Seal Beach filmmaker shoots anti-bullying film

Director believes cyberbullying is on the rise

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A scene from “Under the Bridge” being shot on the Greenbelt on Seal Beach’s Electric Avenue. Photo by Amy McMullen

More than 2,000 actors auditioned for the anti-bullying movie “From Under the Bridge,” which is being directed by Seal Beach resident and filmmaker Paul James Houghton.

“Bridge” producers asked the actors for their own bullying stories, said Houghton, who is directing the film under the name Paul James. Most of the actors had bullying stories of their own, five of which were used in the trailer for “From Under the Bridge: When Bullies Become Trolls.”

According to Houghton, the actor playing the bully said he didn’t know if he would be alive if it hadn’t been for his family.

An online summary of the pitch video for the project describes the film briefly: “A lonely high school girl escapes depression and her bullies when she meets the perfect boy online, but is he too good to be true? A bullying & cyberbullying awareness story you won’t believe is inspired by real events.”

As the word “trolls” in the title may suggest, the film looks at cyberbullying. Houghton said cyberbullying is a significant part of bullying today.  Social media is “expanding the world of bullying,” he said in a recent phone interview.

According Houghton, one difference between cyberbullying and “interpersonal” (face-to-face, real world) bullying is that there’s a chance the bully will see they’ve reached a limit. Not so cyberbullying, which is why Houghton believes cyberbullying is growing.

Houghton was filming scenes for “From Under the Bridge” on Saturday, Aug. 29, the day of the recent Caravan4Justice/Black Lives Matter demonstration on Main Street. As it turns out, they weren’t much effected by the demonstration because they were filming near Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach.

Houghton said they didn’t know about the demonstration until about three days beforehand. Houghton said they were concerned.

Hougton said District One Councilman Joe Kalmick—who tipped the Sun off to the story—was supportive of the project. Houghton said Kalmick really helped with the city of Seal Beach, which as a policy does not allow filming during the summer or on weekends.

“We worked very hard to ensure the film would shoot in Seal Beach,” Houghton wrote in an Aug. 28 email. “It is much easier to shoot in LA County (less restrictions), but I wanted to shoot here.”

“I wanted the film to feature (and center around) Seal Beach to reflect my personal love and passion for our city and community,” Houghton wrote.

For one thing, no one was against the message. He said his project has received nothing but support.

There were other reasons to keep it local. His wife works at four hospitals. His office is on Electric Avenue in Seal Beach. He has two daughters, 2-and-a-half and 7. His eldest, who celebrated her birthday two Saturdays prior to filming, attends McGaugh Elementary in Seal Beach.

“Of course we love Seal Beach,” he said.

It all started when he read a story about a girl who had been bullied. The actual film has been more than 12 years in the works. He wrote a draft of what became “From Under the Bridge” in 2008.

Houghton said he has been passionate about anti-bullying all his life.

“It is just the right time,” he said.

Houghton described the film’s story as “fluid”. Houghton and his co-producers believe bullies are a product of their own environment. They called “the waterfall effect,” and that aspect of the complex issue of bullying is addressed in the plot of the film.  “The other part is that they just don’t understand,” Houghton said.

He said there are individuals out there who are not aware of the damage they are doing.

“It’s really difficult to let your mind go” into the mind of a bully, Houghton said.

According to Houghton, a bully’s understanding of wrong might be “beyond” your own.

The online funding drive for the project at the Seed and Spark website has raised $9,860 of its $12,000 goal. For more information, vis-it  https://www.seedandspark.com/fund/fromunderthebridge#story.