Archive for the ‘Press’ Category

Episode 2 is now on Amazon Instant Video!

Monday, March 14th, 2016

Hi Adina’s Deck fans!! You can now watch Episode 2 of Adina’s Deck on Amazon Instant Video!

This Months Six78th Magazine- Win Ep. 1!

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Check out this months edition of Six78th Magazine for a special feature story about Adina’s Deck! Check out the magazine for interviews with the cast and filmmakers.  They are offering 10 lucky readers a copy of Episode 1 through their contest!! Check it out!

The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Growing up with great Educational shows as well as great Detective shows certainly helped inspire Adina’s Deck. Some of our favorites are:

  • Ghostwriter!
  • MathNet on Square One
  • Encyclopedia Brown DVD Series
  • Nancy Drew books
  • Babsitters Club books
  • And… The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo! Congrats to the actress Irene who  just got married.

I found this clip of the show on YouTube. How I miss the good ol’ Nickelodeon days! Hopefully Adina’s Deck can help re-inspire the type of programming that I want my kids to watch one day.

Adinas Deck in Baltimore Cyber Bullying News

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

This morning, Adina’s Deck was featured on the Web Trends Report on AM1090 in Baltimore, in affiliation with WBAL/NBC Channel 11.

Here is the news story about Cyber Bullying:
To read the original article, click here

Article in the Contra Costa Times and SF Children’s Film Festival

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

This article was printed yesterday in the Contra Costa Times and also syndicated in the San Jose Mercury News and the Valley Times. You can read the original version here.

Filmmaker exposes cyberbullies
Middle schoolers learn that words hurt
By Jackie Burrell

The girls huddle around a laptop, recoiling in dismay as a hate site unfurls across the screen. “What?” Skye wails. “You did this?”

— “Adina’s Deck”

Filmmaker Debbie Heimowitz had never heard of cyberbullying until she started talking to middle school counselors.

The Stanford grad student had been volunteering at middle schools in Redwood City and Menlo Park, and looking for an appropriate master’s thesis topic when she first came across this insidious, anonymous form of harassment carried out on hate-filled Web sites, with anonymous posts and spiteful rumors that spread like wildfire.

“It fascinated me,” says Heimowitz. “We didn’t have this problem when I was in middle school.”

What especially struck Heimowitz was that middle schoolers couldn’t connect their virtual actions to consequences in real life.

Cyberbullying makes headlines when tragedy strikes, as it did last year when a 13-year-old killed herself after a friend’s mother set up a fake MySpace page and then publicly humiliated her.

While that particular incident took place in Missouri, cyberbullying happens every day, in every city.

Some 42 percent of kids have been cyberbullied at least once, according to a 2004 study by iSafe, a non-profit Internet safety education foundation, and 58 percent have dealt with mean or hurtful public messages. And a 2006 University of New Hampshire study found that 75 percent to 80 percent of young teens, ages 12 to 14, had been bullied online. Experts at iSafe call cyberbullying a “24 hour per day, seven days a week online bashing,” that slips under the parental radar because there are no black eyes or torn clothes to give it away.

Heimowitz was appalled.

A former film student with three years’ experience in Hollywood’s film and television studios, Heimowitz was working on her master’s in Stanford’s learning, design and technology department at the time. Suddenly, her master’s thesis project seemed obvious — make a film that duplicates Disney Channel production values, but offers a poignant, educational wallop. Use a fictional story to demonstrate the real-life consequences of heartless behavior, and give it a dash of Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars.

“Adina’s Deck” emerged with help from friend Jason Azicri, a screenwriter and counseling psychology grad student at Santa Clara University. The script centered on a group of four middle school girls for whom cyberbullying is deeply personal. One is a target –another, a former perpetrator. Using tech-savvy tactics, the foursome sets out to discover who is tormenting “Skye,” a popular eighth-grader played by Lafayette teen Kelcie Stranahan. The students chase down IP addresses, track cell signals and do their Nancy Drew-style detecting online.

