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WATCH: Local Moms' Anti-Drug Documentaries Headed to Newport Film Fest

Three Laguna Niguel mothers set out to spread the word about the prescription drug epidemic in their films "Overtaken" and "Behind the Orange Curtain." Both will be shown at the prestigious festival April 28 and May 3.

A mother’s love never wavers, even in death.

Laguna Niguel mothers , and know this all too well. Over the past year, they have tried to bring attention to a growing local epidemic of , and they have been successful via their two documentary films on the subject. Click here to watch the Overtaken trailer and click here to watch Behind the Orange Curtain trailer.

Both films will be screened at the prestigious Newport Beach Film Festival this month.

Overtaken takes "a look at the battle of addiction through the eyes of those whose lives have been overtaken by drug abuse."

Behind the Orange Curtain is "an in-depth look at the epidemic of prescription drug addiction plaguing teens and adults throughout Orange County and its heartbreakingly personal consequences as families are being shattered by something legal, available, and as close as their medicine cabinets."

Laguna Niguel Patch has written about both films, and interviewed the moms. We caught up with them again to learn about what’s new and what movie-goers can expect when the festival plays April 26-May 3.

Overtaken a Success

Barber and Brant’s film Overtaken may be seen April 28 at noon. Soon after, it will be shown on Cox Channel 3. 

“I feel grateful that Overtaken was accepted at the Newport Beach Film Festival and moving forward it will be shown to people across the nation. This could possibly mean it will be accepted into more schools,” said Barber whose son, Jarrod, 19, died in 2010 of a prescription drug overdose. “I never in my wildest dreams thought that us two moms, Christine Brant and I, whose idea to bring forth the epidemic through a documentary with a low dollar budget, would inspire so many.”

Overtaken was made for both intermediate and high schools, as well as anywhere else needed, she said. Along with a three-page lesson plan, it is part of the curriculum in health classes. It is now in colleges, DUI classes, rehabs, sober living, detention centers and jails across the nation.

“We are happy with the results, thus far. Awareness and education is key,” she said.   

As for the future of the film, Barber said the women have edited and updated it to a newer version.

“We have been asked to make a shorter version, specifically for doctors. They need to be educated as well, as to what their patients are using and their patients’ background, before prescribing meds. We made a trailer for movie theaters. Christine and I, along with the guest speakers are keeping very busy doing presentations in schools. We would also like to see it in more churches.” 

In the time that it has been out, Barber said Overtaken has helped educate parents in many ways.

“Most parents still have never heard of the opiate called, 'Oxymorphone,' better known as 'Opana.' This is a painkiller used for terminal cancer and dirty doctors are prescribing it. It's a hundred times worse than OxyContin. Like my son, many have died after abusing the pill. In the film, Dr. Winokur describes exactly how it's done. This is very important for parents to see. Also, in the film, parents will see that the young adults were maybe just like their own child. Good looking, smart, 'A' students, football players.

"Parents cannot be immune to the fact; that it won't happen to their kid. They will see just out how addicting the pills are. Also, they learn that marijuana is in fact a gateway drug. Parents, who smoke weed themselves, need to wake up!”

Also as a result of getting the word out, Barber said more and more parents are aware of the growing problem, thanks to the film. 

“Their kids are coming home from school and talking about Overtaken. This has opened up the communication between parents and their kids, but so much more is needed. Instead of jewelry parties, parents are now throwing 'pizza parties!' Their middle school child invites his or her friends, and their parents for pizza, and then they watch Overtaken and discuss it.” 

Behind the Orange Curtain

Costa, too, has been a driving force in getting the message about prescription drug overdose out to the masses via her film Behind the Orange Curtain. And while she has not had a child die because of a drug overdose, she knows many parents and friends who have.

Behind the Orange Curtain will be shown at the Newport Beach Film Festival on May 3 at 8:30 p.m. at The Big Newport. The first two screenings have already sold out. The powerful film has also been accepted in the Stony Brook Film Festival from July 19-28 in Stony Hill, N.Y.  

“It is an honor to be accepted at the Newport Beach Film Festival it is such a well respected venue to have your film presented and screened. It is especially gratifying because we are in our home court. Behind The Orange Curtain is about the dirty little secret of prescription drug abuse and deaths in this county, and we now have the chance to get the word out to our community that we are facing a devastating epidemic,” Costa said.  

