A LaGrange native and current Hollywood screenwriter is hoping to bring the story of a LaGrange teen and his fight with dual diagnosis to the big screen.
Holden Layfield was a junior at LaGrange High School, an athlete with college options, when his life took a dark turn. Drug abuse, stealing, homelessness – the former National Honor Society student’s behavior took an abrupt nosedive.
He would later be given a dual diagnosis: schizophrenia and a drug abuse problem. According to NAMI - National Alliance on Mental Illness – about 50 percent of people with a severe mental disorder experience substance abuse, and according to McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, up to 75 percent of youth with substance abuse problems also struggle with psychiatric illness.
Layfield eventually came back home and started down the road to recovery. However, he died Nov. 16, 1995, at age 19.
The tragic and short life of Layfield inspired Tamlin Hall, a 1997 LHS graduate and recent MFA graduate from the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television, to embark on the process of making a movie about his life as a way to empower those also suffering from mental disorders, substance abuse and dual diagnosis.
Hall had worked on a senior psychology project in high school on schizophrenia and chose Layfield’s story. Holden’s parents allowed Hall to interview them a little over a year after their son’s death, and it later inspired him to revisit the story for a feature film.
“I knew Holden and his family growing up. We attended the same church. We both went to the same public schools,” Hall said. “Holden was a couple years older than me. I reached out to the Layfields in November ‘07 about wanting to tell Holden’s story. I started working on the project in February ‘08.”
He began writing a script and temporarily moved back to LaGrange in the summer of 2008 to do research.
“I interviewed family, friends (and) mental health professionals. I read books on schizophrenia, biographies of those individuals and families dealing with mental illness/substance abuse, got local information from LaGrange High School, LaGrange county courthouse (and) LaGrange archives,” Hall said. “Holden’s parents were very generous in giving me personal items, confidential evaluations, letters, pictures, etc. I could not have done this without their support.”
Hall also started iamholdenon.org, a website that acts as an information hub about the movie, but also a movement for support and providing information for people struggling with mental illness, substance abuse or both. It contains an area for people to share their art to express themselves.
“It’s purely to encourage and admire each other through art,” Hall said. “We felt that Holden’s personality traits of acceptance, generosity and compassion is a great way to touch the world. Everybody could use some encouragement and admiration, so we just created a platform to accommodate.”
The movie will be narrative style, based on Holden Layfield’s story. Hall said he recently attached an actor to play the lead out of Los Angeles. He’s hoping to cast most of the movie with people from the Atlanta area and film in LaGrange.
Hall hopes to begin shooting July 7. However, “if we don’t meet our goal on Kickstarter, we will not be shooting at all.”
The crowdfunding campaign to fund one-third of the movie’s planned budget is now live and can be accessed at www.iamholdenon.org. This morning the campaign was 70 percent funded with less than a week left.
“We need your help! We need at least ($)90,000 to shoot the film,” Hall said. “Please consider making a contribution. We won’t be able to make this film without generous donors. We also need locations, housing, meals. I’m sure we will cast some actors locally.”
Hall said the movie, to be titled “Holden On,” is a “non-glorification true story that never wavers.”
“It’s a constant battle — Holden vs. himself,” Hall said. “It’s a character study of a popular teenager who is dealing with an undiagnosed mental illness.”
He said the Layfield family has worked with him and been involved throughout the script-writing process.
“The Layfields have been able to see every draft of the script. I’ve let them know every time we’ve had a reading of a draft out here in L.A.,” Hall said. “I email updates when someone comes on board the project. They’ve even given me notes on drafts. Any time the script has been acknowledged in a screenplay competition, I let them know.
“There’s a respect factor when you are telling a non-fiction story. It’s my duty as a storyteller to respect them. I hope I have honored that. You also have to respect the story. I informed them when we first started this journey that it will be very uncomfortable at times but it is a mandatory that we expose the ‘bad’ with the ‘good.’”
He thanked the family for their courage in supporting the film.
“The Layfields are the best; this journey has taken courage, trust and faith. I’m honored to be a part of this journey with them. Whatever happens, I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything, at all. Bar none – no regrets.”
Crowd-source funding for “Holden On,” a film based on local student Holden Layfield, is underway. Those wishing to contributed may go to www.iamholdenon.org, or write a check payable to the film production company, Azalea Drive Films LLC, which can be mailed to Azalea Drive Films LLC, 2039 High Tower Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90068; or given to Kami Mike Adams, LaGrange film liaison, who may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-918-6446.