“It’s such emotionally heavy material,” says Heimowitz. “It made sense to teach it in a way that showed the stories that were happening to the victims and the bullies — and to show empathy for the bullies. A lot of the time they don’t even realize they’re being bullies. What they think is very insignificant could be causing severe psychological problems for their victims.”

“It shows kids what’s really going on,” says Kelcie. “At one of the premiere (audience) talks, we really got to talk about it.”

Cyberbullying was considered funny at one Redwood City middle school where Heimowitz volunteered. The pranksters had no clue about the impact. Not so in Menlo Park.

“At Menlo Park, cyberbullying tended to be more intentionally mean, malicious,” the Castro Valley resident says. “(But) at both schools, the kids were doing exactly the same things.”

Heimowitz incorporated all those things into the film, then started casting. She’d done casting before, when she worked for Warner Bros., but this time Heimowitz was nervous, afraid no one would show up.

But the “Adina” casting call drew hundreds of young actors from across Northern California. By the time Heimowitz was finished, she had signed Kelcie, a Campolindo freshman whose acting resume included a bit part in “The Kite Runner,” Stephanie Cameron from the Peninsula, and others from Modesto, Sacramento and around the Bay Area — plus some very familiar extras.

Heimowitz cameos as a science teacher, and her dad portrays a school principal. Her grandmother plays the librarian.

Now, the gospel of “Adina” is spreading. The 30-minute film has been accepted at five film festivals, including this weekend’s International Children’s Film Festival at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. And there has been considerable interest from teachers, parents and school administrators. Walnut Creek’s Seven Hills school has a copy, and the film’s cast was featured at San Ramon’s recent middle school conference.

So naturally, there’s a sequel in the works — two of them, actually. Heimowitz and Azicri are working on one script about online predators and dating, and another on cheating and plagiarism. And “Adina” will have to break out her laptop once more.

Reach Jackie Burrell at Read the aPARENTly Speaking blog at


  • “Adina’s Deck” —
  • iSAFE — an Internet safety education organization,
  • WHAT: More than 100 short films for children and teens
  • WHERE: Feb. 22-24 at WonderCon, Room 250, Moscone Center South; and March 1 at Zeum, 221 Fourth St., S.F.
  • TICKETS: Admission to WonderCon, which includes free tickets to the film festival, is free for ages 11 and younger. Tickets for youths 12 and older are $5-$6 for a one-day pass, and $10-$12 for adults. Tickets for the Zeum screenings are free with admission ($6 for kids, $8 adults).
  • INFO: For a complete film schedule, visit or call 760-470-2481. WONDERCON FILMSNorthern California’s largest comic book and pop culture fest lands at San Francisco’s Moscone Center this weekend, offering not just glimpses of animated nirvana, but the second annual Bay Area International Festival. The festival spans two weekends and offers more than 100 short films for children and teens, on topics ranging from bassoons to aliens.Debbie Heimowitz’s “Adina’s Deck” debuts at 6 p.m. Feb. 23 on a program specially designed for teens, but she is not the only local filmmaker featured. Also on the lineup: Oakland’s Sarah Klein; San Francisco filmmakers Allan Dye and Marcia Ong; and directors from Pacifica, Fremont and San Rafael.A full film festival lineup is available online (, but local highlights include:
  • “On the Farm,” Klein’s animated short about the pleasures of farm life from the perspective of cows and ducks; and “Feed the Starter,” a film about children and breadmaking. Both screen 11:45 a.m. Feb. 23.
  • “Cake,” by Jennifer Arzt, of Fremont, a provocative short about an orphan who tries to hold onto her best friend by making the kid “unadoptable.” 2:15 p.m. Feb. 23
  • “Kristy,” Ong’s cinematic celebration of tomboys. 3:30 p.m. Feb. 23
  • “A.D.D. Jane,” Dye’s film about a little girl, an evil witch and one short attention span. Also 3:30 p.m. Feb. 23
  • “Flutterby,” a film by Cynthia Pepper, of San Rafael, in which live butterflies and dancers work in harmony. 12:45 p.m. Feb. 24
  • “My Gift,” by Sage Drake, of San Bruno, in which a homeless man gets a “new leash on life” thanks to a lost dog. 3 p.m. Feb. 24
  • San Jose Mercury News Article about Cyber Bullying

    Sunday, January 13th, 2008

    Adina’s Deck was mentioned in this article, “Bullies in cyberspace create a new kind of teenage hell.” The original article can be found here.

