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Millis teen places second in UCLA’s second annual Open Mind Film Festival

Screen shot from Daisy Lyons’ film “Life Support.” Source:

LOS ANGELES – In April, the Open Mind Film Festival announced the three winners of its second annual virtual film festival, which included Daisy Lyons, an 11th grader at Millis High School. 
Lyons’ submission, “Life Support” told an intimate and personal story about coming out to her family and friends. This powerful film advocates for the understanding and acceptance of the need for trans and queer teens to come out and be themselves. This story and the message are so important and the support Daisy received from her family and friends is inspiring. This is a world we hear about in the media but aren’t all privy to. The window into this world, especially from the perspective of the parent/child relationship, is critical for awareness and understanding. 
Watch Lyons’ film at starting at 13:55. 
More than 800 people registered for the festival which showcased the nine films selected as finalists out of the 119 films that were submitted by high school students from across the country. The films focus on mental health issues including bullying, loneliness, gender identity, anxiety, and boyfriend abuse.
 “All the short films address mental health issues and tell meaningful stories of what teenagers are thinking about and what they are experiencing,” said Mia Silverman, founder of the Open Mind Film Festival. “It is important that we hear them and help them see that they are not alone.” 
 In addition to the honor of having their films screened at the festival, the finalists were awarded $1,000 in prizes, with $500 earmarked for the top film, $300 for second place; and $200 for the ‘Friends Choice Award’ winner.
 Singer-songwriter Grace Gaustad hosted the festival. She has appeared on CNN and The Today Show to talk about her struggles as a teenager and uses her voice to make a difference for teenagers. The festival included a conversation between Gaustad and Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson from the Semel Institute.
 First Prize was awarded to Charlie Lyons, a tenth grader at Cascade High School in Leavenworth, Washington for his film Sixth Grade.  Charlie made a film that highlights the pain and struggles experienced by many teenagers who are bullied by classmates and peers. One of the festival judges described Sixth Grade as a strong film about a very serious topic. In his closing words, the male character said, “even though bad days happen, the storm always passes, eventually it gets better.” 
 The ‘Friends Choice Award’ went to the film selected by the Friends of the Semel Institute to recognize an important and timely subject portrayed in a creative, artistic manner. The award went to Pretend by Richecia Henry, a 12th grade student at The Academy for Careers in Television and Film in Queens, NY.   
Pretend is the story of a young teen hiding an abusive relationship. In Richecia’s words, many young girls suffer silently in domestic violence relationships, and rather than seek help, they protect their abuser. She made the film to spread awareness that the issue is real whether we see it or not. Some girls won’t or can’t help themselves, so we have to be aware, educate ourselves and intervene to help them. 
 Films were submitted from 70 schools across the country, including from students at Los Angeles schools such as Brentwood, Crossroads, LAUSD, Viewpoint, Windward, and New Roads, and schools as far away as The Academy for Careers in Television and Film (NY), Horace Mann (NY), Princeton Day School (NJ), Sidwell Friends (DC) and many more.
“The level of creativity, insight, and empathy these young adults have displayed in their submissions is astounding and inspiring for our future,” said Vicky Goodman, Founder and President of The Friends of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. “It was a difficult decision to select only nine films to premier at our festival, and we celebrate the stories, perspectives and lessons we have learned from all these talented young filmmakers.”
 The Open Mind Film Festival was launched last year as a way to engage a younger audience in a conversation about mental health, and is organized by the Friends of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of people living with mental health issues.
 In December 2021, The US Surgeon General released a rare Mental Health Advisory on the Youth Mental Health Crisis, noting an alarming increase in mental health challenges and highlighting the urgent need to address the youth mental health crisis in our country.  “Today, many notable personalities are stepping forward to share struggles that impact their lives and mental health,” said Mary Snyder, co-chair of the film festival. “We believe our festival can make a difference by providing an opportunity for young filmmakers to share their stories and see that they are not alone.”
To view the nine finalist films, please visit