Each day in the U.S., there are 3,041 suicide attempts by high schools students alone. Michael Leoni’s feature film When Today Ends takes on the subject of suicide. A subject that was once hidden in secret and had seen teen suicide attempts broadcast over social media over the years. Inspired by true events, When Today Ends takes a raw look at the subject, and I spoke with writer/director Leoni about the film and its message of hope. When Today Ends is currently available on all Video-On-Demand platforms.
As a filmmaker, what is your background, and what had led you to When Today Ends?
I come from a theatre background and then ventured into film after moving to Los Angeles, but it’s always been the same for me. From a very young age, I tackled projects that have meaning, a message, or in some way can wake people up. My first film was a documentary on homeless youth. I had also done a play about homeless youth. My next film, Famous, is about abuse in the entertainment industry. I also have a film in development about Death with Dignity.
It’s really important to me and my company to take on projects about topics that are not getting the necessary attention in the media. So tackling the subject of teen suicide seemed like a natural fit for us. The goal is to create impact and help lift people up and let them know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. For me, if my work impacts just one person, then I’ve done my job.
“…tell the story in an authentic and hard-hitting way so that parents could really see it from the teens’ perspective.”
Your film takes on the subject of teen suicide in a very real way. What is your experience with the subject matter, and how did it turn into When Today Ends?
I am fortunate to have never had the experience of dealing with depression, but I did have to deal with anxiety and panic disorder. A lot of people that I know have and do, deal with depression. It’s a very real and serious issue, especially when we’re talking about young people.
A few years back, I started seeing news about teenagers taking their own lives, live on social media. Of course, the platforms took action and took the videos down, but the fact remains that these kids felt like they had no other option, and it really hit me. How is no one talking about this? How is this happening? There is so much bullying going on in high school, middle school, and online. It’s taking a very serious toll on our teens. So I felt compelled to tell the story in an authentic and hard-hitting way so that parents could really see it from the teens’ perspective.
I’m curious about the choice of your three lead characters being avid vloggers documenting their thoughts and feelings leading to the end. I’m almost afraid to research it, but is it a real trend surrounding suicide on the internet?
Yes, it is a very real trend. These characters and their stories were all inspired by real kids and true stories. The characters of James and Nicole aren’t avid vloggers, and this was the first time they were sharing their stories on social media. This is the way that teens communicate these days – they’ll share the most intimate moments in their lives on social media in an effort to connect with someone or to feel heard and understood.