    Annoyed with a friend, three South Bay high school boys thought up a practical joke. They placed an ad in his name soliciting sex with men, listing his home phone number, and hacked into his MySpace profile, changing it to claim he was gay. Callers seeking sex reached the 15-year-old’s younger sister and mother at his home. The student – mortified, angry and distraught – ended up dropping out of school. Although the Internet has woven teens into extensive virtual communities, when harnessed for cruelty it also has become a powerful tool for harassment. Now, educators and parents are scrambling to catch up with young people whose online socializing includes playing pranks and seeking revenge.

    The steady rise of so-called cyberharassment has school officials looking at redrawing the lines that determine when and how to get involved in disputes that originate off campus.

    “It’s hard for all of us old people to keep up with these digital natives. That is especially difficult when you’re in a position of responsibility for the well-being of kids,” said Nancy Willard of Eugene, Ore., an expert on children and cybersafety.

    Harassment online can take many forms, from sending threatening messages to impersonating someone to posting gossip or secrets. It appears to be most common among middle-school students, especially girls, experts say.

    “It happens in those in-between years where everyone’s social life depends on the Internet,” said Mekkin Bjarnadottir, 14, a freshman at Cupertino High School. “It’s easier to say things when you’re online, when you’re not listening to someone’s voice or not talking face-to-face.”

    The anonymity of the Internet, and its instant and wide reach, offer temptations to mischief – even to people who normally wouldn’t physically bully someone.

    “It gives you a cloak of invisibility,” said Jo Ann Allen, the safe-schools coordinator for schools in the area from Santa Clara to Monterey counties. “The person who could be bullying you over the airwaves may be acting like your best friend at school.”

    The results can be devastating to the victim – and can spawn a retaliatory cycle, she said.

    In the case of the 15-year-old, school officials working with police found the teen culprits, who were tried and sentenced to probation and community service. They also had to write an essay about the pain they caused.

    Awareness about cyberbullying shot up nationwide following news reports about a Missouri teen who hanged herself after being teased and denigrated online. In November, prosecutors declined to file charges against her tormentors, who turned out to be a neighboring trio – a mother, her daughter and her employee – posing as a fictitious boy.

    “The Internet is the new bathroom wall” – the virtual place kids scrawl something when they want to be mean, said Kelly Noftz, student services coordinator for Project Cornerstone, which works with students at 140 schools in Santa Clara County on issues such as bullying. Kids think they’re being private and anonymous when they harass online – and in reality, they’re neither, she said.

    When filmmaker Debbie Heimowitz set out to create an educational film about cyberbullying at schools, she convened focus groups at Menlo Park and Redwood City schools. “Every single kid had some experience either knowing somebody who had been bullied, or reading an IM conversation someone had printed out to embarrass one of the parties,” she said. “Every kid said this is very common.” Her film, “Adina’s Deck,” has made her a popular speaker to educators and youth workers.

    Others, however, are uncertain whether the Internet actually leads to more cruelty, or simply helps to etch a potential trail of evidence. Unlike in an offline spat, when a 12-year-old types sexual insults on MySpace, posts on YouTube a cell-phone video taken in a locker room or distributes malicious instant messages, each can find their way to adults in charge.

    “If two kids are having an argument on the street, we don’t do anything about it,” said Don McCloskey, director of student services for San Jose Unified School District. “If two kids get in an argument on MySpace, we have more and more parents bringing it to our attention.

    “I’m not convinced that there are more incidents of kids treating each other more unfairly now. It’s just that we have documents.”

    Some educators have seized upon that electronic trail as a tool for prevention.

    At Lawson Middle School in Cupertino, students learn there is zero tolerance for online harassment, Assistant Principal Mike Cellini said. And, Cellini added, he reminds students that when they send something into cyberspace, “Oh, by the way, the world can see it.”

