How did you prepare for that?
Josh: It's funny, because at first the director was reluctant for me to audition, because he'd seen me in other things, and he thought I was the "funny guy" and didn't know if I could pull this kind of thing off. So when I went and auditioned, he was really kind of taken aback. I just took from the feelings I'd get if I was really angry at my brother or something, but to a point where you're almost saddened by how angry you are, instead of just being enraged. So I actually have multiple emotions happening at once. So it was more about that than about research. I just dove into my own mind and picked out little things here and there.
IML: Have you ever had any personal experiences with bullying?
Josh: I'm seventeen and I'm five-foot-two, and most of my friends are taller than I am, so I was picked on for that. But luckily, in my school system, and where I've grown up, everyone has been great. I don't think we've had many accounts of bullying. It used to be that schools would just allow that to happen...it was common. But now they've realized what some of the real repercussions are, and how teen suicides are skyrocketing, and they need to do something. So they really dove into it and are teaching kids that what you say really could affect someone.
IML: It sounds like your school's policy is working. What are they doing right?
Josh: We would have these school assemblies that were like tough-love sorts of things. Instead of sugar-coating it and saying things like "bullying is mean," they would really show us. When you hear real true stories of kids who were teased, and were always laughing it off, and never had any problem with it, and then one day, they're gone...I think of stuff like, "What if that happened to one of my good friends? What if we found out that he just couldn't take it anymore?" That really affected us. We'll still poke fun at each other here and there, being friends, but in the end, we say, "We were just kidding, we don't really mean that. We all love you." But what's really bad is talking behind someone's back. People will always do that and just say, "It's just gossip." But what happens when someone just doesn't come to school one day?
IML: You're definitely passionate about that issue! We hear you're also passionate about animal welfare issues and pet adoptions.
Josh: I am! I have two dogs of my own, and I've always asked myself, "Why not show love for animals?" Because they will always love you, so why not help the ones that are helpless? The ones that have nothing to live for? When animals are beaten and abused, given up and thrown out on the street...these animals need you. I'm trying to use my celebrity status to connect with other kids and tell them how they can help. I volunteer to help with animal adoptions, and young kids will walk up to me and ask me about my movies, and I'll say things like, "Yeah that movie was good, but you know what's a lot of fun? This dog!" And the feeling I get when I see someone adopting a pet that I was showing them...It's the greatest feeling in the world, because I just gave another pet a house to live in, and a family to wake up to, rather than a cage. And people have to realize that it's not about getting a specific breed... it's about getting a dog or cat that loves you, and a pet that you love. Knowing that I've saved as many pets as I have, it really helps me feel good about myself. We all see cats and dogs every day, but we forget about the ones that don't have homes. So I encourage other kids to help out with local organizations that adopt out dogs and cats, or to adopt one themselves!
IML: Thanks for talking with us, Josh! Good luck with everything!
Josh: Thank you!
"Snowmen" opens in theatres as part of a limited engagement on October 21. For more info, check out www.snowmenmovie.com.
What's your school's policy on bullying? Tell us on our new You Said It page on this subject!
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We've always loved reading about your Halloween Costumes. IML'ers are so creative! We're sitting here, imagining a runway fashion show of all your dress-up creations, predicting what will be hot in trick-or-treat wear this year.
For instance, Lady Gaga. There's been much debate on the You Said It boards about her and whether or not her songs and videos are appropriate for tweens, but we predict that won't stop young people from dressing up like the pop superstar. We're sure the real Lady Gaga is thrilled; after all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. (And for the record, we think she's a good role model in the way she has taken a stand against bullying and encourages people to be themselves!)
"Decade" costumes will be as popular as ever, and a lot of you are dressing as 60's hippies, 70's disco dudes and dudettes, and 80's new-wavers. Even 50's greasers and 20's flappers will be out there in force again this Halloween. These are fun costumes to put together because you can raid a relative's closet or thrift store for all the makings.
Vampires are still huge, but Zombies seem to be taking their place as the top scary/creepy costume (and lend themselves to more variety too). We're betting that fairies, especially ones with an edgy or weird twist, will also be big in the not-quite-human department.
Another trend we expect and really love this Halloween is homemade or improvised costumes! Costumes have become a huge money business over the last decade, and it seems like, year after year, more kids and adults are buying outfits from stores instead of getting creative with what they have at hand. We don't know if it's the tough economic times, or if people are just tired of seeing the same pre-made costumes in every store, but we think a lot more of you will be rocking "do-it-yourself" looks this year. Whatever the reason, we at IML really like this trend because, while buying a cool costume can certainly be fun, making your own lets you show just how imaginative you can be at a time of year when imagination rules!
If you're still stuck for a costume idea, here are a few of our faves:
- Combo costumes. Like "half devil, half angel." Or "zombie cheerleaders" and "dead prom queens." It's fun and easy to take something familiar and kind of boring, then give it a Halloween twist. Make something unique with an existing costume (a great use for hand-me-downs or borrowed ones) accented with lots of scary, gory stuff like fake blood, fangs, pale makeup, etc. For instance, you could buy a simple fairy costume and be an "Evil Fairy" with just a few extra touches!.
- Pun costumes. Play with words and have fun watching people guess what you are! We love the "Cereal Killer" idea one IML'er posted (a cereal box with knives sticking out of it). What can you do with things like "Pig Latin," "Anchorwoman," "Black-Eyed Pea," and "Butterfingers"?
- Black to basics costumes. Dress all in black and you'll be surprised by how you can turn yourself into a background for something simple yet hilarious. One IML'er posted about how she's using an all-black outfit and glow sticks to become a Human Stick Figure. Cover yourself in dryer lint and you're Static Cling. Wrap a fake cobweb around yourself, along with some plastic bugs, and you're a Spider Web. Cover yourself with popcorn, empty soda cups, and candy wrappers, and you're the Movie Theatre Floor. You get the gist!
For many people, coming up with a costume is too much pressure. Can you still have fun on Halloween if you don't dress up or feel like your costume is kinda lame? Well, that all depends on what this "holiday" means to you. It's something you can decide for yourself. If you see it as a chance to get dressed up, "be" someone (or something) else, and exercise your creative muscles, then that's great. If it's just about having fun with your friends and scoring loads of candy, that's great too. Maybe it's more appealing to you to stay home and hand out candy to younger kids. And in the end...it IS just a holiday that will be over before you know it.
Halloween can also be about helping children in other countries who don't have stuff like clean water, nutrition, health care, and education. Chances are, in the past you've done some collecting at Halloween for UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund. Now, UNICEF (and spokesperson Selena Gomez) has more options for young people to give as well as get, like creating your own "Trick-Or-Treat Online" page to collect donations from friends and family over the Internet, or ideas for hosting a Halloween party fundraiser. For more information, check out Trick-Or-Treat for UNICEF.