K.T. Curran discusses taking The Holding Cell from stage to screen

The kickoff of the Moonlight Movies series on Friday marks the film premiere of The Holding Cell, but school audiences from Sarasota and Manatee counties may already be familiar with the story. The tale, about a girl named Skylar who falls for a drug dealer and enters a world of prescription drug addictions and overdoses, was first told in a stage production of the same name.

“I wrote the play over the course of a year and performed it at high schools all over the area,” recalls filmmaker K.T. Curran. “The longer we did the play, it almost felt like a community catharsis and a way we could all grieve over what was happening together.”

The story was inspired by true stories of lives lost to drug abuse within the community. Curran, director for Source Productions, was first drawn to the issue after then-Sarasota School Board Member John Lewis introduced her to a pair of mothers who lost sons to drug abuse. She soon started researching the issue and was shocked at how many similar stories existed within the community.

So Curran began writing the story of Skylar. The Holding Cell deals specifically with Oxycontin addiction, as that drug appeared through Curran’s research to have taken a particular toll in Southwest Florida. The play, usually a five-player production, started touring local schools and Curran heard from not just parents but students who had endured grief. “You started to tally the lives lost—a boy who took one of our actors to prom, a sister, a parent…” Curran recalls a teacher who was moved by the play and revealed to her students for the first time that her son had overdosed.

The Holding Cell just turned into a catalyst for people talking,” Curran says.

But success brought with it demands for an encore. While the black box theater production didn’t require a huge amount logistics, it did put stress on actors time. And since Source also has a film arm (Curran produced Boost, which appeared in last year’s festival) and work began to bring the story from stage to screen.

The film has far more people involved—with a crew of 10 and a cast closer to 50—and therefore a greater expense. But it should also give a greater reach. No more arranging to let students out of class for performances in the school day; now teachers could show the tale in classrooms on TV screens. And the potential exists to get nationwide distribution or to put the story on TV, touching students across the country. “We are looking to put out there a face of these young adults that are at risk,” Curran says.

The film is still under consideration for inclusion in the official SFF line-up. The film is sponsored by Brandi’s Wish Foundation, a local foundation named for another overdose victim.

Now while the story is largely aimed at a teen audience, Curran was careful to note the story has some blue language at points. Particularly when dealing with characters who are on or addicted to drugs, Curran felt it important to have dialogue that reflected how the characters would really talk.

A free screening of The Holding Cell kicks of the Moonlight Movies series Jan. 24, 7pm at Out-Of-Door Academy. The get a complete listing of Moonlight Movies screenings, click here.

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