Like Barber, she never thought the film would take off so quickly, but she is thrilled that it has.

“We set off planning to create awareness to the drug abuse problem in Orange County," she said. "Watching parents bare their souls and re-live the loss of their child just so others can know the dangers is remarkable. They are willing to tell their story over and over again with the hope that parents will understand the problem that we are facing in Orange County and across America.”   

In terms of the future of the film Costa said a second part is not in the works but there are further plans for its message.

“I think the film will stand on its own for quite some time. The message as it is timeless. We plan on submitting to additional festivals throughout the U.S. and we will be airing it on PBS in the near future,” she said. 

Her film like Overtaken has also made an impact on many parents and communities.

“The sweet spot for addiction is between the ages of 12 and 15. My goal is to inform the parents of younger children that this is a very real problem. Most parents are shocked when they hear the age of experimentation with drugs and alcohol. If you reach them before age 12, then you have a good chance of keeping them out of harm’s way. The other issue is that some parents honestly believe it will not happen to their child. 

"Through all of the interviews for Behind The Orange Curtain, the one constant was that all of these kids came from good families," she continued. "They were good kids, they went to good schools, churches, played sports, and had supportive loving parents. The truth about addiction is that it doesn't discriminate. It doesn't matter if you live on Park Avenue or the park bench; everyone is at risk by making one bad choice. I really believe that we have to beat the drum and inform the parents."

Costa said 'Just say no,' does not work. Just as everyone is clear on drinking and driving, they need to be clear on what is out there waiting for their child, she said.  

“I think that we have a tsunami of parents who are speaking louder and clearer than ever on what has happened to them, their families, and their lives because of this problem," she said. "Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack is on board with the film as her own son battled an Oxy addiction.  

"Everyone I speak to knows someone who is addicted, battling or has died from drugs and that is not an exaggeration. When I tell them about the film, they tell me about who they know who is in trouble with drugs. Many more now than ever before but it's still not enough.”  

Her fight is not over however, the next part of this problem is to get California State Assembly Bill AB472 (Ammiano) passed, she said. 

“This bill will provide that it will NOT be a crime for any person experiencing a drug-related overdose or those attempting to get help for those overdosing. We have several families in our film whose children would most likely be alive today if this bill was in effect," she said. "One father's daughter was left for nine hours before they called for help. Another family’s son was left on the side of the road after his 'friends' drove past several hospitals and attempted to make calls from payphones."

In their drug induced panic—they dumped his body, Costa said.

"This bill does not endorse drug use. It simply allows those who need help to get it,” she said. 

For more information about these films and the Newport Beach Film Festival visit newportbeachfilmfest.com/2012/

