I was prompted to write What If…Then What? when my best friend’s son attempted suicide. With his entire family at no more than two hundred feet away from him, he was found hanging in his closet by his older brother. His mother asked herself over and over, “Where did things go wrong? When did they go wrong?” One day while searching through old photos, she found her answer. The pictures showed the change in him. The difference was her son’s smile. Over the course of a year, it had dissipated and was replaced with sadness. A change she hadn’t noticed until it was almost too late. Witnessing my friend experience this trauma first hand forced me to pay closer attention to my son. In doing so, I learned he was having issues with bullying at school and online on PlayStation.
What if…Then What? is a dramatic story of a friendship being torn apart by change. It follows 11-year-old, Cameron Walker and his friendship with Kyle Morris. Cameron is aware that they are growing apart from one another which started when Kyle joined the school’s basketball team. The action surrounds the influence of Kyle’s teammates who don’t deem Cameron “cool” enough to hang with them. Their obstacle is how to balance the old friendship with the new friendship. Kyle struggles to stand up for his old friend and Cameron struggles with feeling left out of the cool kids group and ultimately wanting to get even with them all for bullying him. While the film explores bullying and what happens in the mind of people before attempting suicide, it also explores the difficulties of being different, and the complexities of standing up for one’s self and friends.
My objective when developing the script was to address these complex social issues and to hopefully invoke discussion for the greater good. Therefore, instead of asking, “Where did things go wrong?” We ask, “Am I missing any warning signs?” Or “Could there be more to his or her change of attitude?” Studies show are usually three or more factors simultaneously brewing in a child's life when he or she is thinking about taking his or her life.
My hope is that this film and anti-bullying program will further ignite awareness about bullying and open dialogue about suicide for children, parents, and teachers.