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April 5, 2023

Episode 74: Pursuing Breaking the Silence: Empowering Youth Through Film and Conversation with Mollie Leivars

On this episode of Pursuing Uncomfortable, Mollie Leivars speaks openly about her experience with bullying, cyberbullying, and suicidal thoughts. She shares how she overcame these challenges and transformed her pain into a passion for creating films that shed light on important social issues. Mollie discusses the challenges of dealing with online trolling and negative feedback on social media, and shares advice on how to cope with it. She emphasizes the importance of self-care and finding a support system. She also talks about her latest film, The Love of Eve, and her mission to bring understanding and compassion to those involved in drug dealing. Tune in to hear how Mollie turned her struggles into a meaningful purpose and how you can do the same. Did I mention she’s a teenager?

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Hello! My name is Mollie Leivars and I am a young filmmaker based in Kent, UK.

After having a bad experience at school, I decided to start creating films surrounding youth issues so that other young people knew that they were never alone in what they were going through!

I created my first short film in 2019 and have never looked back! I'm lucky enough to have had my films shown across schools and colleges in partnership with local police forces and have most recently been accepted into an LA film festival with my most recent short film, For The Love of Eve.

I came into the industry quite young and have dealt with the mental health implications of that, from burnout to imposter syndrome! Talking about experiences to ensure that no one feels alone in what they are feeling is something that I am very passionate about.

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🎶 Podcast Intro: Welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast, where we give you the encouragement you need to lean into the uncomfortable stuff life puts in front of you, so you can love your life. If you are ready to overcome all the yuck that keeps you up at night, you're in the right place. I am your host, Melissa Ebken let's get going. 🎶


🎶 Episode Intro:  Barely in her twenties, Mollie has accomplished so much. She was bullied in her young life and she chose to address it in a way that would not only help herself, but to help others. Mollie turned to filmmaking and she has made a series of documentaries that look at the difficult moments in life, especially in the lives of young people and gives them a sense that they are not alone, that their struggles are real, and that there's hope on the other side. I'm so pleased to welcome Mollie and her amazing message to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast.  🎶

Melissa Ebken  0:00  
Mollie, welcome to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast. I'm really grateful that you're joining us today.

Mollie Leivars  0:07  
Thank you for having me. 

Melissa Ebken  0:09  
Mollie, your accent tells us that you're not from the United States, you're joining us from across the pond, where are you from?

Mollie Leivars  0:18  
I am originally from Darby in England but now I live in Kent.

Melissa Ebken  0:24  
Excellent. I love technology that it can connect this in such vast spaces. So Mollie, you are a wonder at your age and what you've accomplished, it's really phenomenal. And such an inspiration. Tell us a little bit about what you do.

Mollie Leivars  0:43  
So I am, I am a filmmaker and I predominantly make films that kind of surround youth issues. And a lot of my films so far have been used in kind of schools and colleges as as like an educational resource. And I've been very lucky to be able to kind of go into schools with my films and kind of do workshops and talk next in like that. 

Melissa Ebken  1:08  
Thank you for doing what you do, the things that the youth these days are struggling with. I mean, they've always been around. But I think there's so much more magnified and pronounced these days. And then COVID really kind of put a nice little spin on all of it as well. Tell us a little more about what got you to this point and how you're now doing what you do.

Mollie Leivars  1:33  
So I was acting for a few years. So that kind of gave me an insight into the film industry and next and it was through kind of me and other actors and everything like that. And it kind of was almost like a stepping stone for me. Because I'd never really considered the prospect of being behind the camera, I'd always kind of wanted to do acting. And then it was I had had a bad experience at school. And I realized how alone I felt during that time. And I realized I never wanted anyone else to feel alone in what they were going through. So I thought if I can kind of visualize things in the sense of they can have a visual representation of okay, someone else understands and someone else gets it and everything, then that was something that I really, really wanted to do. So I kind of combined the two. And I made my first film in 2019, I think.

Melissa Ebken  2:31  
And you were how old? 18. That's amazing making your first film at 18 years old. And don't do the math folks. Just leave it as it is.

