UHV professor's book becomes Lifetime movie

Johnathan Silver By Johnathan Silver

July 24, 2014 at 2:24 a.m.
Updated July 25, 2014 at 2:25 a.m.

Freya Tingley, left,  and Peri Gilpin portray  daughter and mother in Lifetime's "The Choking Game," which premieres Saturday.

Freya Tingley, left, and Peri Gilpin portray daughter and mother in Lifetime's "The Choking Game," which premieres Saturday.

"Don't play the choking game."

That's the main message of the book "Choke," written by Diana Lopez, UHV associate professor of English.

Saturday, that message gains a larger platform via a television movie. Cable network Lifetime is adapting Lopez's book in "The Choking Game," which is about a high school girl looking for her place in the world and finding it in the wrong place - a new, attractive and popular friend who draws her into the choking game.

The game entails depriving one's self of oxygen to achieve a high, something of a craze among younger people in the United States. The game can result in some serious injuries or death. And parents typically don't know about it, Lopez said.

"It's a cautionary tale," she said.

Lopez's experience as a middle school teacher partially influenced "Choke."

"These three girls came in, and they had bloodshot eyes," she remembered, "and I thought they were smoking pot."

It wasn't until the next decade that she thoroughly thought about the incident. More media attention came about the social phenomenon in 2008, she said, adding that it jogged her memory.

"I need to write this book, and I need to write it right away," she remembered thinking. It brings awareness to parents and gives students and teachers an opportunity to talk, she added.

Lopez's book is Lifetime material, explained Marilyn Atlas, talent/literary manager and producer.

"I was completely overwhelmed when I read it," said Atlas, who produced "The Choking Game."

Major differences from the book to the movie include changing the main character's name from Windy to Taryn and making the major characters high school students instead of middle-schoolers.

The book made for an interesting movie because of the people involved and the social message involved, Atlas said.

"This is a deadly game that we have to create awareness of in television," she added.

That question and the power of friendship is at the heart of the book and movie, both the author and producer said.

Friendships can create peer pressure, which isn't always negative, Lopez said.

"People can be positive if your friends get you to do the right thing," she said.



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