"You can't cry. It gives away your position and your hiding spot."
An 11-year-old named Kayleigh gives that chilling piece of advice to adults on how to survive an active-shooter event in a new PSA from March for Our Lives, titled "Generation Lockdown."
McCann New York and Hungry Man director Bryan Buckley filmed the spot during an all-staff meeting at a company in National City, Calif., near San Diego.
Told they'll be schooled by an "expert" on the subject, the grownups gasp when Kayleigh walks in. Some stare open-mouthed as she begins, "If there was an active shooter, you'd all be dead." She then calmly reels off a grim lockdown protocol:
"When you talk out loud, the shooter can tell where you are, and where you're hiding. Sometimes we play the game, 'Who Can Stay Quietest the Longest?' so we all remember."
"You can try to protect your friend by pushing the tables and chairs against the doors."
"You also have to put a piece of paper over the door window so they can't see in."
"If you're in the bathrooms, you have to stand on the toilet seat, and crunch down, so they can't see your feet, and they can't see your head."
There's more, and it's harrowing, especially when Kayleigh jarringly shouts "Bang! Bang! Bang!" to simulate gunfire and sings a song that helps schoolkids remember the lockdown rules.
Throughout, the adults look increasingly uncomfortable and upset. Perhaps they're wondering how we reached the point where a kid has to perform such drills at school, and why society tolerates stolen childhoods and classroom carnage as a seemingly daily fact of life.
By some estimates, 95 percent of schoolkids 5 and older train for active-shooter episodes. This PSA drives that point home in stark but straightforward terms, ultimately urging viewers to back federal legislation providing universal background checks for firearms sales. (Formed after last year's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which claimed 17 lives, the student-led March for Our Lives promotes gun violence prevention.)
"The idea was inspired by a single tweet that one of our strategists found," McCann creative director Alex Little tells Muse. "A mom describes the heartbreaking moment her kid came home from school and told her that today he learned to barricade his class door. A couple of days later we had a safety drill at McCann and asked ourselves, 'What if a kid was running this thing?' The idea doesn't take long to explain, and when people are moved by a quick idea summary, you know you have something special."
When casting the lead, "we reached out to March for Our Lives chapters in the area and asked about any young activists who had experienced lockdown drills," says producer Gabrielle Levy. "They suggested the incredible Kayleigh. She is not an actor. She has never been in a PSA. She is simply a kid who goes to school and is forced to learn to lockdown drills like millions of other kids."
McCann gathered active-shooter drill instructions from across the country and combined them into a single piece. "We didn't want to portray just one child's experience, because this impacts every kid in America," says creative director Karsten Jurkschat.
The employees had no idea Kayleigh would be leading the active-shooter session. "Everyone—the staff, McCanners and crew from Hungry Man—was choking up," Jurkschat says. "You could feel the emotion in the room, and outside it, because honestly, nothing can prepare you for hearing an 11-year-old girl describing how to run from a man with a semi-automatic rifle."
Kayleigh provided this comment on her participation: "I am honored to be a part of this project to end gun violence because I live in fear every day. I am a leader in my school, and I try to stay calm and quiet during our lockdown drills, but on the inside I am so scared. I don't want to die. I don't want my brothers, my friends or my teachers to die. Please help make schools safe. Make it stop."
"Generation Lockdown" launched Monday and in 24 hours has generated 2 million online views, in addition to a share by Sen. Kamala Harris, one of the hopefuls vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
This is the world we live in. Our children should never have to be experts in what to do during a mass shooting. I'm a proud co-sponsor of S. 42. If Congress fails to pass it within my first 100 days as president, I'll take executive action myself.pic.twitter.com/9FDRQZW7Pk— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) April 29, 2019
March for Our Lives:
Amanda Conlee, Director of Operations
Ryan Deitsch, Co-Founder & Content Creator
Lauren Hogg, Co-Founder
Robyn Mohr, Deputy General Counsel
McCann New York
Eric Silver, Chief Creative Officer, McCann North America
Devika Bulchandani, President, McCann New York
Sean Bryan, Co-Chief Creative Officer, McCann New York
Tom Murphy, Co-Chief Creative Officer, McCann New York
Pierre Lipton, Global Executive Creative Director, McCann New York
Marco Pupo, Executive Creative Director, McCann New York
Karsten Jurkschat, Creative Director, McCann New York
Alex Little, Creative Director , McCann New York
Nathy Aviram, Chief Production Officer, McCann New York
John McAdorey, Executive Producer, McCann New York
Gabrielle Levy, Producer, McCann New York
Jeremy Miller, Chief Communications Officer, McCann Worldgroup
Danielle Korn, Director of Business Affairs, McCann New York
Kimberly Kress, Director of Talent Partnerships, McCann New York
Wilmien Blake, Director of Business Affairs, McCann New York
Terry Marcello, Director of Talent Payment, McCann New York
Bristol Parrish, Senior Project Manager, McCann New York
Film Production: Hungry Man
Director: Bryan Buckley
EPs: Mino Jarjoura, Kevin Byrne, Caleb Dewart
Producer: Matt Lefebvre
Production Manager: Sherra Fermino
DP: Scott Henriksen
Editor: Jason Macdonald
Editor: Justin Quagliata
Executive Producer: Corina Dennison
Post Producer: Malia Rose, Laura Molinaro
Assistant Editor: Tripp McCarty, Scott Zeitlen
Flame: Ed Skupeen
Flame Asst: Mark Reyes
Color: Steve Picano
Finishing: The Mill/LA
Flame: Tom Graham
Creative Director: Phil Crowe
Producer: Marie O'Brien
Executive Producer: Anastasia Von Rahl
Audio Post: Sonic Union
Audio Engineer: Brian Goodheart
Audio Mix Assistant: Kelly Oostman
Audio Producer: Pat Sullivan
Audio Producer: Justine Cortale
Music: Duotone Audio Group
Executive Producer: Ross Hopman
Composer: Brad Fischer
Clearances provided by: STALKR
Executive Producer: Colleen Cavanaugh Anthony
Producer: George Alvarez
Project Manager: Natalie Stowell
Researcher: Niko Savich
Researcher: Craig Phillips