Mollie Leivars  2:45  
Oh, no, I was I'm 18 now and then I was 15 I think 15 or 16. I think 15, when I made my first one.

Melissa Ebken  2:55  
All right. 18 years old today, with several films under your belt. You're a speaker, you visit colleges, other schools and other places to talk about your experiences. Congratulations on this success. And I can see for those that are listening to the podcast, jump on YouTube later and just look at the passion and the life in Mollie's expression. She loves doing what she does, it's apparent. Um Mollie, when I jump on your website, and that link is in the show notes if anybody wants to check it out. I went to the films and trailers tab. And the ones that you have highlighted there are so compelling uh, For the Love of Eve, can you tell us a little bit about that one?

Mollie Leivars  3:50  
So, For the Love of Eve is my most recent film, and that is that covers the issue with county lines and drug dealing. And it's kind of that's that's the main theme that runs throughout it. But I think it's also about kind of what we're willing to do for the people that we love. And and how because I think with with issues like county lines and with issues like drug abuse and everything like that, I think it can become such a like a almost like people aren't human anymore almost like it's just a statistic or it's just kind of seen as an issue rather than the actual people involved. And I kind of wanted to highlight because when I was I've always wanted to do something on that topic. When I was thinking about it, I was thinking you know, I'd never get involved in anything like that. But then I thought okay if my because I have a younger sister I thought if she came to me and she said you know you need to do this for me or something's going to happen or something. I wouldn't think twice. I'd just do it. So I think that that's what I wanted to show in the film kind of how even though you could easily say I'd never do that and you could judge other people for getting involved in that, if you were in that situation you never ever know kind of what, what decisions you will make. So hopefully that kind of was portrayed in the film, that kind of anyone can get involved and how dangerous it can get so quickly.

Melissa Ebken  5:16  
And that's the thing, I don't think anybody wakes up in a good life and says, Hey, I think I'll be a drug dealer. I think I'm gonna go hang out in these dangerous situations, make little extra cash, doing a little drugs, selling some, it's a series of life experiences that gets us to these points. And when we're desperate, we make desperate decisions. Definitely. And I think you portray that so well, in what you do that it's not that we say this is who we're going to be. But the desperation kind of guides us to these places. And before we know it, we're in a place we never thought we would be. Definitely. So what's in your backstory that got you to this place of wanting to share this?

Mollie Leivars  6:09  
Sorry, it was I, I was bullied at school. And that was kind of I'd always had kind of mental health issues. So I kind of anxiety and depression, everything from a very, very young age. And that kind of that got worse when I was at school. Because of the bullying that was happening and everything. It was never physical. It was never anything like that. But it was a lot of kind of a lot of name calling a lot of kind of rumors and everything like that, and kind of things that that looking back might not have been catastrophic. But at the time when you're in it, it feels so terrible to know that, like, everyone's talking about you, and there's kind of group chats being made about you and everything like that. And I think social media, probably amplified that. I, there were a lot of accounts made about me and everything and comments posted online. Yeah, so that kind of that sent me down kind of a dark tunnel, in a way. And I was very, I was very, very suicidal at that point. And I was kind of I was about 13-14. So kind of from the ages of about 12 to 14, I can barely remember anything because I was totally so like getting depressed that I think my brain is just kind of blocked out. So I can only remember kind of certain things. But yeah, that that was definitely made worse. And this was something that I kind of struggled with. Now, it's not as bad, but it's still something where I have kind of like my, my down days. And then I think that's just kind of the way that I am. And that's the way I'll always be. But yeah, oh, it was definitely made worse by by those at school and the situation that I was in. And it was even though I had kind of amazing parents and really supportive family and everything. I knew how lucky I was to have that. And I knew that not everyone had that. So I mean, without my parents, there is no way that I'd be here. So it's kind of because I felt so alone in what was happening. That was kind of the the initial drive for me thinking, okay, if I didn't have the parents that I did, then I would have done something, and I won't be here anymore. So so if I can kind of make people feel less alone in what they're going through, then that's that's the goal. 

Melissa Ebken  8:31  
What was the turning point for you? Most people hit a rock bottom. But there's something that happens that flips a switch or changes the direction? What was that changing point for you?

