LEBANON, Pa. (WHTM) — High school students in Lebanon County are helping fight the opioid epidemic by being a part of a feature film.
“Life After You” is based on a book written by Linda Lajterman, whose 19-year-old son overdosed on heroin laced with fentanyl.
“Each of these kids has to ask themselves, ‘Am I willing to die to fit in?’ Because that’s the choice and that’s the chance they’re taking,” Lajterman said.
After her son died, she penned “Life After You: What Your Death From Drugs Leaves Behind.”
“My hope was to reach one kid, one kid that maybe will make a better choice than my son did. And I did. I got my one and I got more,” Lajterman said.
Now her reach spans even further through a feature film that was shot locally. The crew chose Lebanon because one of the producers, Brian Long, is from Palmyra.
“We really see in very real ways how it affects the family and everyone around them and what they have to live with after everyone’s gone,” Long said.
Throughout January, local businesses lent space for shoots and 500 people provided bodies for extras, 100 of whom were Cedar Crest High School students.
“In high school, you feel pressured to fit in so especially to people my age I feel like, it’s important to be like, ‘Hey there are consequences to this, not only to you but to people in your lives,'” said Carter Kent, a Cedar Crest senior.
“Sometimes I don’t think we touch on that subject enough, so I think that’s a message that needs to be spread, especially to this age group,” said Alyssa You, a junior at Cedar Crest.
Both Kent and You participate in Cedar Crest’s broadcast and film program. The two had the opportunity to shadow some of the crew.
“I want to be a director, so when this opportunity presented itself, I was like there’s no way I’m not taking this opportunity,” You said.
Philip Domencic, superintendent of Cornwall-Lebanon School District, said having his students involved was beneficial for many reasons.
“It’s a story that speaks to every community. It’s a real issue that’s out there that’s affecting this country and we felt that that’s a story that needs to be told,” Domencic said.
“Unfortunately this epidemic is still claiming lives all over the country,” said Charlene Giannetti, executive producer of “Life After You.” “We hope that people will see it, it will create a dialogue and lead to some change.”
The producers say the film won’t be ready for another year or two, but they hope to screen the film in theaters and on streaming services.