LC natives drum up support for movie project

A team of Lake Charles natives is working to produce a movie that is inspired by one person’s real-life struggle with mental illness and his relationship with his brother.

“Jacob’s Brother” is a fictional story about Mikey, an aspiring comedian who has Type 1 bipolar disorder, and his relationship with his brother, Jacob. It is loosely based on the experiences of Timothy Rafferty, who was diagnosed in April 2009 as Type 1 bipolar, and his younger brother, Jacob. 

Valleyheart South LLC — the production team that includes Timothy and Jacob Rafferty as producers; along with Brian Bourque, writer/director; and Tyler Walker, marketing director — is in Lake Charles through Aug. 3 to meet with potential investors, scout locations and spread the word about the film. A recent social media campaign has attracted just over 2,000 followers on Facebook.

The story centers around Mikey, who was recently released from a psychiatric ward. He finds it difficult to maintain good habits and accept his bipolar diagnosis. Once he falls back on bad habits, it significantly impacts his relationship with Jacob, who has a successful life, and Mikey’s adopted mother, Iris. Mikey must ultimately decide whether to manage his mental illness or risk losing everything. 

“We’re examining the family dynamic through the lens of mental illness,” Walker said.

The website, bipolar-lives.com, states that Type 1 bipolar disorder “is considered the most severe form of this illness.” Rafferty, 30, said those with Type 1 experience bouts of mania and psychosis.

“I could go sit out in the sun on the bench in front of my mom’s and be so euphoric, I’d be vibrant,” he said. “It feels good, but it’s not healthy because it’s too much.”

At one point, Rafferty said his paranoia was so bad that he became delusional. He said he thought he was being secretly filmed and being followed by federal agents “in black BMW’s.”

After his diagnosis, Rafferty said he was hospitalized four times over a five-year period. The first three times he left the hospital, he would take his medication regularly and avoid drugs and alcohol for a while before going back to his old ways. It’s a cycle that affects many with mental illnesses, Rafferty said.

“I was great, and I was like, ‘I don’t need (medication),” Rafferty said. “I kept on learning my lesson and then unlearning my lesson.”

Rafferty said he quit alcohol and drugs for good in 2010 and continues to take his medication regularly.

Timothy lives in Los Angeles, while Jacob, 28, lives in Boston. Despite living on opposite sides of the country, Rafferty said he is extremely close with Jacob.

“We talk almost every day,” he said. “From the family point of view, he’s kind of been like my kind and my mentor.”

The big takeaway from the film, Rafferty said, is that viewers recognize how serious mental illnesses are, specifically bipolar disorder.

“I feel like people write it off because everybody says, ‘Oh, I’m bipolar,’ ” he said. “In my particular case, it is something that I can’t manage without medicine and help from my support system.”

Rafferty said he wants those with a mental illness to not be defined by it and “know they don’t have to go through this alone.”

Bourque and Walker spoke of the need to reach out to those who may be suffering.

“Think about the people in your life that you haven’t heard from in a while,” Walker said. “They’re probably dealing with something. And if you reach out and they don’t get back to you, that’s okay. That doesn’t mean you should stop trying.”  

Rafferty, Bourque and Walker worked together in 2013 on a short film, “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Bourque — who has lived in Los Angeles since 2010 and is currently pursuing his master’s degree at California State University, Northridge — said that project was the catalyst to shoot “Jacob’s Brother” in Lake Charles.

Walker said they plan to shoot at specific businesses and locations throughout the city.

“Everything happened in the backdrop of Lake Charles, so we never imagined it anywhere else,” he said.

The response on social media has been overwhelming,

””

“Jacob’s Brother” producer Tyler Walker, left, writer-director Brian Bourque (middle) and producer Timothy Rafferty (right) at KD’s Diner in Lake Charles.

Special to the American Press

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