exclusive one on one interview with Ester Molayeme of IndependentFilm.com.
Ester Molayeme (EM): How did this movie come about?
Monty Lapica (ML): First and foremost, I was looking for an original story. I had never seen a film that dealt with the subject of these secretive, for-profit, teen rahab facilities and I thought it had a lot of dramatic potential, plus, from my experience of actually being locked in one when I was 17, I could tell the story from an insider's perspective. I also wanted to make a personal film centering around some of the experiences and feelings I had as a troubled teenager growing up in Las Vegas.
EM: How much of your personal experiences in the movie are factual?
ML: It's loosely autobiographical. The heart of the story stems from real life experiences in the way that, subsequent to my father's death when I was 17, my life began to spiral out of control and my mother found it necessary to hire a private company to kidnap and confine me in a locked down adolescent hospital. The impetus behind the story is real. Also, many of the characters are based on real people, like my mom and my friends. And I did escape from the actual facility. On the other hand, a lot of the characters and situations depicted in the film are entirely fictional. And the McGyveresque character traits I've given my character are very much exaggerated, of course. I tried to take the most interesting aspects of the story from real life and couple those with imaginary situations and characters to make for a better, more dramatic and entertaining story.
EM: What impact did this movie have on you?
ML: Well, from a filmmaking standpoint, the process of making your first feature film is inevitably quite a learning experience. You gain a much more thorough understanding of long-form storytelling and how much a story evolves from the script stage to the screen. On a more personal level, making this film proved to be a very cathartic experience for me, obviously, because of the nature of the subject matter.
EM: As a writer, director, and actor, what was it like to wear three hats and would you do it again?
ML: It's a bit limiting from a director's perspective because so much time must be spent in front of the camera that you would love to have for directorial tasks. There's never enough time on a film set as it is. On the other hand, it's a lot of fun because with acting, the experience is very immediate whereas with directing the real gratification comes several steps later when the film is complete and you can see the story come together as a whole. I'd do it again someday, but for my new script, Methodical, I plan on just directing. I'm looking forward to spending more time working with the actors.
EM: Have the actual characters seen the movie and how did they react to it?
ML: Yeah, my mom has seen the film and she really likes it. She thinks the depiction of her, although not exactly flattering, was pretty honest. She also had a lot of fun with the idea of Diane Venora, this incredible actress, playing a character that was based on her. They had a chance to meet while Diane was researching her character and actually became friends. She really admires Diane as an actress and thought the whole experience was really cool. I know the company that owned Brightway Adolescent Hospital is aware of the film and they're not too happy about it. They're currently defending themselves in a class-action lawsuit over the abuse that was taking place in their facility, and the film doesn't exactly help their cause.
EM: What was it that you wanted this film to communicate to the viewers?
ML: There was really no singular message that I hoped to communicate. At the end of the day, I just wanted to make an emotionally affecting, entertaining movie. Hopefully, I've done that.
EM: What were the major technical challenges you encountered?
ML: The movie's look belies the fact that this a low-budget film, and that's a credit to Denis Maloney's talent and skill as a cinematographer. There were a few times during the making of this film when it was literally just 3 people, me, Denis and a camera assistant, riding around in a pick-up truck grabbing shots on the Las Vegas Strip with available light. At one point we were shooting a scene in the middle of the Strip, on a weekend, where an actor is hanging out of the window of a moving truck aiming a gun, and we had no film permit! No one outside of the crew had a clue what we were doing. But we needed the shot and that was the only way we could get it, so it had to happen. Many of the extras in the movie aren't extras, they're real people who we happened to film while making the movie. It makes for more authentic backgrounds anyway. For the paintball scene, we didn't have special effects, we just padded up our extras and shot them with paintballs for real. Real guerilla filmmaking.
EM: Do you like this genre, and is your next movie similar to this one?
ML: Well, I'm a drama guy but not necessarily a genre guy. For me, it's about finding an idea for a story that interests me enough to make a movie about and, also, to live with for a few years of my life. I aim to make my next film as different as possible from Self-Medicated to continue to challenge myself and grow as a storyteller.
EM: What are you working on next?
ML: I have a script that I wrote called Methodical, and it’s sort of an anti-revenge film. It’s about ordinary characters who, through some circumstance, whether it be loss, tragedy, betrayal or loneliness, are forced to change very radically and metamorphosize into something more machine-like and methodical, where they are pursuing a single purpose and become lost in that pursuit.