1. Where can I turn for help if I am in a crisis or concerned about a friend?

If you are experiencing an emotional crisis, are thinking about suicide or are concerned about a friend call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Immediately: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a free 24-hour hotline. You can also visit their website at http://suicidepreventionlifeline.com.

2. Is my school or organization eligible?

Any middle school or high school in California is eligible, including but not limited to: public, private, charter, alternative, and home schools. Youth and young adults between the ages of 12 and 25 and associated with a college, university, club, community-based organization or other agency or program can also participate. You don’t need to have a prior relationship with this organization. Please feel free to contact us if you need help finding one to partner with.

If you are under 12 years of age and would like to participate, you will need permission from your parent/guardian. Please contact us as it is possible that an exception can be made.

Visit the Contest Rules page to learn more.

3. How many entries may a participant submit?

There is no limit on participation, and you are encouraged to participate with as many teams as you would like. The same film can only be entered into the contest once.

For the Hope & Justice category, you can submit one entry each month.

4. How many entries may a school or organization submit?

There is no limit on school, club, university, or community-based organization submissions to the contest.

5. How many participants can work on a film or art submission?

Up to 10 students or youth may be listed on the entry form, however there is no limit on the number of students who can be on a team. Only one trophy will be given per winning team. There is no limit on the number of submissions one person can be part of.

6. My school or organization doesn’t even have a film, art or media class. Can I still enter?

Yes. The only requirement for a young person to enter is that the film must be submitted under a school, club, university, or community-based organization’s authority. Each participant must find an adult advisor (such as the principal, a teacher, or a counselor) to review the entry and deem it appropriate.

7. Is it possible to make a submission made by students and youth from multiple schools?

Yes, youth can submit as a team from different schools, but the team needs to identify an adult advisor from one of the schools. That school will be contacted regarding the entry and included on our website if the film wins. If desired, the team could submit in multiple categories and submit one film through one school, and the other film through another school.

8. How do I enter the statewide contest?

For detailed step by step instructions, review the Entry Process and be sure that you’re following all Contest Rules.

The step is to submit your Entry Form by the deadline – midnight PST on Monday, March 1, 2023 – for every submission category EXCEPT non-60 second film submissions in the Hope & Justice category.

For the Hope & Justice category: 60-second films in the Hope & Justice category must also be submitted by midnight on March 1, 2023 to compete with all other statewide submissions in that category. There is a separate Entry Form for the Hope & Justice category.

9. What is the difference between the Hope & Justice category and the other submission categories of the contest?

The Hope & Justice category embraces the “promoting social justice” portion of the Directing Change mission statement, going a step beyond the other submission categories (suicide prevention and mental health) to make the connection between social justice and health. Unlike the other submission categories of this contest, submissions are accepted and awarded monthly and encouraged to be submitted in any art form suitable for sharing via social media. This includes original music, dance, spoken word, paintings, poetry, film, a speech, ANYTHING! Learn more about the category here.

10. What is the difference between the regional and the statewide contest?

For the Suicide Prevention and Mental Health categories, there are two judging rounds: regional and statewide. During regional judging, films will be judged against others from their region. The state has been divided into five regions. Regional judges will score the films to determine 1st, 2nd and 3rd place regional winners.

The 1st place winning film from each region will move on to statewide judging. A new judging panel will score the films and determine the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place statewide winners.  In addition, the Directing Change team will select up to 5 films in each category to move onto statewide judging.

The other categories only have one round of judging – entries will be judged against others from across the state, rather than divided by region.

11. How do I know what region I’m in?

To see which region your school or organization falls into, click here.

12. If I’m not a middle school student, can I still submit a film to the Walk in Our Shoes category?

No. The Walk in Our Shoes category is only open to middle school students, and films submitted by high school students or youth/young adult participants to this category will not be eligible for awards. Please feel free to contact us if you have an idea that seems to only fit in the Walk in Our Shoes category, and we will work with you to see if it can fit in one of the other categories open to you.

13. What is the role of the adult advisor?

The adult advisor must review participants’ films and art to ensure it is appropriate for a general audience. They are not on the submission team, but they may give suggestions and feedback to the team on their work, especially related to the Content Scoring Measures and Safe Messaging Scoring Measures in each Submission Category. The adult advisor does not need to have knowledge of or expertise in filmmaking or the subject matter (suicide prevention and mental health).

We also suggest visiting our For Schools page for tips to help students with their films, lesson plans, and other resources.