Jodi Barber April 16, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Great article Debbie. Thank you for spreading this important message! Tom, so happy the film helped your daughter. Thank you for the tip and great comment. I will definitely keep Gilbert busy!! I
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) April 16, 2012 at 05:06 PM
@Steve: These moms are all incredible and really deserve all the kudos in the world.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) April 16, 2012 at 05:06 PM
@Cari: They are indeed.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) April 16, 2012 at 05:07 PM
@Tom: Thanks for your comments, these women are truly heroes.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) April 16, 2012 at 05:07 PM
@Barb: Both films should be seen by everyone.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) April 16, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Jodi: All three moms are incredible.
charles linden April 16, 2012 at 05:35 PM
These women are saints, they have turned a bad situation into something positive. Wow. The story is one of the best that I have ever read.
Natalie Costa April 16, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Thanks Debbie for sharing our story. Being quiet about this epidemic is not an option. There is much to do and massive support needs to be rallied to make sure those in power can hear this call for help. Mary Bono Mack is on board. Now if we could only get our local elected officials to listen. The ostrich method of putting your head in the ground and pretending this doesn't exist is not acceptable. So Mayors, Assemblymen(women), City Council members lend us your ear - because you are going to hear us anyway. This problem does exist in your jurisdiction - so pay attention to these parents who have lost their children, those that might lose them - and to those that still have hope that they will never have to deal with this. By the grace of God, it could happen to anyone of our children.
Narmela Sargis April 16, 2012 at 06:29 PM
All these mom's are amazing. I personally know Natalie Costa and I have never met anyone as passionate and caring as Natalie. She is a big advocate for kids and is always trying to find ways to help improve the qualify of life for our kids. From her acting school to her passion for producing movies such as Behind the Orange Curtain, she always puts kids first. This powerful movie that she has undertaken to produce is a clear and loud message that needs to be heard by every parent. Too many young lives are being wasted due to drugs. Parents are so oblivious most of the time. We need advocates like Natalie who is willing to put in her time and energy and bring this to everyone's attention. I for one am proud to know her and to be associated with her. I hope the message from the movie reaches the eyes and ears of the congress and I hope new laws will be implemented to monitor and severely punish doctors who prescribe drugs to our kids. I can't wait to see the movie in May.
CC April 16, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Thank you Debbie for the article. We have had great support from our community. As a Mom raising 4 kids and a Laguna Niguel resident for 25 years I have to say I really had no idea we had a problem until my daughter lost a dear friend to an overdose. Jodi and I have had the honor of speaking to thousands of kids and so many of them need help. Take the time to learn who your kids are and have the talks with them. One message we need to get out to kids is to call 911 if their friends are nodding off or they are unresponsive - many of the kids featured in the opening of Overtaken died with friends who knew they were in trouble but were afraid to call for help. This is something to tell your kids and their friends that could save lives. It seems obvious to adults but it is startling how often kids run away when they should be calling 911. We all need to realize the drug addict of today's generation looks just like any normal kid from a good family.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) April 16, 2012 at 08:01 PM
CC: You and the other moms have done an incredible job in getting the word out and I think it will just continue to spread as more and more people learn of the movies, the plight, etc.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) April 16, 2012 at 08:02 PM
@Narmela: All of these women are truly incredible and well deserving of the credit they are receiving, thanks for writing in and sharing.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) April 16, 2012 at 08:02 PM
@Natalie: I am honored to share your stories.
Tom Berney April 16, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Gilber Issac would like to hear from everyone and has great insite on addiction, call or text him on this number; (714) 809-7548
Trisha April 16, 2012 at 10:06 PM
The more people that go to see these films, the bigger the chance we all have to save the youth of today. Every parent should make this a must see for their family.
sharon whittaker April 16, 2012 at 10:07 PM
These women are all wonderful assets to the community and are true leaders. Thank you for this great story.
charles linden April 16, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Way to go Jodi, Chris and Natalie .. I will definitely go see these films.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) April 16, 2012 at 10:24 PM
@Tom: Thanks, sounds like he could be helpful.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) April 16, 2012 at 10:24 PM
@Trisha: Agree 200 percent!
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) April 16, 2012 at 10:24 PM
@Sharon: They are indeed!
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) April 16, 2012 at 10:25 PM
@Charles: They are truly terrific ladies, each and every one of them.
Barton Mac Leod April 16, 2012 at 11:37 PM
I don't think there is anyone out there that has not been effected in some way by teen drug issues.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) April 17, 2012 at 12:18 AM
@Bart: especially here in the O.C. great video btw.
stuart branson April 17, 2012 at 02:21 AM
I have seen both films and they are excellent, everyone needs to watch.
Gilbert April 17, 2012 at 05:37 AM
The drug epidemic is getting worse and I am grateful for both films or any type of drug or alcohol awareness.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) April 17, 2012 at 04:01 PM
@Gilbert: Yes, the moms have done a superb job.
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) April 17, 2012 at 08:42 PM
@vcova: Please drop Jodi an email at jbbb1979@aol.com and Natalie Costa at theperformersacademy@gmail.com . Thanks for reading and the great feeedback.
Kaard Bombe April 19, 2012 at 04:18 AM
Just wanted to let you know the actual link to the Overtaken Trailer is http://youtu.be/r2cqZ_9zKYY Hopefully this trailer can give you all a better sense of the movie! Congratulations to Jodi and the Overtaken crew and huge props to Patch & Debbie to making sure this important problem and discussion is not forgotten by our community!
angela barneby April 20, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Kaard: You did a great job and the moms, too. I've enjoyed reading about them on Patch and will be going to the movie and taking my teenagers.
Martha Mosier April 24, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Thank you Natalie, Jodi and Christine. Parents who don't think this is a serious issue facing ALL OF OUR TEENS in OC need to start talking to their kids. It is not fun to hear about it, but my four teens along with these films have enlightened me. The truth is frightening. There is no hype here...this is reality like it or not...We all must step up. You three ladies have started this awareness ball rolling... and I want to THANK YOU!

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