Star wrote, produced music for the original ABC Family TV movie
By Lie Shia Ong
Bullying is an issue that many teens have to deal with on a daily basis. In the new ABC Family movie “Cyberbully,” premiering on Sunday, July 17, what first starts out as some online fun and games turns into a dangerous and destructive situation. Taylor Hillridge (played by Emily Osment) gets a laptop for her birthday. Still struggling with her parents’ recent divorce, she is excited at the prospect of going online to meet new friends, but when she falls victim to harassment online, Taylor starts withdrawing from her family and her friends.
The movie “Cyberbully” is part of a campaign by ABC Family and Seventeen Magazine to bring awareness to the issue of bullying and digital abuse. The initiative, Delete Digital Drama, launches this summer on the network and in the magazine’s August issue.
MSN spoke with Osment about her role in the movie and how her music ended up playing a big part.
MSN TV: What can you tell us about your new movie, “Cyberbully”?
Emily Osment: I’m very excited for this film to come out. It’s been a really long process. It’s nice that it’s finally going to be released. … I was very excited when I was first approached with an offer to do this film. … I love the character, and I love the journey that she takes in this. … I knew that there was going to be an [anti-bullying] campaign, and I knew all the things that Michelle Obama was doing for this, and with Seventeen Magazine making a jump on it, it was great knowing that I was going to be doing something for a good cause as well as doing something that I love.
Tell us a little bit more about your character in the movie. You get a laptop for your birthday, and things go awry from there, right?
Yeah, that’s definitely the starting point of where things start to go downhill. My character Taylor, she’s very interesting. She already comes from a broken home. She’s extremely insecure, and so I think any little thing could have pushed her over the edge. When she starts being bullied online, she truly does not know how to handle it. I think that it changes her world, and her friends’ world, and leaks around to everyone else around her. She goes from being this normal teenage girl to being suicidal and depressed. She’s very strong at the end, and it was fun to play a character that went through all these emotional leaps. It was kind of terrifying on set sometimes because I had to go through in my brain, ‘OK, where is the character now? What state is she in? What just happened in this scene?’ There was a lot of research and a lot of homework every night. That was one of the cool things about doing this movie is I’ve never worked so hard off set as well as on set.
My mom’s a teacher, and [I heard] about her experience at school. She knows bullies personally that she teaches, and she knows how to handle them, and she knows about what they go through, and what the people they bully go through. I talked to her a lot about what she sees at school before I went in. I wasn’t bullied at school. I was taught from a young age that you’re going to have to watch your back, and you have to have humor about everything, and that’s my out usually. I hear something strange, or someone makes a comment, I’ll just kind of make a joke a bout it. That’s my defense and shield against bullying, but not everyone can do that. Everyone has to find their own thick skin. It’s hard to be just like ‘OK, you need better self-esteem. That’s how you deal with a bully.’ You can’t just tell someone that. They have to learn for themselves. They have to find it within themselves to be brave, and that’s what this entire movie is about—is finding courage and finding the strength.
What do you want the parents out there to know about this movie, and why they should watch it with their kids?
This is a really good forum for kids and for adults and for the little brother and the baby sitter and the dog and everyone [laughs]. I really think everyone can get something out of this film, especially the kids that are being bullied. I’m already getting comments on Twitter and Myspace … kids literally thanking me for doing this film because they say, “Now people understand what I go through. Everyone thinks it’s not a big deal, and it’s a big deal, and it’s my whole life, and I can’t get away from it.” And this film does a really good job of putting that all up on a pedestal and saying, “Look at me.” This film, it exemplifies everything that a bully goes through and everything that the bulled goes through. We’re just trying to draw attention to a really good cause, and we’re trying to make a difference, and I think this film is going to do that.
I know music is something that’s very important to you, and you sing the song “Drift” that’s featured in the movie. Did you write that song for “Cyberbully”?
I wrote and produced it in about three days. I got a call from the producer of “Cyberbully.” Actually, the director put it in my mind in the first place. We were on set and we had some downtime, and he was like, “Let me hear some stuff that you do. Not the pop stuff. Don’t give me the pop stuff. Give me the stuff you’ve truly written recently.” So, I played him some things that were a little more jazzy and a little more sexy and a little bit slower, and he just fell in love with it. He said, “Oh my gosh. Can you please write something for the film?” … I ended up taking it all on myself, and I wrote it in three days.
Some of your fans on Twitter wrote and asked if you’re going to be making a music video for “Drift.”
That’s a really good question. That’s something I haven’t even talked about with a manager. I haven’t even discussed that with anyone. I think that this film and this song are so tied together, I think the movie is truly the music video for it.
Do you know when your new album is going to be released?
I don’t. I know everyone’s been asking when the third album is going to be released. … I’m doing it myself, so it’s taking a little bit more time, and I’m working on a few other projects right now, but we are going on tour, and we’re playing some shows this month and next month and throughout fall. When I get on tour, that’s when I get most inspired, and that’s when most of the magic happens. I’m learning more about producing myself. I produced [“Drift”] clearly, fast, so it was like a crash course, and I really enjoyed it, so I think I want to find a future in that.
Another one of your fans wanted me to ask if you have any plans on going to college soon?
I am. I’m going to college this fall.
Where are you enrolled?
I’d rather not say right now, but I’m staying in California. I feel like that’s a good choice with trying to have a career and also go to school … but I’m excited, and it’s a school that I love.
Do you know what you’re going to major in yet, or is it too early?
Oh, God, I don’t know what freshman knows what they’re going to major in [laughs]! I don’t know yet. I have lots of interests, and I have a lot of options. It’s a liberal arts school, so they’ll let me kind of do what I want. So, we shall see.
Is there any message you want to send out to your fans?
Please watch this film. This film I hope will make a really good impact on a lot of people, and it does a really good job of raising awareness for this really good cause. Know that your voice is heard, and you need to talk to someone if you’re being bullied, and this film is going to teach you on how to deal with it.
premieres on Sunday, July 17, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC Family.