Mollie Leivars  8:46  
It was I think initially, it was not many people, none of this actually be it was I I got to a point where I nearly attempted to kill myself. And it was kind of the closest that I'd ever been. And it was then just as I was about to do it, something in my head said, you've got more to do. And you've got more of a purpose. And that kind of that hit me. I mean, it didn't take everything away. I'm still depressed, I'm still anxious by still getting bullied, you know, everything was still happening. But that was kind of like a, it just kind of stopped me for that second time. I thought, okay, what if I do have more to do? And I do and that it's I mean, I'm very, very grateful that that kind of happened. And I've been so so that I didn't do anything like that. But yeah, I think that was that was the first moment and then the second moment for me was after leaving school, I enrolled on a college course. That was for people who were like me who had either been bullied or how to kind of carry on responsibilities or loads of different things like 14 16 year olds. And it was obviously my parents had always been wonderful. And they'd always backed my films and everything like that. It was, I was just about to do a premiere, and one of my teachers, and she, she, like, played my films and everything in front of all of the students. And that kind of like, solidified it for me. And if that it started there, where I was told, you've got more to do, and then it was in that moment, that I was like, okay, this is what this is what that voice in my head meant when it said, I've got more to do. So yeah, I'm very grateful for her to that. I cried to her afterwards, and how 

Melissa Ebken  10:40  
Yeah, and she really helped put some form and structure into, into that dream. I think a lot of adults can't identify with what it's like being cyber bullied. Because when we were in school, once we left, it turned off. If we didn't want to experience the bullying, we just didn't go to the places where the people were, and that I had its own problems, of course, you know, withdrawal and whatnot. But to have that 24/7 with no way to shut it off. Even if you don't look at the internet, it's out there, and everybody else is participating in it. And when you're that age, you don't have the perspective of what life can be like beyond school. So your world is still growing, and it's still in its small stages in the school life and those friends that you have encompass all of life that you know, and whent so much negativity coming from that space. I can't imagine how debilitating that would be. 

Mollie Leivars  11:50  
Yeah, it was it was typical because there was no, there was no kind of respite from it. I mean, you know, I could have logged out social media and I could have shut my phone off. But it's, like you said is still there, and other people can still see it. So then I'd get paranoid and everything. And I still kind of, I mean, I've had it thin. So I've had kind of trolls on Twitter and everything that hasn't been as facts. They didn't know me. So it didn't seem as like personal. But yeah, it's still even now and then I'll kind of I'll get notification that I got a comment on something or a message and some of them in my stomach will go a little bit and I think oh, God, that yeah, luckily, iit's, it's fine. But I still kind of get that feeling every now and then. But I think it's just it was it was frustrating more than anything because obviously school I was choosing to go school and that was kind of a choice that I had made. But then I'd almost get angry at the fact that they were like, infiltrating my house as well and kind of at me every single second of every single day. But yeah, I think it's it's so difficult because that's something that I've kind of found with adults I spoke to who have been bullied in the past that for them it was it was done when they left school and everything like that. But but yeah it's kind of social media can be amazing. And it can be a really, really good tool to kind of meet people and everything, but it can also be so difficult because you are there constantly, you're accessible constantly. So yeah.

Melissa Ebken  13:29  
What was your first film? What was that one that the teacher showed in class that put form to your dream?

Mollie Leivars  13:37  
That was that was Trauma Jack and that was about knife crime. And about kind of the the kind of knock on effect that that can have. There. That was that was the first one and that was kind of a whirlwind four days filming that it kind of it solidified as I was filming it, I was like this is my life. Now this is what I want to do like forever.

Melissa Ebken  14:04  
And that's also on the website. So if you want to see her first work, if you want to see that seminal moment, this is it that's available there. You also have A Story Called Brooke she navigates being bullied how much of that is an autobiography.

Mollie Leivars  14:23  
Pretty much all of it is kind of based off of what happened. There's a few things that I've kind of changed because to be honest, a lot of it a lot of what was said to me was too graphic to be put in a film to show to kids. So I kind of dumbed it down a little bit. But yeah, but but a lot of it was kind of an I use the comments as well. The people kind of sent me and everything like that. But then kind of tried to make it as PG as posible.

