Phone interview with Amy S. Weber
Director/writer of “A Girl Like Her”
Dallas, Texas; March 24, 2015
Ronald P. Salfen for “The Presbyterian Outlook”
Presbyterian Outlook: First, I want to say that I enjoyed this movie. No, “enjoyed” wouldn’t be the right term – it was highly impactful, and one that has stayed with me ever since I saw it.
Amy S. Weber: Thanks, I appreciate hearing that.
Presbyterian Outlook: That format you chose, with the documentary-style within the scenes – I have to admit, you had me going for a while there. What was your intent in filming it that way?
Amy S. Weber: I thought that format would put the viewer up-close and personal with the bullying, and also I wanted to make sure people knew that the girl doing the bullying herself had lots of issues. She wasn’t a bad person, really, she just engaged in bad behavior, which could be corrected. I don’t believe any of us were born evil. We learn to do bad things because of responses to our environment. Hurt people are the ones who hurt others. I thought this was a very important message of the film.
Presbyterian Outlook: I commend you for casting people who actually looked like they could be in high school, though they were already veteran actors.
Amy S. Weber: Thanks. I thought it was really important to get just the right people doing this, especially Avery, who had to undergo a transformation in her character. I thought Hunter King did a fantastic job, as did Lexi Ainsworth, playing Jessica.
Presbyterian Outlook: Even though I’m an AARP-aged man, I found myself identifying with these high-schoolers. I could really project myself into their situations, and it invoked memories of my own childhood.
Amy S. Weber: That’s exactly what my dad said when he saw it. He’s 74 years old, and he said he felt like he was right back in Junior High School, where he had his own experience of being bullied, which I didn’t even know before. He said he hadn’t thought about it in a long time.
Presbyterian Outlook: That must have made for an important conversation between the two of you.
Amy S. Weber: Yes, and that’s what I’d like for this film to generate among others who see it: conversations not only among teens, but with their parents.
Presbyterian Outlook: I’m envisioning a screening at a church youth group meeting, with parents in attendance, as well, followed by a conversation led by the youth director.
Amy S. Weber: Yes, as long as the church isn’t one of those that too quickly judges others. Personally, I wasn’t raised in the church, but I did develop a great relationship with some nuns next door when they hired me as a little girl to walk their dog.
Presbyterian Outlook: How hard was it to write the script?
Amy S. Weber: The funny thing was that when we actually started filming, I trusted the actors so much that I encouraged them to use their own words. I wanted this to come from them, in their own voices, so it would sound more genuine. And I think that technique really worked.
Presbyterian Outlook: So do I. But I have to ask you about that last scene.
Amy S. Weber: OK, as long as you’re not going to give away the ending!
Presbyterian Outlook: (laughs) I promise.
Amy S. Weber: I thought it was important to add an element of hopefulness. And the kids I was working with all encouraged me in this; they thought it was important, also.
Presbyterian Outlook: Well, I’m glad you listened to them. And I’m glad you’ve put this movie out there. Thanks for your time.
Amy S. Weber: Thank you.
Questions For Discussion:
- As a Christian, how did you react when Ms. Weber implied that churches are judgmental?
- Do you agree with Ms. Weber that no one is born evil? Presbyterians, is this where we invoke John Calvin’s doctrine of “utter depravity”?
- Do you agree with Ms. Weber that “hurt people hurt people”? Is there such a thing as someone abusing others because he/she simply enjoys doing it? If so, how can that person be redeemed?
Ronald P. Salfen is the supply pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Kaufman, Texas.