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Ridgefield School Principal 'Puts It Into Words' For Anti-Bullying Film

Tim Salem teaches his anti-bullying curriculum to students. Photo Credit: Contributed
Tim Salem at Scotts Ridge Middle School, where he is principal, in Ridgefield. Photo Credit: Alfred Branch

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. - For Ridgefield principal Tim Salem, the inspiration for his screenplay, called “Put It Into Words,” grew out of experiences in a multicultural issues class he taught at Danbury High School in the mid-1990s.

The class touched on subjects such as trust, identity, self esteem and the treatment of others. Over the years, he found that the lessons he wrote to discuss multiculturalism could also be applied to present an anti-bullying message.

“I taught these subjects for so long that I knew that if I put these themes in front of students, that they could connect with them and learn that there are adults that care about their well-being,” said Danbury native Salem, who is now the principal at Scotts Ridge Middle School.

Bullying - and efforts to stop it - has gained attention in recent years. Salem’s film, which is seeking funding, is very timely. The film is about a high school student at a crossroads in life who is being pulled in various directions. The student is inspired by a teacher to make the right choices for himself. The film is linked to an anti-bullying curriculum that Salem created that “encourages introspection, reflection and discourse while promoting the tenets of acceptance, empathy and compassion.”

Salem and his co-executive producer on the film, Kent resident John Balis, began working first on a documentary about the anti-bullying curriculum and how it helped students. Salem and Balis both graduated from Danbury High School in 1987 and ran into each other at the Kent Film Festival in 2008.

The documentary idea, which ran into some hurdles over cameras in classrooms, morphed into the fictional screenplay for “Put It Into Words.” The two then launched a drive to prove the curriculum component’s viability and to fund the making of the movie.

They are looking for $1 million to $2 million to make the film. The two friends have enlisted a team to help them, including director Adam Pierce and producers Michelle Moriarty, Frank Galterio and Mike Landry.

The effort also has a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/PutItIntoWords, and Salem and Balis have spoken to countless educators, students, civic leaders and others about ways to combat bullying.

To help raise money for “Put It Into Words,” the team is hosting a fundraiser and live performance of passages from the screenplay at the Ridgefield Playhouse Thursday at 7 p.m.

Salem has enlisted the actors from the film to read the passages, and he will lead a discussion of its subject matter. A cocktail reception for ticket holders at 6:15 p.m. before the performance. Tickets cost $30 each.

“Our goal is transform the climate in our schools, so that students can learn, socialize and feel like a part of the community,” said Salem.

Fo more information about Thursday’s event, visit www.ridgefieldplayhouse.org or call 203-438-5795. The Ridgefield Playhouse is located at 80 East Ridge Road in Ridgefield.

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