It’s a wrap: Students across Maine turn drug struggles into inspiration

Students across the state have submitted films to the BDN’s MaineFocus Film Festival about how substance abuse has affected their lives. Now they need you to check them out and cast your votes for People’s Choice Award at Voting is now closed.)

Eight student film teams involving more than 90 teenagers from Calais to Sanford created films lasting up to five minutes. They depict the pain of having parents on drugs, educational information, and sometimes real stories. You can vote once per day until noon on Wednesday, Jan. 22. The festival is presented by Project AWARE and Health Affiliates of Maine.

Film: “Someone Who Cares”

About: Robert is a teen struggling with an addiction to prescription pills. The film explores the feelings that he has as a result of his addiction and emphasizes the importance of getting help.

Creators: Written and directed by David Rice of Winterport, a senior at Hampden Academy. Soundtrack, assistant directing and lead acting by Dan Rice of Winterport, a junior at Hampden Academy. In total, five people helped make the film.

What did you want to accomplish? “We would like for this film to help raise awareness for the prescription pill/drug problem in a story/entertainment form,” David Rice said.

What did you learn? “It brought to our awareness the large problem created by the abuse of prescription pills, as well as other substances. We liked the collaboration and creativity,” he said.

Film: “Speak Up”

About: The film tells the story of a girl who grows up in a family affected by addiction. Through the help of supportive adults, she finds her voice to speak up about what is going on at home.

Creators: The students involved in writing, directing, producing and acting were Alissa Boulard, 16, of Raymond; Noah Barker, 14, of Raymond; Shawn Hasty, 18, of Casco; and Jordan Shields, 15, of Otisfield. They attend school at Casco Spurwink Day Treatment in Casco.

What did you want to accomplish? “I’ve always been straight edge, and I plan on staying straight edge. I like helping people, and when I got this chance to help other kids be straight edge, I took it,” Shields said.

What did you learn? “I learned how drugs and alcohol affect people, and it pushed me to … learn more,” Hasty said.

Film: “When Is It Enough?”

About: The film starts and ends in black and white, with scenes of a teen being pressured to do drugs. In the middle of the film, in color, are interviews with students about how drug use has affected them personally.

Creators: Director of photography, editor and co-producer Katie Radcliff, 18, of Readfield, a senior at Maranacook Community High School; director Faith-Ann Bishop, 17, of Hermon, a senior at Hermon High School; and director’s assistant Camille Howard, 16, of Princeton, a junior at Woodland High School.

Others, all from Maranacook Community High School, include Mira Moreu, 15, of Wayne; Ariel Robinson, 17, of Readfield; Jessica Scheno, 16, of Mount Vernon; Ruby Poulson, 17, of Readfield; and Natalie Harmon, 15, of Readfield.

About 16 to 18 people in total helped make the film, including extras, at the Maine Youth Leadership Summit in Augusta.

What did you want to accomplish? “I’ve always loved making short films or PSAs that leave people thinking about what they’ve watched. Making something to start a conversation between two people, as an ice-breaker of sorts, has helped many people I know with all sorts of teen issues, as well as adults,” Radcliff said.

What did you learn? “This is the first time I’ve used my actual camera to make a short film such as this, other than just interviews. I learned a lot about working with people who are also looking on to how I’m framing up the shot. I also learned a lot about getting people to talk about issues while brainstorming,” Radcliff said.

Film: “Only the Great Die Young”

About: In the final leg of their senior year, bright-futured best friends Jimmy and Jake decide to go out with a bang, but due to a few poor decisions, they may be going out with a different type of bang then was intended.

Creators: Producing, writing, directing, editing and music composition in 2012 by Jacob Caron of Eddington when he was 17 at Brewer High School; he’s now a student at Emerson College in Massachusetts. Lead acting by Jake Condon of Brewer when he was 17 at Brewer High School; he’s now a student at Emmanuel College in Massachusetts. And lead acting by Josh McNally of Brewer when he was 17 at Brewer High School; he’s now a student at Boston University.

About 20 people were involved in production.

What did you want to accomplish? “I decided to put together this film as a sort of reminder as to just how quickly one’s life can be altered by poor decisions in the way of drunk driving. Also, to highlight that the consequences of drinking and driving extend far beyond the law and the harming of one’s self, but truly lie in the damage it causes to others,” Caron said.

What did you learn? “I learned that coordinating with impulsive teenagers is truly a difficult task. This also happened to be what I enjoyed most about it, for when the logistics all worked out, the feeling was highly fulfilling,” he said.

Film: “The Dangers of Energy Drinks”

About: The film discusses the often-overlooked issue of caffeine abuse. “Energy drinks are specifically marketed to teens and young adults, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends adolescents consume no more than 100 milligrams of caffeine a day,” the film states.

Creators: Producer and director Quinn Sluzenski, 17, of Charlotte, and assistant director Jordan Daley, 17, of Calais, both seniors at Calais High School.

Three students — Hunter Libby, Josh Carr and Jacob Scott — also acted in the film.

What did you want to accomplish? “It was a prompt for our film club to do more serious-style film. It’s not something we do very often. When we looked at this, we almost immediately came up with the idea of caffeine addiction,” Sluzenski said.

What did you learn? “When we started sitting down and doing research about the subject, we learned a lot about caffeine addiction. That was very interesting. We learned we hadn’t known that much about it,” she said.

Film: “Drug Use and Parenting”

About: An interview with student Collette Thomas, holding her 5-month-old daughter, Aubree, about her past experiences with drugs and alcohol.

Creators: Starring and edited by Collette Thomas, 17, of Sanford, a student at Sanford High School. Three other students helped with filming and editing and two with acting.

What did you want to accomplish? “I want people to see it and know my story. I just thought other people would be interested. A lot of people judge teen moms, so if they saw everything they would think not all teen moms are bad. They can be good moms, too.”

What did you learn? “I thought it was fun how I could put all the pictures in and choose the music. We got to do it in the TV studio, which I thought was cool. And I got to bring my daughter to school, too.”

Film: “Staying on Track”

About: The film is a public service announcement in which Blake Deslauriers talks about why he does not do drugs. “One of the main reasons … is because I have Type I diabetes,” he says in the film.

Creators: Starring and edited by Blake Deslauriers, 16, of Sanford, a junior at Sanford High School. Five other students were involved in filming and acting.

What did you want to accomplish? “I want people to realize that if you want to be cool, you don’t have to do drugs or drink. You could play sports or do anything you want. Just be yourself,” Deslauriers said.

What did you learn? “I liked using the computer, and I made some new friends.”

Film: “Untitled”

About: Dakota Gilpatrick recites a poem he wrote about drug addiction, while artistic images change across the screen. It starts, “Anger, frustration, isolation, depression — just some of the things you’ll have to worry about when you get caught. It’s never ‘if.’ It’s always ‘when’ you get caught.”

Creators: Directed and edited by Gilpatrick, 17, of Sanford, a Sanford High School senior. About 25 other students helped him by making art to pair with different lines of the poem.

What did you want to accomplish? “The film was an assignment that my teacher gave us, but I took more ambition in this assignment because I could speak about it from a personal viewpoint. I’ve had a lot of experience with drug addiction — personally, a few friends. I wanted to get across a message: You can use drugs and have a good time, but eventually it’s going to come up, and your lies and deceit that you’ve built up to keep doing it is going to come back at you,” Gilpatrick said.

What did you learn? “It was a good reflection. I learned about myself.”


Erin Rhoda

About Erin Rhoda

Erin Rhoda is editor of Maine Focus, a journalism and community engagement initiative by the Bangor Daily News.