Students Pan Booze In Video

May 02, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer

There were no spotlights, no limos, no famous faces tripping through the limelight.

But the low-budget premiere of an anti-drinking video was festive nevertheless for the Cockeysville Middle School students invited to their cafeteria for pizza and a first look at the video they helped make.

Some of the Cockeysville contributors giggled so much they missed their own performances in "Under the Influence: Kids, Ads and Alcohol," an 18-minute educational video made by Dystar Productions of Atlanta. But that was OK. Michael Gimbel, director of the Baltimore County Office of Substance Abuse, was happy to show it again.

Mr. Gimbel had enlisted the 17 youngsters to participate in the educational video, which stresses that there's more to drinking than the good times portrayed in beer and wine commercials. And now he was throwing a thank-you party "for the work you did . . . in getting a message out."

Despite their giggles and laughter, the Cockeysville sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders delivered some serious messages.

"The commercials never show anyone drunk," said seventh-grader Geoff Langham.

"They show beaches, but you can't swim or do sports when you're drinking, because you aren't thinking right, and your motor skills aren't in working condition," said Theresa Chu, another seventh-grader.

Despite images that drinking is cool, wins friends and ensures a good time, the commercials don't sway sixth-grader Amanda Morse.

"It's not attractive," she said, citing pot bellies, baggy eyes and foul-smelling breath among the aftereffects of drinking. "I can't stand to be around people who drink."

Several of her classmates who gathered to watch the film recently agreed, saying that people who drink too much look and act stupid and smell bad. The students also said they know middle-school students who experiment with alcohol.

For the video, Mr. Gimbel showed the students beer and wine commercials and asked them to talk about the messages the commercials presented and the realities he says they failed to convey.

The student's comments were combined with the commercials, interviews with recovering teen alcoholics and an adult narrative.

The video concludes with a commercial created by students in Atlanta who were asked to put together an advertisement showing the effects of alcohol.

Mr. Gimbel said Dystar will sell the video to school and community groups.

Despite their involvement, the Cockeysville students gave "Under the Influence" mixed reviews:

"I thought it was OK," said Theresa. "Some kids whenever they see this stuff in their classes, they don't take it seriously."

Geoff said he liked it. "I think it would work for some people," he said.

Sixth-grader Becky Gerkens was more enthusiastic, saying she thought it really made the point that "alcohol and drugs are bad for you."

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