    That was a shock to some students at one San Jose middle school who created a MySpace “slut list” of 23 girls and asked viewers to submit comments. Within 36 hours the site was shut down, and the culprits discovered.

    When to intervene

    Whether and how schools insert themselves into online disputes that fall short of criminal behavior is a matter of judgment about how disruptive the conflict becomes.

    “No student should show up on campus and be worried about what people have said at night,” San Jose Unified’s McCloskey said. “They are there to get an education and not play out the drama.”

    Contact Sharon Noguchi at or (408) 271-3775.

    Parent Paper of North Jersey Cyber Bullying Article

    Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

    There’s a terrific article about Cyber Bullying in the July 2008 Parent Paper of North New Jersey, written by Jan Wilson.  It’s a booklet, available as a PDF and you can read it here:
    Look for pages 48-50!

    New 'generation gap' hurts parent-teen relationships (Inside Bay Area)

    Monday, January 29th, 2007

    Adina’s Deck was mentioned in this article from Inside Bay Area

    New ‘generation gap’ hurts parent-teen relationships
    Moms, dads urged to get up to speed on high-tech communication tools
    By Barbara Grady, STAFF WRITER
    Article Last Updated: 10/29/2007

    Anna Perez recalls that when she was a teenager, if a boy wanted to call, he had to phone her house — and chances were a parent would overhear at least half the conversation.
    “Now they call on cell phones or IM (instant message) each other or send text messages. There is a lot less control over our kids,” said Perez of Oakland, who notes that her 12-year-old son and his friends have access to an entire world of communication tools that are beyond her earshot.
    Mary Murtagh, a Berkeley mom, notes that her son — and all young teenagers — have so much more time to explore the Web than adults that they develop a facility parents can’t keep up with. Teens today are experts at social networking, tagging sites for each other, posting photos and videos and sending instant messages, Murtagh said.
    Luckily for Perez and Murtagh, their seventh-grade sons are into soccer and sharing cartoons and instant messaging the same friends they hang out with at school — friends who are well-known to Perez and Murtagh.
    But a national study that came out of the White House last month said a “technology generation gap” leaves parents today less aware of their teens’ social contacts and activities than they were even a few years ago.
    The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, a public service effort by the National Office of Drug Control Policy, is focusing this year on telling parents to “get with it” technologically if they are to bridge communication