Melissa Ebken  14:57  
Yeah. And then There are other films on there. A Zoe is one, she struggles in a toxic relationship. And I applaud you for your work in that one too. Those are phenomenal products that you're producing that's really going to speak to kids. Thank you. So as a filmmaker, from your first one to your most current one, what have you learned? And how have you grown in your craft?

Mollie Leivars  15:27  
I think I've learned to not put so much pressure on myself, I think, I think that that's kind of the the main thing. And kind of, because it can, when you're kind of organizing filming dates and everything, it can get stressful sometimes and, and you do get a lot of comments and you get a lot of messages and everything from people who don't know what you're doing. And, and then that can be quite difficult, because obviously, you can be so passionate about an idea. And then it's almost like it gets tainted by by the way that other people feel towards it. But yeah, I think it's just kind of having an idea and going with it and not caring so much about kind of whether it's the best film in the world or whatever, if if it if it gets the issue across and if it helped anyone, then kind of I feel like how I've fulfilled what I need to do with it. Yeah, and kind of not, not kind of burn myself out I think.

Melissa Ebken  16:34  
So when you go and speak somewhere, do you have kids that come up to you afterwards and share their stories with you?

Mollie Leivars  16:41  
I had, um, I did an assembly for year sevens and that kind of 11-12 year old, I think. And then I had someone find me on social media afterwards, kind of that night after I'd done it. And she messaged me, and she said that she had been because we showed Brooke and everything. And she had been being bullied and everything. And then to see a film and to see me now kind of after everything that happened because in my talk, I kind of explained what happened to me and everything. And she said to kind of see me now kind of gave her that knowledge that you can kind of get out of it. And you can be okay and everything so that. I mean, that definitely made me cry. Because it was I mean, it was it was just wonderful to kind of have someone go out of their way to not only message me but find me and then and remember my name per to send me a message. But yeah, it was, it was really, really wonderful to receive that.

Melissa Ebken  17:46  
What do you imagine yourself doing in 30 years?

Mollie Leivars  17:50  
I think I'll, I think I'll still be making films, possibly not about youth issues. So I think I think I'll reach a point where I'm not where I can't talk on behalf of youth anymore. Right? Once I get past a certain age, then that's that's me done. But I'd really like to kind of almost pass that on to another young filmmaker. So so there's like a constant stream that it youths talking for youths. But yeah, kind of still making films and and plodding along and meeting people and everything and hopefully kind of teaching and acting and filmmaking and everything like that, because that's something that I'd love to do. But yeah, kind of still doing films and everything. 

Melissa Ebken  18:41  
Yeah. Do you envision yourself being a mentor as you pass this baton to others?

Mollie Leivars  18:48  
I suppose so. I, I really, really hope so. Because there were a lot of young directors that helped me when I was first starting and everything that kind of dealt with a lot of questions from me and a lot of kind of panicked messages. Like, oh my God, I've just deleted footage. What do I do? You know because there were a lot of there's been a lot of errors and there's been a lot of mistakes that I've made that I've kind of learned from now I've kind of I've learned as I've gone that yeah, to be able to kind of do that. The next generation that that's something that I'm really really passionate about doing hopefully.

Melissa Ebken  19:27  
Yeah, I can't wait to see the Mollie and oh, forgive me, is it Leivars? Mollie Leivars School of Filmmaking someday. How fun would that be? 

Mollie Leivars  19:39  
Love it. It would be a dream that would. 

Melissa Ebken  19:43  
At this point in your young life, what can you imagine would be the biggest accolade that you could receive?

Mollie Leivars  19:52  
I think most recently, I've been shortlisted for a an award, the Shark Awards. And that's for a script that I wrote. And that kind of, I mean, I still can't go for that really, and still kind of a bit like yeah, sure. But yeah, that's, that's, I mean, I've got no words about that really, the kind of receiving something like that and being shortlisted for something like that. And it'd been judged by kind of creative director of Ridley Scott Production Company. And then it's just like, oh my gosh, like, these are either industry professionals and everything and the fact that they have read something and taking the time to read something that I've written and have liked it is still kind of, I can't, I can't work out.

