Lillie Crowther’s experience making a documentary about teen mental health opened her eyes.
She realized how much the teachers at her school, Myers Park High School, were paying attention to the student mental health crisis. And she also realized the power of non-fiction, documentary storytelling.
“I appreciate non-fiction more than fiction,” Crowther said. “The real world is interesting enough.”
Crowther, a 17-year-old rising senior at Myers Park, is the president of the school’s film club, and the group identified student mental health as a key topic to cover in the last school year. She served as producer, where she interviewed students and teachers featured in the documentary. She appreciates the lessons the documentary taught her. For example, she saw teachers in a different light, one that showcased the care and attention paid to students.
“I think it was so enlightening because the teachers were paying attention,” she said. “We were actually having a conversation with teachers about how noticeable the things they saw in students was.”
She recalls making up interview questions on the spot, allowing the documentary to flow and be real. She remembers her past projects in her film production club; however, nothing quite compares to the feeling she got creating this particular documentary.
Crowther’s other passions include photography and her Jewish faith – all things that are encompassed by a profound underlying belief that life is a tremendous gift. Crowther’s empathetic side developed following the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 when she realized life would not be halted entirely just because people stopped seeing each other face to face. Perhaps her realization allowed her to appreciate the art of photography as she captured a moment in time to look back on in years to come.
Her favorite photo is one of her friend and boyfriend. This candid, serene photo captures the couple laughing, not knowing their picture is being taken. She pulls the photo out to look at frequently, she said. “I appreciate the candidness of the photo,” she said.
Crowther’s passion is to capture a moment in history, she said, and she looks to documentaries as her muse. One of her dream projects is to create a collection of photos of Jewish communities in America with long-rooted histories, as people continue to migrate away from them, she said.
In middle school, Lillie discovered that it meant something to be Jewish. As time went on, she became more comfortable identifying with Judaism.
“I realized Judaism was part of who I am and something I should care about,” Crowther said.
This prompted an increased security in her identity. Since then, she grew an appreciation for her Jewish sorority, B’nai B’rith.
She recounts a specific memory of an event after Halloween, Havdalah-ween, that her sorority celebrated after the Jewish day of rest, Shabbat. She remembers lighting candles, praying, and singing songs to commemorate the Jewish holiday, and subsequently smashing pumpkins.
B’nai B’rith is valuable to her because she and other teens get to experience Judaism without the input of their parents or recounting their personal history, she said
“I’m just a teenage girl living in America wanting to have fun with people my age, but also, I’m building a connection with my religion,” Crowther said.