Home Entertainment Teamwork makes the dream work: How an empowered teen raised her voice through film.

Teamwork makes the dream work: How an empowered teen raised her voice through film.

by eyesonhollywood
The perfect example of “art imitating life”, a fifteen year old high school student has used the art of storytelling to solve a problem she was struggling with in her own life. Conceptualized by the young lead actress, the story came about after Audrey Ly (now sixteen) sat down with producer and friend Artisha Mann-Cooper,  seeking advice about how she could talk to her parents about wanting to pursue her own dream of being an actress. And so began the journey of bringing her story to the screen, with a thirteen minute short film titled ‘Celyna’, screening on Sunday March 24th in Beverly Hills, at the Wilshire Screening Room.

‘Celyna’ tells the story of a teenage girl navigating her youth and the challenges faced having to honor her parents traditions while in pursuit of wanting to follow her own dreams. Both in real life and in the film Audrey is a competitive ballroom dancer, and much like her character in the film, she was facing her own challenge of how to talk with her parents about wanting to be an actress, which they substitute in the film with Celyna’s dream of being a musician. A common concern for any parent, the collective fear of wanting only what’s best for their child, this was something her immigrant parents simply couldn’t accept at the time. Artisha and Audrey decided to write her challenge down on paper. Together, they worked on a concept of how best to express Audrey’s struggles to her parents in the hope they might understand.

‘Celyna’ explores common themes for our youth authentically and without complexity, allowing for the innocence of this young teen and her true dreams to be her driving force. What makes the personal story of ‘Celyna’ stand out is that she’s a first generation Asian American. Struggling to uphold the traditions and demands instilled from her family and their Chinese culture, Celyna carries a heavy burden as she secretly longs for her own identity to be nurtured and above all, accepted by her father.

A sweet and refreshing tale navigating Celyna’s dreams of being a musician as she secretly sneaks away to play guitar in her high school band, the whole time still upholding her ongoing commitment to competitive Ballroom Dancing. A wish that her late mother wanted for her, now enforced by her father’s command. All the while, Celina’s charming grandmother watches close by with a keen eye, trying to ease Celina’s turmoil, lightening the burden by shining wisdom on her from their culture, and reminding Celyna’s father that there is more than one way to honor family and tradition.

A seasoned producer of television and film, Artisha Mann Cooper has been in the film industry long enough to bear witness to the heartbreak caused by lack of inclusivity and diversity, especially with opportunities for female voices to be heard. She wasn’t going to let this moment disappear for Audrey. To Artisha’s credit she stepped in to help Audrey bring this film to life. Convincing Audrey to turn the concept into a short film, on a small budget, Artisha rallied the help of industry professional friends to build a team together and assumed the role of director, holding space for Audrey to act. Empowering Audrey to use her voice and talents and to show her parents just how passionate this dream is to her.

A long time advocate for the underdog, Artisha works tirelessly to create space to help give voices to young women in the film industry. Of this experience she said, “providing opportunities like this is a prime example of how we can strengthen the number of actively working females in the industry whose numbers are dropping dramatically every year. Only 24% of actively working professionals in the industry at present is made up of women. Furthermore, the number that represents diversity within those numbers is even less.”

Which is why Artisha chose Boo2Bullying as her charity to tie in with the screening of ‘Celyna’. Artisha was concerned by the lack of available community programs to help Asian American youth navigate the Asian American experience, especially now as it is post-Covid, with racism towards Asians having escalated dramatically. Artisha wants to make sure the Asian American community is not neglected and has now raised $5,000 towards this very mission. The impact this $5,000 will have for the charity Boo2Bullying allows them more opportunities for community outreach, a testament to the passion Artisha has with supporting not only our youth but also nobel humanitarian causes.

Boo2Bullying (B2B) is a non-profit organization founded by Dimitri Halkidis. A youth development, anti-bullying and suicide prevention organization, B2B provides free educational programs and resources, mentoring opportunities, and mental health support to youth and families adversely affected by bullying. Their primary mission is to empower students (grades K-12) with tools to use their voices for self-advocacy and be proactive in creating safer communities that combat bullying, discrimination and intolerance. With a dazzling list of star power contributing to their board members and those serving as ambassadors for the cause, B2B’s mission delivers impressive influence. Another reason to celebrate this moment with the screening of ‘Celyna’ and the strong, determined, and empowered young voice behind her, Audrey Ly.

Thankfully, this tale has a happy ending much like the film. Successfully, Audrey and Artisha’s plan worked. Having proven to her parents just how dedicated she is to her dreams of acting, Audrey’s parents now fully support her and have taken an active role in supporting their daughter’s dreams and Asian American youth like her. Audrey’s mother will be opening a talent agency specifically for Asian American representation to allow them more opportunities to be seen and heard. A happy ending indeed, thanks to the courage of this creative and passionate teenager, who was lucky enough to find the courage to raise her voice and speak out. A timely reminder that anything is possible if you believe in your dreams, trust in yourself, and find the courage to ask for help, which is most important. Teamwork makes the dream work!

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