Melissa Ebken  20:49  
Well, there are a lot of different talents and aspects of filmmaking. There's a script, the, the angles, you choose to film in the lighting, the soundtrack, all of those things, finding the right person, the casting, is there an aspect of this process that you like more than others? Do you enjoy all of it?

Mollie Leivars  21:12  
I think I think I enjoy the actual physical filming of it the most. Because, I mean, I love the writing side of it, I love to be able to kind of that that first step of getting an idea out there and everything that's always so exciting, because you don't know where it's gonna lead or what's going to happen or anything. But I, I really, really enjoy kind of the actual filming, filming, because it's always so fun. Like, even though we're filming about really serious topics and everything. Like, in my first film, when we were filming a scene where one of the characters is stabbed, like, which is a really gritty, emotional scene and everything. Like, behind the scenes, we're all laughing about different vantage points and then so it's just kind of you seriously make friends for life when you're filming. It's like you've got each film for me. It's like a second and third and fourth family and everything.

Melissa Ebken  22:09  
It sounds amazing. Now for the teenager, or tween that's listening to this podcast or overhearing someone else listening to this podcast, or who finds it on YouTube? What message would you like that person struggling to hear?

Mollie Leivars  22:30  
You are never ever on your own. Even if you're kind of in a situation where you can't talk to your family or anything like that there is always someone out there, who will listen who will help you and who will be able to kind of put you in the right direction. And you honestly never know what's around the corner. Ever. It can be things can feel so bleak, and they can feel like kind of life isn't moving forward. And there's suddenly something will happen. And that might take a day, or it might take a year or, but just kind of just keep waiting. Because you never know and you don't have to live, you don't have to live well, you just have to survive. And then you'll find the the as more time goes on that you find yourself living more.

Melissa Ebken  23:20  
That's beautiful. Let's flip flip the script for a moment, if you will, what would you say to the person who might be in a position to hear this plea from from a teen that feels alone? What would you want that person in that position to know for when that person comes to them?

Mollie Leivars  23:41  
I think it's knowing don't put too much pressure on yourself. Because a lot of the time people just need someone to talk to and they don't necessarily nee need you to have all of the answers. But just knowing that someone cares. And knowing that, that trying and everything, you don't have to fix it for them. And I know that tha'st kind of a natural reaction to have that you want kind of fix people's problems when they're sad. But just kind of being there. And then just having someone come to you and talk about what they're going through that's possibly all that they need. And you can help as much as you can and everything but don't put too much pressure on yourself to kind of fix everything and look up to yourself as well because I think it can be quite difficult when someone is talking to you about something like that. So make sure that you kind of don't take it on too much where it kind of affects you.

Melissa Ebken  24:38  
Mollie Leivars with a vision and a wisdom beyond your years remember this name folks because she is going to leave a mark in this world. And it's going to be a good one. Mollie, thank you so much for joining us today.

Mollie Leivars  24:54  
Thank you for having me.

🎶 Episode Outro: Thank you so much for tuning into today's episode. If this encouraged you, please consider subscribing to our show and leaving a rating and review so we can encourage even more people just like yourself. We drop a new episode every Wednesday so I hope you continue to drop in and be encouraged to lean into and overcome all the uncomfortable stuff life brings your way. 🎶

Mollie LeivarsProfile Photo

Mollie Leivars



My name is Mollie Leivars and I am a young filmmaker based in Kent, UK.

After having a bad experience at school, I decided to start creating films surrounding youth issues so that other young people knew that they were never alone in what they were going through!

I created my first short film in 2019 and have never looked back! I'm lucky enough to have had my films shown across schools and colleges in partnership with local police forces and have most recently been accepted into an LA film festival with my most recent short film, For The Love of Eve.

I came into the industry quite young and have dealt with the mental health implications of that, from burnout to imposter syndrome! Talking about experiences to ensure that no one feels alone in what they are feeling is something that I am very passionate about.