14. As a participant, how much help can I get from parents, teachers, and other adults?

Teachers, parents, and other supportive adults are encouraged to be resources, and may participate as actors, but the project must only be the work of youth or young adults. This includes script writing, camera work, and editing. Outside help must be limited to showing participants how to do a task while never actually performing the task for them and offering suggestions while allowing the participants to make the final decision.

15. When and how do I know if I win?

We will contact the adult advisor listed on the entry form. We anticipate announcing regional winners in the Suicide Prevention, Mental Health, Through the Lens of Culture, and Animation categories at the beginning of April 2023. Winners in the Hope & Justice category are announced monthly. Statewide winners will be announced at the Award Ceremony, which will take place during Mental Health Awareness Month in May.

16. What are the prizes?

Please see Judging Process and Prizes in the Contest Rules.

17. Is there an award ceremony?

Yes, an award ceremony to honor the winners in each category and to reveal the winners of the statewide competition will take place in May 2023. The award ceremony promises to be an amazing evening and the program will include a screening of the winning entries. View the most recent virtual event!

18. Will my film be shown on TV?

The winning films will be included on our website and made available to schools and mental health agencies throughout California. In addition, the winning films will be integrated into the statewide mental illness stigma reduction and suicide prevention social marketing campaigns. The films will be also available for use by organizations throughout the state on our film library, featured on social media channels, and may end up being shown on TV or played before movies at your local movie theatre – you never know! To learn more about these efforts click here.

19. I don’t know that much about suicide prevention and mental illness.  Where can I learn more?

Here are a few resources to help you get familiar with these topics:

For more resources and assistance, visit the For Youth page.

20. What if I don’t have access to filmmaking equipment?

As a first step, we encourage you to explore resources that might be available through your school or local library. Quality films can be developed utilizing basic digital cameras and video editing software available on most computers. We understand due to virtual learning and not being in a traditional classroom, many of you may not have access to everything you need to create your film or art, but we hope you will use this opportunity to get creative! However, if you are not able to access the technology you need, please contact us.

21. I don’t know anything about filmmaking or art, can I still enter?

Yes! This contest is about developing a film or art related to suicide prevention, reducing stigma about mental illness, or expressing yourself and using your voice to encourage purposeful action and to start conversations that matter. We feel that everyone with a good dose of enthusiasm and creativity can come up with something amazing. Review these tips to get started.

22. What happens if my entry is longer than the specified time limit?

Only the first 60 (30 seconds for Animated Short) seconds of a film will be judged. Although the film won’t lose points, any films which run longer than the maximum time (30 or 60 seconds) will not be judged for their full content and will be at a disadvantage. (Note: The title slide required at the beginning of each film does not count toward the 60-second limit, but the end slate does count towards the time limit).

Why this matters: Many of the films (even if they are not winning films) are used to support local awareness efforts and shown in local movie theaters and even on TV. We are only able to use films that meet the 30 or 60 second time requirement.

23. What if I didn’t submit the Intent to Direct form?

No problem. Submitting the Intent to Direct Form does not obligate you or disqualify you from submitting an entry. It just helps us with our planning process. You may still submit a film and Entry Form without submitting an Intent to Direct Form.

24. Do I really need to get all these forms signed?

Yes. If your film is chosen as a winner, and you are unable to provide the required forms, your film may be disqualified and ineligible for prizes. We suggest signing all forms as soon as possible and saving them in a safe place. The Directing Change Team will reach out to winning teams for these forms.

25. How much violence can my film or art have? Can I use profanity?

This is a school-related contest and, as such, content, violence, profanity, sex and drug activity must be appropriate for school use and adhere to your school’s policies, rules, and guidelines.

A few tips: Do not glorify illegal, dangerous, or potentially harmful behavior. Instead, make your video about the decisions made, the relationships gained or lost, the life opportunities won or lost. Make the video about the people, not about the act. The formula for most movies focuses on why the characters are going to do what they do, the internal struggle of the decision and a resolution. Focusing on the causes and effects allows you to work with serious topics in a realistic, mature way while adhering to school standards.

In particular, the Suicide Prevention category has special content that must be included and specific content that must be avoided. Check out the submission category page for more information.

26. Can I show brands or logos in my film or art?

Technically yes, but we do not recommend it. While it may not be possible to keep all brands out of view, there are easy ways to avoid them from being a focal point in your film. For example, dress your actors in clothing without recognizable brands, cover up laptop brands with a sticker or sticky note, or frame your shots so that recognizable stores are not highlighted. While using a brand will not disqualify your film, it may limit the use of your film in television or movie theaters, due to brand copyright laws. We recommend avoiding the hassle and making smart, brand-free choices during the creation of your film so it will not affect its accessibility at a later time!

