Harrowing film shows devastating and fatal impacts of cyberbullying and online abuse

Yorkshire filmmakers have created a short film highlighting the devastating impact of online abuse and cyberbullying on children and young people.

By Rebecca Marano
Saturday, 9th January 2021, 6:00 am

The harrowing film ‘ROPE’ depicts the lives of two teenage girls - one bully and one victim.

Using a rope as a metaphor, the film pans from the amusement of the bully as she sends cruel text messages, to the despair of the victim. The rope then begins to tighten.

Director and writer Abraham Fieldsend, of Harrogate-based production company Wayside Trinity, spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post as part of our ‘Call It Out’ campaign against online abuse.

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A still taken from Wayside Production's film 'ROPE' depicting the devastating impacts of cyberbullying and online abuse.

Mr Fieldsend, 24, from Harrogate, said: “Social media can be a really positive tool but it does have its dark side.

“When I was growing up it was just Facebook but now there are so many different social media platforms and people begin using it at a much younger age.

“For many older people, they will remember bullying as something much more physical that you could escape when you finished school and went home.

“Children and teenagers don't have that option now as there are so many platforms, such as TikTok and Snapchat, that they can be contacted on 24/7.

A still taken from Wayside Production's film 'ROPE' depicting the devastating impacts of cyberbullying and online abuse.

"Social media is such a vast ocean of information that it is almost inescapable - there's comments, photos, videos, direct messages. It's almost never ending.

"It's hard to stop unless you were to block everyone but I have heard stories of bullies going out of their way to create fake accounts to keep pestering someone.

“If you're in your 40s or 50s and someone sends you a cruel message, you can probably brush it off, but if you're 15 it is much more likely to affect you because you haven't had the chance to build up that mental resilience.

"For a child, or teenager, whose sole purpose in life is to learn and grow and to enjoy life, they shouldn't have to worry about things like this."

The co-founders of Wayside Productions pictured from left to right clockwise, Abraham Fieldsend, Steven Jones-Robertson and Zachary Fieldsend

Mr Fieldsend, who co-founded his company with brother Zachary Fieldsend and Steven Jones-Robertson, believes it is the lack of personal accountability that leads people to cyberbully.

The dad-of-one said: "When you say something to someone's face you can see their reaction and you know if it's upset them

“When people send a message online, they are removed from the act in a way because they simply send the text and it's done. They don't have to deal with the rest of the situation. There's no responsibility.

“Sending a message does not take up much time and in a lot of cases people probably don't even think about the effect it is having. But all it can take is one message to push someone over the edge.”

The YEP's Call It Out campaign is asking readers to help play their part in making social media platforms into a better place for us all by reporting abusive online behaviour.

The film, which was created with cinematographer Connor Van Looveren-Baines, starkly depicts the strain that just one unkind message can have on a person.

Mr Fieldsend, a graduate of Leeds Beckett University hopes that the blunt depiction will shock parents into action to check their children’s social media usage.

"I think the whole intention with the film being quite blunt is to highlight how fatal bullying can be.

"It also shows how easy it is to bully as the bully is sitting there smiling, it's almost like nothing to her, like she is just saying it for a laugh. She does not see the other side of the coin.

"We hope it will remind parents to check that their children are okay.

"Parents can stop bullying but only if they know about it.

"We'd like it to make an impact on as many people as possible but if it helps just one family, it will be enough.

He added: "Ultimately, part of the job of parenting is to monitor your children's intake of information but at the same time these social media platforms have been created by corporations and they need to ensure the safety of the users.

"This is especially true with children and teenagers because they are so susceptible to manipulation.

"I think it is important to teach teenagers to filter their time online and monitor their usage, because otherwise it can become excessive and all consuming.

"I always describe cyberbullying as dynamite. As soon as the first piece of abuse is sent, the fuse has been lit.

"The length of the fuse varies but ultimately it leads to something bad unless there is prevention or intervention."

The film can be viewed on Wayside Production’s Youtube channel and website. Warning: the film does contain references to bullying and suicide and it is advised for a more mature audience.

The two young actresses who starred in the film are Holly Pennington (Bully) and Sarah Hjort (Victim). Kurt Tomlinson wrote and composed the original score.

The NSPCC offers a free helpline for people who are worried about a child. Trained staff can be contacted on 0808 800 5000 or at [email protected]

Teenagers and children can contact Childline directly on the phone or online. Call Childline for free on 0800 1111 or on their 1-2-1 counsellor online chat.

The National Bullying Helpline offers advice on its website and can also be called on 0845 22 55 787 between 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

The Yorkshire Evening Post's Call It Out campaign is sharing real life experiences of abusive online behaviour and asking our readers to help play their part in reporting it to account admins, social media platforms and, where needed, the police.