DISTRICT HEIGHTS — One Suitland High School teen had the opportunity of her dreams after taking a chance and submitting her best idea for a road safety Public Service Announcement (PSA).
Makiya Mason is a sophomore in high school who dreams of watching her ideas on the big screen and last week, she began to make that dream a reality. Mason is the first-ever winner of the Drive Safe D.C. contest sponsored by The National Road Safety Foundation.
The foundation, a non-profit that specializes in road and driving safety material, invited teens from around the Washington, D.C. area to submit ideas for a PSA about the dangers of distracted driving.
“Makiya’s PSA emphasizes the important message that you can’t use your cell phone and drive safely at the same time,” Michelle Anderson of the foundation said.
Talking cars and text messages from friends take center stage in Mason’s idea. In her submitted storyboard, she detailed how a teenage driver’s interaction with an incredulous radio helps the driver see the dangers of distracted driving. She said she wanted her PSA to be different and definitely not sad.
“The person reaches for their phone and the radio starts talking to them saying ‘what are you trying to do? You trying to get us both killed?’” Mason said. “You still have the statistics and stuff in there, but it’s not all that sad.”
She pulled inspiration from everywhere, said her father, Ahmal Henderson. Mason took all the input from her families and friends and considered what she wanted her PSA to look like. No matter how much she tried to include all the ideas sent her way, she kept coming back to her very first thought – having the radio talk to the distracted driver – and she went with her instinct.
In the end, Mason’s gut feeling paid off, and Marilou Yacoub, from Alan Weiss Productions, said the team could not resist the original idea. The production company, led by Alan Weiss, was part of the selection process.
“We loved the idea of the talking radio. It was different than anything else we’d seen, and we thought it was a good way to communicate to this age group,” she said.
Yacoub said the production company works year-round with The National Road Safety Foundation on video materials, but this project is one of her favorites because it is not only focused on teens creating safety messages for their peers, but its an opportunity to help teach a budding producer or director.
Mason was so excited when her parents surprised her with the news that she won, she started crying. She could not wait for the opportunities the contest would bring. Not only did she win the competition and $2,000, but she also won the chance to film the PSA with Weiss. Kimberly Sanchez, a sophomore from Surrattsville High School, was the runner-up and received $1,000. Both ladies’ ideas were selected from nearly 100 entries.
On Jan. 17, Mason was finally able to meet with the award-winning producer and his team to film the commercial, and it was really a dream come true, she said.
“It’s crazy to me. I keep thinking, like, ‘this is really real.’ He’s an Emmy Award-winning director,” Mason said. “So just to have this whole thing happening, just for this one little contest that I entered – and how big it is, it’s really, really, really cool.”
Mason and Weiss went through the entire process together, from getting stuck on a hill in the snow, to reshooting scenes to make sure every detail was perfect – especially making sure the car looked like it was in drive. She said the entire day, while tedious, only fueled her passion to pursue film as a career.
“It’s really fun to see the process. That’s one of the coolest things…Seeing Alan work and show people how to do everything. It’s really cool, and I think I want to keep doing this,” she said.
Her father could not be any happier because just a few short months ago, he was nervous about her happiness. Mason and her family had just moved and with the move came the realization she would have to switch schools.
While the family was nervous to move Mason to Suitland High from Crossland High School, they soon realized the opportunities in front of her as she took an immediate interest in both cosmetology and film classes. Mason ultimately decided to follow her passions into the film field and dove head first into taking every opportunity she could get.
“We talked to her about embracing change and taking advantage of new opportunities, and we did that without knowing really what the school had to offer, but we were just sure it would work out,” Henderson said. “But she saw something that she wants, and she’s doing it instantly. Once she has her mind set on something, she immerses herself.”
Henderson said he cannot wait to see Mason’s idea and the dream come alive on the big screen, but he is even more excited to watch his daughter watch her dreams come true.
“As much as I am happy to see the final product, I will be happier to see Makiya see the final product. That’s going to be my favorite part,” he said.
Mason’s PSA will air for the first time at the Washington Auto Show press day on Jan. 25.