Just Say Goodbye, in theaters now, tells of a young woman who attempts to help her depressed male friend beat his illness.
I was lucky to speak with writer Layla O’Shea about this powerful, important new movie.
I’m always intrigued where film ideas come from. How and why did this come to you?
I had an idea hanging out there about teen suicide for a while. A friend in high school told me he planned to take his life over April vacation, so I wanted to incorporate that single element. I wanted to explore a character who didn’t go to adults for help after hearing such a confession like I did. When I heard about an 11-year-old boy hanging himself in the town beside mine because of relentless bullying, it was this unimaginable tragedy that sparked me to finally get the story on the page.
Did the original idea get tweaked as you worked more and more on the screenplay?
The script changed quite a bit from the first draft, mainly due to budget constraints, but the story of friendship between Jesse and Sarah remained the root of the script. At one point, I changed the script to be a bit more “mainstream”, but it didn’t feel right, so I switched it back to the tale I REALLY wanted to tell.
When did you know ‘I have something here!’…?
I always come back to Robert Frost’s quote: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” When I wrote the script, I cried…and laughed. And then when I had a few initial readers tell me the same, that’s when I knew I had a story with heart. And it’s the stories with heart that stick fast in the minds of viewers long after the credits roll.
How much of the film serves as an educational tool and how much as a piece of entertainment?
While I did start out writing Just Say Goodbye as a piece of entertainment, there’s no denying the educational element of the story. The film is absolutely not intended as a guide for what to do when one finds a friend is in a deep depression and in need of help, but more so the potential pitfalls of trying the “help” that friend all on their own. Unfortunately, many teens don’t take threats of suicide from friends seriously enough to solicit the advice/help of adults. We hope this movie ignites conversations, especially with teens, that they SHOULD seek out adults. Because helping friends with depression is NEVER a burden they should take on alone.
You’ve cast two very fresh faces who are outstanding. Are they exactly the ‘types’ you pictured when writing the roles?
I would have to say yes. When I came to Max’s and Katerina’s video auditions, there was no doubt in my mind that these were the two actors I really wanted.
Is there anything you’d do differently next time?
I wish I had raised enough money to give all the actors what they really deserved for all the hard work they put in.
Like actors, do writers find it hard to watch their own work sometimes?
I did find it hard to watch in a few instances during the film, but those moments were primarily due to the shoestring budget we had to work with. The actors’ performances made me more proud than anything, and not hard at all. This could have been a VERY different response if we didn’t land such talented performers. I’ve sat through the entire editing process, and watched the film numerous times, and I am still blown away.
You should be very proud. Is this your first script?
The first of many that followed!
What else are you working on?
I’m in the process of querying agents regarding my mystery/suspense novel A Well of Vengeance. A sometimes ego-crushing endeavour! I’m also wrapping up the series bible for my drama pilot script SPLIT DECISIONS. I was told after recent script coverage that the concept is very original/marketable. We’ll see if others think the same once I start pitching it!
Tell us where and when it’ll be available…
Aside from the weeklong screening in Los Angeles from May 10th – 16th, Just Say Goodbye is available on DVD and Video-On-Demand platforms. We’re so blessed that it’s already being sold through major outlets like Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon, and Target!