“You just can’t make this up,” said Carina Rush, of Brewster, N.Y., co-producer of No Letting Go, a film about a boy’s undiagnosed mental illness. Based on real life, it shows how mental illness can incapacitate a child, destroy a family and endanger others. About to go into production in Westchester, No Letting Go expands on an award-winning shorter film, Illness by the same creative team. Both films are honest, unflinching portrayals of actual events.
No Letting Go captures the frustration parents feel when a troubled child refuses help. It follows a family on their difficult journey as they realize that the actual diagnosis of a child’s mental illness can take four, five, as many as eight years. Mental illness is often dismissed as a case of adolescent hormones, but it is a disease, a chemical imbalance which makes the brain operate on a different level.
“The script is based on what happened to my son,” said Randi Silverman, co-producer and co-writer (with Jonathan Bucari.) “The mother in the film could be me. The way the son’s illness affects the family is what actually happened. A child’s mental illness puts an enormous strain on a marriage. In our film, the parents stay together, but many times, a marriage ends in divorce. We’ve given the film a hopeful ending. We certainly didn’t want to end with a hunky-dory, happily-ever-after ending. That just wouldn’t be true. Even after diagnosis and treatment, on an everyday level, there’ll always be tweaks that have to be made to maintain mental health.
“We want our film to be seen by as many people as possible. The goal is to increase awareness of the many children and adolescents who experience varying levels of mental illness. Pediatricians should see the film. We have to get people talking about it. Nothing can be done until the subject is out in the open,” said Ms. Silverman.
The timeliness of the film is astounding. In the June 2 issue of the N.Y. Times, a front-age article: “Before Brief, Deadly Spree, Trouble Since Age 8” is about the recent killings and suicide in California by a 22-year-old young man. Quote: “The parents had faced concerns about the boy’s mental health every day of his life.”
Ms. Silverman and Ms. Rush met because their youngest sons were both performers. When Ms. Silverman’s middle son was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, she made mental health advocacy her cause, sending out e-mails to make congressmen aware of the need for services. She told Ms. Rush that she was producing a short film about mental illness. “The script was so real,” said Ms. Rush, “it could have happened in my own kitchen. Because I knew about it first-hand, I was asked to be a consultant.”
The filmmakers took the short film, Illness, to festivals where they won several awards. “Audiences wanted to know more. We realized we couldn’t tell the whole story in 15 minutes. That’s when we started writing a feature film, No Letting Go,” said Ms. Silverman.
“The script came naturally, but painfully. One in five children has mental problems but nobody talks about it. When you have a child with an illness that disrupts the family’s life, the fear is intense. Most parents say ‘My son would never harm anyone, but when he is very ill, I don’t know what he might do.’ What’s been amazing is how many people really want to get involved. They’re waiting for someone to bring it up.”
Volunteers working on the film are donating time, equipment, locations. They’re personally, passionately concerned with the subject. “If nothing else, I hope people walking out of the theater will be talking about it,” said Ms. Silverman.
Denise Simon of South Salem, N.Y., another mother who has been personally affected, is doing the casting for the film. As an actor, acting coach, teacher, with numerous contacts, she was ready and willing to do the casting.
“We have professional actors with impressive credentials in leading roles. Actors were eager to participate in a film that was more than just a job,” she said. Ms. Simon is still looking for extras, both youngsters and adults. Anyone interested may e-mail [email protected]
Funding for the short film came from the filmmakers themselves, friends and sponsors. A foundation is being set up to help fund the feature film. Also, “From The Heart Productions” which supports films with social causes will enable contributions to be tax-deductible.
Where to go for help will be part of the film. Ms. Silverman emphasizes: “We want to make sure that we remove the stigma associated with children’s mental health. Kids with asthma carry around an inhaler, but children with mental illness hide it.
“Growing up is hard. Being a parent is hard. No Letting Go is an ultra- low budget production. People don’t do these things to make money, but because they’re passionate about it,” she said.
To see the short film Illness, go to: https://vimeo.com/70900904; Password illness2013.
For the website:www.nolettinggomovie.com