Gerry Orz: Fifteen-Year-Old Filmmaker, Novelist & Activist
By Donna Letterese
As someone who has endured bullying, Gerry Orz knows how cruel other young people can be to each other. However, he has also learned how to combat the harder things about being young.
At the age of fourteen, he has already completed his first novel, and completed his first film, "The Equation of Life."
In addition, he has also created his own nonprofit. Kids Resource is an organization that he founded to create stories for younger audiences to be able to deal with their problems-- which is the very reason he made his first film.
Even as a young child, Orz had always known he wanted to be involved with filmmaking. After trying his hand at acting and other film-related activities, he realized that his true passion was in telling stories, via directing. He also learned how terrible bullying can be at a young age, when in third grade bullies targeted him. He was teased for his Jewish heritage, and for having Gay Parents and two Moms. Yet, he refused to give up.
After experiencing what it was like to be bullied, at the age of nine, Orz became inspired to use his preferred medium to create something meaningful. That culminated in "The Equation of Life," his first film which was released when he was twelve.
"I was really shocked to learn what bullying meant," Orz reflects. "There is so little material to explain how to deal with it. I was amazed that kids of all ages, and even adults, had to struggle with this." He realized that one of the best ways to approach this difficult topic would be to discuss it via telling a story.
Ultimately, that story became "Equation of Life." Importantly, this film delves into the problem of bullying, from every perspective. Rather than focusing only on one viewpoint, "Equation of Life" explores what would happen if the person being bullied, the bully himself, or the bystander to this cruelty could have made a better decision. While the film has a tragic ending, Orz chose to do this because so many bullying incidents do end in tragedy.
"Many schools try to push the issue under the carpet," Orz shakes his head. "But if they worked to fix this problem and tackle it head on, everyone would come out okay. Change may be hard, but people are actually happier when change happens."
Orz goes on to point out that the methods schools often currently use to address the issue are sub-par, at best. Adults trying to force feuding students to proverbially hold hands, handing out clichéd brochures, and forcing students to sit through long, preachy assemblies, are all attempts that sorely miss the mark.
Orz realizes that schools and administrators have to take the issue more seriously, as do companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and other social media giants. It was bad enough when children could tease one another on the playground. Yet, in the internet age, the taunting never has to stop.
"Cyber-bullying can be anonymous. So, companies that are in charge of these social media sites have to really enforce a zero-tolerance policy," Orz remarks. "The company needs to actually make sure the users on the site are following the protocol and rules. Those who run the sites are the only ones who can fix this."
Because of his busy work schedule, Orz currently attends school online. His school, Connections Academy, is a public school that allows him to work on his studies, get counseling, and go on field-trips, in addition to doing everything he needs to as a budding filmmaker. While he is partially self-taught, Orz is also hugely grateful for having the chance to take editing, script writing, and filming classes at the Los Angeles based YouTube spaces.
While he loves his school, and his extracurricular education, Orz is still adamant that most learning spaces - whether traditional ones attended on Monday through Friday, or those that are attended over the web - need to step up their game when helping students who have been bullied.
In addition to his work on "Equation of Life," Orz has also been busy writing "Lucky or Not - Here I Come." Originally, he thought this project would become another film. Yet, as the story grew to 130,000 words, it became clear that it would be best told in novel form.
"Lucky or Not - Here I come" focuses on John Wilson, a kid who believes himself to be painfully average. His sister becomes a writer, and his brother is an all-star Football player. John does not feel there's anything special about him, constantly fearing that he is not living up to his parents' expectations. However, once he hits his twenties, terrible and fantastic things start happening to him.
These things change the course of not only his life-- but the lives of those around him. With this story, Orz poses the question: "If both terrible and amazing things happen to you, are you lucky or unlucky? And what exactly does destiny mean, especially for someone who sort of took life as it came?"
"Equation of Life" officially premiered at San Pedro's Warner Grand Theatre.
The film has been met with strong critical reception, both on the festival circuit and in schools. Bullied students have felt comfort in the film and been inspired to persevere, after recognizing their own stories in it. It won the Merit award in the Accolade Competition, the Merit Award in the International Short Film Festival, was an Official Selection in the Tampa Florida Innovative Film Festival, a Finalist in the International Film Festival, and the first part of the film-- the "Day of Silence"-- won the People's Choice Award at the George Lindsey festival.
In addition to all of this work with "Equation of Life," his non-profit, and his novel, Orz has also been working on creating a short film for the USC Shelf Foundation iWitness challenge. His goal is to complete this at some point in April. Another future goal is to eventually adapt the "The Foundation" Series by Isaac Asimov, into films. Finally, regarding his future education, Orz's dream is to study at the USC Cinematic arts program.
Orz is thrilled with all the success "Equation of Life" has had, and very grateful to have had so much support on his creative endeavors. Yet, even more importantly than that, he is happy to be fulfilling his mission of helping others. "Nobody is born to be a bully or hate another person. It's generally a bad influence, situation, or person that brings a person to that place," Orz notes. "Change may be hard, but, if we reach out to everyone involved-- bullies, the kids they bully, and bystanders - we can work to change that."
To learn more about "Equation of Life" and the works of Gerry Orz, please go to: https://www.FlyingEagleProductions.com
To watch the promo trailer for the novel "Lucky or Not," please go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYj1EgMwsgs
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