    gaps with their teens.
    “There is a new kind of generation gap between parents and teens,” said Scott Burns, deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “We are asking parents to bridge the gap by getting up to speed on the technology teens use.”
    The agency has launched what it calls the “Parent Chronicles” on the Web to help parents bridge that gap and teach them how to monitor social networks and use texting and other tools. It can be found at AT&T Inc. is also helping disseminate information about Parent Chronicles by including flyers about it in its bills to customers.
    “If, for example, parents believe that because they know how to use the Internet they understand their teens’ experience online or because they talk on a cell phone, they understand how teens use these devices to communicate with each other, they are sadly mistaken,” Burns said.
    About 93 percent of teens are online, according to a 2007 report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. And 44 percent of teenagers have cell phones, according to the project’s 2006 report.
    Burns said that a survey his agency conducted with random sets of teens and parents found that 75 percent of teens say their parents do not monitor their online activity — even as the majority of the parents say they know where their kids are and who they are talking with.
    The Pew Internet study came up with numbers that suggest parents are more diligent: It said 53 percent of parents have filtering software on the computer their child uses at home and 45 percent have monitoring software that traces the Web sites their child has visited. Meanwhile, 85 percent of parents say they have rules about Internet use.
    But at the same time, the Pew Internet study found that more than half of teens who use the Internet have profiles on a social network — a medium generally not understood by parents. And the teens have varying attitudes about protecting their privacy. Two-thirds of surveyed teens said they limit their profile access to people they know and communicate only with people they already know. But on the other hand, half say they use the networks to meet new friends.
    While the Internet holds huge benefits to teens, such as providing a rich source for research on school projects, Burns warns that, without parental supervision of online activities, young people also can innocently invite strangers into their lives, become victims of cyber bullying or get easy access to illicit drugs.
    “In my generation — and I am old — when friends came over, my parents would eyeball them,” he said. “They had a chance to see kids I was hanging out with, see if they were the good crowd or trouble.
    “Now, a hundred times a night, kids come into the home and parents don’t know them,” he continued, referring to virtual visits by people on social networks. Some kids video conference each other via webcams.
    “My daughter has a webcam and the other night there is this kid in my house,” Burns said. “Turns out they were doing history homework together, but it could have been anything.”
    The Parent Chronicles is “a call to action for parents to help them better understand their teens,” he said. The site assigns homework to parents to help get them technologically up to speed and includes a message board for parents to share experiences.
    Other experts note that parents are not aware of increasing incidences of “cyber bullying” because those parents don’t understand the ubiquity of social networking and mobile text communications.
    Stanford University graduate student Debbie Heimowitz, who produced a video widely disseminated by Bay Area schools about cyber bullying called “Adina’s Deck,” says that among middle school girls in particular, cyber bullying is a serious problem. It occurs when teenagers post insulting or embarrassing things about another teenager on widely read social networks, such as MySpace or Facebook, or send insults as text messages over cell phones.
    “Kids are hiding behind the Internet and cell phones, saying things that they would not say in person,” Heimowitz said.
    “Seventy-five percent of girls (in middle school) are victims of this,” she said, citing the results of a survey she conducted of 31 kids in Menlo Park and Redwood City.
    Such bullying is “psychologically damaging,” Heimowitz said, yet some teens are afraid to tell their parents, since they are on social networks without permission.
    Heimowitz also has created a Web site,, to help teenagers deal with cyber bullying.
    On the Parent Chronicles site, four families are interviewed about their parent-teen relationships. In each of them, the parents view the relationships as close and say they believe they know what is going on in their child’s life. In separate interviews with the corresponding teens, however, the teens say the parents generally do not know.
    “I was a little surprised when I watched the video,” admitted Cindy Keegan of Connecticut, who was interviewed on the site along with her 17-year-old daughter Maggy, an honors student.
    “I obviously thought I had a pretty good handle on her life,” Keegan said. “I mostly didn’t realize the kids put that much peer pressure on each other to try things.”
    Burns’ biggest concern is that teenagers will find Web sites that will mail them illegal drugs.
    “Kids can type ‘methamphetamines’ into a Web search and get all sorts of information about how to get them and how great they make you feel,” he said.

    The Modesto Premiere!

    Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

    Noah’s Spring Water sponsored a screening of Adina’s Deck at the brand new Gallo Arts Center in Modesto.

    It was as beautiful building and a beautiful Sat. afternoon!


    Over 200 people came to the event!


    Before the event, the cast and crew got to catch up!

    Stephanie Cameron “Melody,” Jason Azicri, Debbie Heimowitz, Kelcie Stranahan “Skye” and Amelia Varni, “Adina” before the screening.


    Ciera Trussell, “Clara” had to miss the premiere due to a family emergency. We missed Ciera
    her mom Kim, and their wonderful family and friends. We hope to see them soon!


    After the screening, we showed a behind the scenes documentary and Bloopers/Outtakes, folowed by a Question and Answer session!

    The audience asked questions about the actor’s previous acting experience, cyber bullying, Internet Safety as well as the progress and future of Adina’s Deck.

    From Left-Right, Nella Varni, “Peggy,” Michael Rundell, “Sammy,” Stephanie Cameron, “Melody,” Writer/Director Jason Azicri, Cristina Del Valle, “Haley,” Kelcie Stranahan, “Skye,” Amelia Varni, “Adina” and producer/director Debbie Heimowitz answering questions at the Q&A panel.

    It was a fabulous event. Thank you Noah’s Spring water and the Varni Family!!

    The Cast

    Adina - Amelia Varni
    Amelia Varni
    Clara - Ciera Trussell
    Ciera Trussell
    Skye - Kelcie Stranahan
    Kelcie Stranahan
    Melody - Stephanie Cameron
    Stephanie Cameron
    Michael - Sam Ison
    Sam Ison
    Winner Seals