When her son was 17 and hard to handle at home, Monty Lapica's mother had him kidnapped to a teen "boot camp" facility to straighten him out.
Now, at 26, Lapica has made an award-winning movie - a cautionary tale based on the harrowing experience of his youth.
"Self-Medicated" - screening this weekend at the Flint Film Festival - emerged from Lapica's desire to educate people about the dangers of controversial teen attitude-adjustment centers, and his quest to make a very personal movie.
Lapica plays a fictionalized version of himself in the film, which he directed and wrote. "Self-Medicated" also features Diane Venora ("Heat," "The Insider") as his mother and Greg Germann (TV's "Ally McBeal," the new film "Friends With Money") as a sympathetic counselor.
The education aspect "was my original intent, absolutely," Lapica said recently from his Los Angeles home. "It took me seven years from the time when I was locked up in one of those programs to when I started to make the film. Since that time, the institution I was in was shut down, but other ones still exist."
A native of Las Vegas, Lapica was sent away by his mother as a last resort. Struggling after the heart-attack death of his father, Lapica, a former honor student and star athlete, had fallen into drugs and alcohol. The kidnappers were from an organization called Teen Help, and they brought Lapica to a facility in St. George, Utah, where, he said, he was physically and emotionally abused.
"I have no hard feelings; I absolutely understand why she did it," Lapica said of his mother. "She was running out of options. The way these companies present (what they do) to parents is very misleading. They send materials that depict the institution as a great place for teens to get away ... but people there are often inexperienced in dealing with troubled teens.
"In some of these places, kids have died. ... Most prevalent is the emotional abuse. These (centers) were run by for-profit, private companies that weren't subject to governmental oversight, although that is changing."
After his ascension to the legal freedom of adulthood, Lapica entered Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles to study film. "It was time to mature," he said, crediting his faith in God and a "responsibility to my parents to live a productive life."
Once he decided to make his own independent movie, he and a longtime friend, producer Tommy Bell, raised the $1 million budgeted for "Self-Medicated."
Of getting "name" actors like Venora, Germann and Michael Bowen ("Kill Bill, Vol. 1"), Lapica said: "They responded to the script and were excited about the material. They took drastic cuts in pay as opposed to what they would make in a studio film."
Lapica shot "Self-Medicated" during 2003 and '04, "when we had resources, and when the actors were available," he said. The finished product won the Grand Jury Prize at the Rome Film Festival and other honors at festivals in Memphis and Phoenlx, among other places.
Lapica just signed a foreign distribution deal for "Self-Medicated" and hopes to find North American theatrical and video outlets soon. Another plus: His girlfriend is Kristina Anapau, who plays a friend in the film.
"We've been completely blown away; we never thought we'd get this kind of response to the movie," he said. "When we made the film, we just hoped for it to be accepted to a couple of film festivals and be shown to some audiences."
"Self-Medicated" will be shown at the third annual Flint Film Festival at noon Friday in Isabel Hall of the Flint Institute of Arts and noon Sunday in the FIA Theatre. The festival runs Thursday through Sunday at the FIA, 1120 E. Kearsley St. Information: (810) 237-FILM, www.flintfilmfestival.com, www.selfmedicated.com.