27. Can I use popular music in my video?

Original music or music that is in the public domain (royalty free) may be used in your film if the source is cited in the credits. You will need written permission from the copyright holder to use all copyrighted materials such as popular songs, so you will not be able to just download or purchase your favorite song on iTunes and include it in your video. For more information visit the Forms and Copyright page and for a list of websites that offer “free” music or tips to create your own visit the Links page.

28. There are required logos and resources – where do I find these?

Required logos, resources, and other tips for creating and submitting your film can be found in the Submission Toolbox for each category.

29. I have limited internet access. Is there another way to sign release forms and submit my entry?

Yes, we can mail you copies of all release forms and you can sign, scan, and email to us or mail us a hard copy of your entry postmarked by the submission deadline. You can also sign the release form at your local library.

Questions? Please contact us.

30. What if my school or organization does not allow access to Vimeo?

In this case, you must upload your film at another location, such as a public library or your home. If you need to upload at school or outside your home, we also suggest using either a mobile hotspot or an alternate Wi-Fi network (if available). If these options aren’t possible, please contact us to discuss alternative submission options.

31. Why does my Through the Lens of Culture film need to include captioning?

Films are encouraged to be submitted in languages other than English, but all films in this category are required to include captioning, even if the film is in English. If the film is in English, captioning is required to allow communities such as the Deaf, Hard of Hearing or English Language Learners to be able to view the film.

These films will be used in a variety of settings, and evaluated by a panel of judges. To assist the judging process, knowing that it will be difficult to have a panel of judges for each language, films must have English subtitles to assist in fair scoring of films. We encourage films in all languages and are especially hopeful to receive submissions in sign language that are appropriate for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Visit the submission toolbox for tips and support if you are interested in this!

32. What is the difference between captioning and subtitles?

  • Captioning (also called closed captioning) is commonly used as a service to aid deaf and hearing-impaired audiences. It usually appears as white text within a black box, appearing a second or two after being spoken.
  • Subtitling is most frequently used as a way of translating a medium into another language so that speakers of other languages can enjoy it.
  • You do not need to use closed captioning or subtitling software to include captioning in your film – you can use your editing software to add text in English, as long as it is readable. The main goal of captions and subtitles is expanding audiences so everyone can enjoy your film!

For more information about captioning click here. If you are looking for resources on how to add captions to your film, we recommend checking out the following pages:

33. What constitutes as “animation” for the Animated Short category?

Animated Shorts for the Directing Change contest need to create an “illusion of movement.” For example, stop-motion films count as an animated piece because of the use of many pictures pieced together to create this illusion of movement. Drawing on a whiteboard, in contrast, would be an example of live action, not animation. This is because it is recording actual movement, rather than having the illusion of it moving on its own.

Films must be an original animation. Please avoid using programs such as PowToon or any other software that comes with premade characters or animation.

34. Who do I contact if I am interested in becoming a contest judge?

To learn more about becoming a judge, visit the Judge page for more information.

35. Who is the Directing Change Program and Contest funded by?

The contest is part of statewide efforts to prevent suicide, reduce stigma and discrimination related to mental illness, and to promote the mental health and wellness of students. These initiatives are funded by counties through the Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63) and administered by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. The program is implemented by Your Social Marketer, Inc. For more information on CalMHSA visit: www.calmhsa.org.

In addition, we appreciate our many sponsors and supporters.

36. Can I participate if I do not live in California?

In the US, at this time only middle and high school students and youth and young adults associated with a school, college, university, club, community-based organization (e.g. a local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or the National Alliance on Mental Illness), or other agency or program in California are eligible to participate. In the future, we hope to open up the program to more young people who live outside of the states of California. In 2020, the contest opened up to Canadian youth, presented by Youth Mental Health Canada.

37. What if I have other questions not in this FAQ list?

Contact us via email or phone. We promise to get back to you promptly.

If you are experiencing an emotional crisis, are thinking about suicide or are concerned about a friend call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately: 1-800-273-8255This is a free 24-hour hotline.
Directing Change is part of statewide efforts to prevent suicide, reduce stigma and discrimination related to mental illness, and to promote the mental health and wellness of students. These initiatives are funded by counties through the Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63) and administered by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities.
Suicide Prevention Awareness Your Social Marketer, Inc.