When openly gay Los Angeles writer Michael Anthony created his It Gets Better anti-bullying video, he didnt think much would come from it. A 7-minute stop animation cartoon, it lightheartedly outlined his coming out experience complete with dance numbers and special guest appearances by Reba McEntire and HBO hottie Ryan Kwanten.
However, the cartoon became an instant internet sensation. Within a single day, it was shared over 200-hundred times on Facebook, and was picked up by Yahoo.com, The Advocate, TVGuide.com and over 30 other entertainment blogs even a mention on NPR!
Michael received hundreds of letters in response to the video but one letter in particular was different. With no return address and simply signed Billy, this semi-anonymous note was written by a boy from Michaels hometown, one who currently attended his very same high school. It was a letter of sadness and a cry for help: I wish I had a friend like you in my life right nowI do not have a family that loves meI am slowly disappearing.
This letter deeply affected Michael because it reminded him of his hometown crush and ex-best friend Darren. After a horrible argument, the boys lost touched but two years later, Darren out-of-the-blue called Michael and left a simple message: Its Darren. Please call me. However, Michael never returned the calland nine days later, Darren killed himself.
The documentary FOR BILLY details Michaels return to his suburban hometown of Wheeling, Illinois to explore the citys current high school culture of LGBTQ bullying and homophobia at large. Through community grassroots interactions, Michael will effort to show people like Billy (both gay and straight) that not only does it get better but we get better while attempting to rectify the dark past he left behind...and make amends to the friend he lost exactly one decade ago.
Art and activism is the best way to enact change and that is precisely the aim of the documentary, FOR BILLY. DiaMoo Productions will travel with Michael Anthony to his suburban hometown of Wheeling, Illinois to explore the citys current high school culture of LGBTQ bullying and homophobia at large. Through community grassroots interactions, Michael will effort to rectify the dark past he left behind, while showing people like Billy that not only does it get betterbut we get better.
As Wheeling High School works directly with its students to openly discuss bullying, diversity and homophobia, our production team will document the process and response both good and bad. Afterwards, both students and the community at large will be encouraged to participate in The Write Now Campaign as inspired by Billys letter.
Students, LA artists and Chicago-based celebrities will then use these letters to create content for a large-scale theatrical event at the weeks end, simply titled: B. Through spoken word, poetry, dance, original music and monologuing, the people of Wheeling, Illinois will tell each others stories showing that their similarities trump their differences andit does get better.
With the entire process documented on film, B will provide a voice and a stage for Wheelings most unique residents: Kevin Wiczer a 27-year-old gay man (and Wheeling graduate) struggling with stage three cancer, Jennifer Wohlner the areas first openly lesbian Homecoming Queen, Barbara Schon President, Northern IL Council of PFLAG, as well as a slew of current Wheeling High School students gay and straight, bullied and popular, all with their own painful and beautiful stories to tell.
FOR BILLY is a movement that will not only change hearts and minds but save lives, on a local and national level. This documentary is a tool to promote discussions between groups that otherwise may not speak to one another and it is discussions like these that will ultimately bring about change.
You can be part of this change.
What We Need
Raising funds to reach our budget goal is the first step in making this happen, and we need your help. By showing your fiscal support, you can be an integral part of this amazing journey. This is a worthy and timely subject for our nation, for our children and FOR BILLY.
A skinny vanilla latte$4.35! A good book$17! Dinner and a movie$63! Saving a lifePriceless. Yes, our ambition is grand but our story is unparalleled. The access we have been granted to Wheeling, Illinois and its residents is unheard of. With our talented crew, we have the ability to bring a story with heart and in scope that has yet to be told.
But we need your assistance. Every dollar helps us get that much closer to helping Billyand every other Billy out thereand everyone ever who, at any point, has felt like Billy. We implore you have that next dinner date at home. Borrow a book from a friend. Skip on the latte and self-brew.
sacrifice means much more than a donation. It is a lifeline.
Even when our goal is met PLEASE still keep giving- it doesn't stop here. Once the film is made we go into post production which has its own costs and then to the festival circuit. Support is needed throughout this whole process and we thank you!!!
What You Get
For starters, FOR BILLY is sponsored by the International Documentary Association. Thats one way you know your money is going to a well-thought out and worthy cause. It also means your donation is tax-deductible. A small yet helpful incentive for you to say thank you!
Most importantly, you get the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping a cause bigger than each of us. Multiple people working on the project have expressed that FOR BILLY has helped them rediscover their passion, their own personal power. People interviewed have shared stories they otherwise would have kept bottled inside. With each day of filming, lives are changing.
You are the reason these lives are changing, that these people are flourishing. By contributing to this film, you are the impetus towards social change for your own life, for Wheeling, Illinois and for the world.
Other Ways You Can Help
If youre reading this, we already know you are a social -media whiz. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn; oh my! (Yes, yeseven MySpace!) Youve got friends, and weve got a story. Surely, if you can Tweet about a 2-year-old baby in a 3rd-world country smoking 40 cigarettes a day or a Jerseylicious mall flash mob, you can post the story of Wheeling, Illinois.
Funny, touching and affective, a personal post to your social network will take mere minutes yet change the face of our campaign. We ask you please, bring Billys story to your circle of friendsthose with means, those with heart, those with talent, compassion and the willingness to speak up and speak out!