Stadium High School graduate Love Davis had to really work at being a bully.
Davis plays one of the mean guys in a new film “Joenah,” an 18-minute movie written, directed and produced by Tacoma native Gregory Marks. It was filmed last spring at Stadium and other Tacoma locations, and many of the actors who appear in the film are Stadium kids.
“I had to change my facial expressions,” Davis explained Friday, before a screening of the film for Stadium students. “I like to smile a lot. But I had to be the enforcer bully, and I had to look really mean.”
Stadium senior Isaiah Potter, a member of the Tigers football team, brought a different perspective to his role as a film bully.
In middle school, he said, he was the kid who was bullied. Like a lot of kids, he didn’t tell his family about it, but kept it all inside.
Then, he says, “I hit puberty. And I quit letting it affect me.”
“Joenah” tells the story of a student who is the object of bullying. The small, skinny kid is tripped in the hallways, smacked into lockers, ostracized in the lunchroom.
The main character is played by Truman Middle School student Caden Geer. In the film, Joenah is hard-of-hearing, and several of the scenes show him and family members conversing in sign language.
Marks explained that his sister is deaf, and she taught the cast members sign language.
In addition to learning how to sign, Geer, who’s actually a competent swimmer, had to also pretend to swim poorly for his part in the film. A pivotal scene focuses on Joenah’s resolve to take part in a swimming competition where he competes with the boys who have bullied him at school.
Marks discovered his lead actor while filming a trailer for the film at the Fircrest pool, where the swimming scenes were also shot. Other scenes in the movie were shot at Proctor District restaurant Europa Bistro and the Port of Tacoma. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 23, put up nearly half the $24,000 of the film’s budget. Marks raised the rest using online fundraising and other appeals.
Prior to Friday’s screening, Marks talked briefly about his life story. The 49-year-old said he started using drugs when he was a student at Wilson High School in the 1980s. Soon he was homeless and addicted to drugs. He said he spent some time in jail. When he hit rock bottom, he sought out a rehab program and says he’s been sober for 14 years.
After rehab, Marks enrolled at Pierce College, then worked in construction.
The work paid well. But Marks yearned for something more creative. He decided to become an actor, Googling information about acquiring an agent and sending out photos.
“I’ve never had an acting class,” he said. “I always wanted to act.”
He had some success, working in TV commercials, documentaries, short-subject films and TV shows. Now, he’s turned to directing.
Marks also founded an organization called Right Now Today, which aims to empower people to reach their goals. Its tagline: humans helping humans.
He hopes to screen “Joenah” at more schools, and says his goal is to have Washington become “the No. 1 anti-bullying state in the world.”
He told Stadium students Friday that they have the power to change the world.
“Whatever you do will be how people will remember you at Stadium High School,” he said. “Enhance each other. Embrace each other. Try to understand each other.”
Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635
See the film
"Joenah" will be shown at the Blue Mouse Theatre in Tacoma this month. After the screening, there will be a question-and-answer session.
WHEN: 1 p.m. Sept. 25
WHERE: Blue Mouse Theatre, 2611 N. Proctor St., Tacoma
ADMISSION: $10. Director Greg Marks said proceeds from the event will help fund more screenings at schools.
TICKETS: At eventbrite.com