Saugerties student filmmakers tackle dating violence

Teen Dating Violence Video Contest participants. (Photo courtesy of the office of the Ulster County Executive)


Student filmmakers from Saugerties High School have taken first and third place in the fourth annual county teen dating violence video contest. The short films in the contest were up against entries from other high schools across the county, including Ellenville, which took second place. 

The Ulster County Inter-Agency Council on Domestic Violence formed the video contest committee to help raise awareness of the issue. High schoolers produced short films which identified signs of unhealthy or abusive relationships and publicized local domestic-violence resources. 


The first-place video, “Get Help,” written, directed and produced by Alexis Metcalf, featured a student, played by Becky Sauer, who speaks to a teacher about a jealous boyfriend’s verbal and physical abuse after she says she wants to hang out with friends. The boyfriend is played by Dylan Smith. 

Metcalf, a student in Saugerties High’s computer video production (CVP) course, said “Get Help” would not have been possible without the help of others. “The process was very collaborative,” Metcalf said. “I not only worked with my teachers, but also other students in order to make the video the best it could be. The only hurdle I would say that I may have had to overcome was making sure that I portrayed teen dating violence correctly and accurately.”

The desire to set an authentic tone speaks to the importance of the issue, she said. “I think it’s important to address the issue of teen dating violence because I feel like people should know that, even though it’s hard, there are people around that can and will help you. Also, if someone sees a situation they are in on screen, it may help them realize that they can confide in someone they’re close to to get the help they need.”

Metcalf, a SHS senior heading to Emerson College in the fall, plans to study film production in college. 

“Love Isn’t Perfect,” which won third place, was written, produced and directed by SHS senior Ethan Carroll, who stars in the film alongside Julie Raleigh. Raleigh plays an abuse victim who laments that people on the outside erroneously see her relationship as being perfect. 

Carroll, a two-year CVP student, said there weren’t any hurdles in putting the video together, and he had help from his girlfriend and another friend. “I think it’s important so that kids know that it’s not okay to be taken advantage of in a young relationship, and you shouldn’t be forced to be in a relationship,” he said. “I think the contest is very informative.”

Carroll said he’s planning on studying fashion design in college. 

Teachers Scott Wickham and Jackie Hayes served as faculty advisors to the Saugerties High filmmakers. All participants received certificates from county executive Mike Hein, and the winners also received gift cards from the contest committee. Gift cards were provided by the Ulster County Police Chiefs Association. 

Michael Iapoce, Ulster County commissioner of social services and chair of the Inter-Agency Council on Domestic Violence, said that the participation of student filmmakers and their faculty advisors was crucial in combating the widespread issue of teen violence. 

“The student and educator participation in the contest embraces what seems to be a growing nationwide trend of teens becoming more involved in addressing current social/safety issues that exist in today’s world on their school campuses,” said Iapoce. “These issues are extremely important and locally we are encouraged that youth in our community see the need to advocate for education and awareness and use their creative talents to achieve this goal. Congratulations and thanks to all of the high-school administrators, staff and students that participated in raising awareness about this important topic.”

Saugerties police chief Joseph Sinagra praised Hein’s commitment to “supporting healthy relationships amongst the youth of Ulster County. 

Saugerties High School principal Thomas Averill was pleased that students in the high school have been perennial participants in the video contest. “I am very proud of the focus and awareness our students have demonstrated through video technology toward this very important issue,” Averill said. “Not only has Saugerties always had at least one place winner each year, but the number of videos and students involved has grown yearly. In the end, it is our hope that these videos will help raise awareness with domestic violence.”

Hein congratulated the students from both Saugerties and Ellenville high schools, while also noting that the theme of the contest was a very real issue that needed attention. “Unfortunately, statistics show that one of three teens experience some kind of abuse in their dating relationships, and that is why it is important to address this difficult topic,” said Hein. “We hope that these videos will be seen by their peers, helping others recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship and direct teens to the resources that are available if they find themselves in or observing an abusive situation.”

The county assistance program can be reached through the 24-hotline number at 340-3442.

The winning videos from Saugerties and Ellenville can be seen at: