Canyon Crest Academy student creates film to raise awareness about loss

Inspired by the loss of her father, a Canyon Crest Academy freshman recently screened a film she created in an effort to bring awareness and understanding to the community about youth and families that are dealing with a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

By completing and screening the film, Sonia Halle also earned her Girl Scout Silver Award. The Girl Scout Silver Award is the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette can earn.

“The Silver Award is about impacting your community and changing it for the better,” said Sonia, a 14-year-old Carmel Valley resident.

Sonia wrote and directed a short-film based on her experience with her father’s lung cancer diagnosis, treatment and passing. She was an eighth grader when her father died at the age of 55 last September.

“You don’t see a lot of awareness being raised about kids of people who have had cancer, people who are married to them or their best friends,” she said. “I wanted to raise awareness for the support of family members and friends going through this. It’s just something really near and dear to my heart.”

“Please Tell Me This Isn’t Real” follows a teenage girl’s journey as she vlogs her thoughts and feelings through the progression of her father’s cancer diagnosis. The 20-minute film’s main character is based on Sonia.

“It’s a really great format because it’s raw and more personal,” Sonia said. “It’s like you’re going through it with them.”

Sonia has had years of experience on stage, but this was her first time behind the camera.

Since she was 9 years old, Sonia has performed at several local youth theaters in San Diego and is currently an active troupe member of Theater of Peace, an acting troupe that visits schools to raise awareness about bullying and demonstrate tools that can be used to overcome and break the cycle of negativity.

“I’ve never really done anything as professional and significant as this,” Sonia said about her behind-the-camera work.

Sonia started working on the script in February. As writer and director, she worked with an executive producer, director of photography, several actors and other professionals in the industry.

“I didn’t realize how much work it would be,” said Sonia, who is currently in rehearsals as Goran in San Diego Junior Theatre’s “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” which runs Oct. 28 through Nov. 13 at Casa del Prado Theatre.

“You don’t realize how much goes into a film until you have to do everything,” she said. “But I had a lot of great help.”

Having recently completed the film, Sonia held a screening Sept. 21 at Mintz Levin, a law firm in Carmel Valley. About 50 people attended the event, which included a talk-back with Sonia, some of the actors and a representative from Elizabeth Hospice to discuss how to relate to kids going through a similar situation.

“It was really great,” Sonia said. “I was really happy with the turnout. From the panel and from the movie I’ve reached 50 people. I’ve taught them that cancer sucks, grieving sucks and death sucks, but here’s how you can help.”

About a week later Sonia held a second screening for Elizabeth Hospice, a nonprofit agency that provides hospice and bereavement services to the terminally-ill and their families throughout North San Diego County.

She’s currently exploring other ways to share her film with more people in the community.

“It’s not only the person with the disease that’s being affected,” Sonia said. “People need to grieve and they’re going to grieve in different ways. They’re going to deal with pain and loss and disease in different ways. It’s important that you let them grieve and it’s important that you’re there to support them.”