The Department of Theater and Media Arts premiered two new Media Arts capstones at an event on Friday, Sept. 6. New Media, a topic studied by media arts majors, focuses on non-traditional media topics like video games and web art.
One of the projects, titled “How Can I Help?” is a web series that aims to help children and their parents have conversations about mental health. The webisodes, which run at about five minutes on average, star various animals struggling with different mental health issues.
In one episode, an elephant named Shelly talks about what it feels like to have OCD. Shelly talks about what she can do to get help with her thoughts, like talking to an adult she trusts.
The idea for “How Can I Help?” started with Dallin Penrod, a Theater and Media Arts major who had an interest in Claymation. Penrod wrote a script for the class called “I Am Sad,” which later became the first episode of the series.
“We know that the information isn’t perfect or that it may not help specific individuals, but our hope is to create discussion about mental health and kind of normalize it. That was a big thing for me. Growing up, (mental health) wasn’t a big part of the conversation,” Penrod said.
After his pitch was selected for production, Penrod enlisted another Theater and Media Arts major Cambree Snow, as his producer. Snow managed the budget, scheduled shoot times and connected with psychology professionals to make sure the information they gathered was accurate.
“I think because we went into it with a mindset of like, ‘no one knows what they’re doing, this is a new thing, we’re gonna be patient with each other and kind of figure things out,’ it was a lot easier than a fiction capstone,” Snow said of the brand new class and production process.
Each episode of “How Can I Help” includes an article about the disorder featured in the video, and a link to an art therapy exercise specifically designed to help.
According to Penrod, “It’s not meant to cure anyone; it’s meant as a tool that people can use, and to create a foundation they can build off of.”
Episodes of “How Can I Help?” can be found at howcanihelpseries.com.