Updated on July 21 to add information about the film's screening as part of the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase. The co-directors were guests on "St. Louis on the Air."
When Ashley Seering and Cory Byers started gathering stories about heroin addiction and deaths in southern Illinois, the Edwardsville-based filmmakers didn’t realize it would turn into a feature-length documentary.
“People don’t even know that this exists. Community interest needs to be there in order for people to come together and create change,” Seering said. “Because it’s in our community, it affects everyone.”
With ten hours of interviews, a pair of Canon T3i cameras, and a cast of emergency responders and local officials eager to donate their time, Seering and Byers were able to pull the film together over the course of a year while holding down other employment. An Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign brought in an additional $2,255 to help with production costs.
“The Heroin Project: A Documentary” premiered May 3 at Abbott Auditorium on Southern University of Illinois-Edwardsville's campus. The film will also screen at 5p.m. on July 22 at the Tivoli Theatre as part of the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase.
The film includes interviews with families who have lost loved ones to heroin overdoses, and people serving time on heroin-related charges. Seering remembers one story that hit home for her. It involved a 21-year-old man who initially became addicted to pain medication after a shoulder surgery, but eventually realized heroin was a cheaper, more powerful high.
“We interviewed him over the summer when he was in prison, and then he got released and relapsed two weeks later,” Seering said. “It’s been a constant battle. I’ll talk to his dad and they’re like, 'Oh we haven’t seen him in a couple months.'”
Since 2010, at least 116 people have died from heroin overdoses in Madison County alone, according to the county’s coroner’s office. The issue has prompted a region-wide public information campaign by local officials and law enforcement.
“This is something that really taps the resources of public and private entities all over the county,” said Madison County State Attorney Tom Gibbons, who frequently visits schools to speak about the dangers of heroin addiction.
“First responders are having to go to overdose scenes and attempt to save the lives of addicts,” Gibbons said. “Our court system is burdened greatly by drug charges and other crimes that go along with it.”
Co-directors Seering and Byers say they want the film to do justice to the families of heroin victims.
“It just seemed like the right time to tell this story,” Byers said.
St. Louis Filmmaker's Showcase Presents "The Heroin Project"
- When: Wednesday, July 22; 5:00 p.m.
- Where: Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63130
- More information
Pending scheduling, additional showings will be posted on The Heroin Project’s page on Facebook.
If you or a loved one is dealing with addiction, a national hotline operated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is 1-800-662-HELP.
For more healthcare news, follow Durrie Bouscaren on Twitter: @durrieB