UD students make opioids subject of documentary

University of Dayton students sometimes report a disconnect from issues facing the greater Dayton community, but the opioid epidemic is one problem that has permeated the campus bubble.

The crisis has touched so many students personally — both those from Ohio and out-of-state — and has come to define Dayton to the outside world to such an extent, that students in this year’s senior-level documentary film-making class knew it was the topic they wanted to tackle.

“We’re all touched by addiction,” said Tom Cook, a graduating senior and production manager on the project. He works part-time at Dayton’s Ruskin Elementary and has seen the impact addiction has had on the east side.

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Senior Molly Moesner, one of the lead editors on the project, is from Baltimore but lost a cousin in Dayton to overdose last year. She said part of the goal of the project was to lessen the stigma that drug addiction carries.

“One of our main goals was to try and show people that it’s a disease and not just a drug choice,” said Johnny Antonini, another lead editor.

In producing the 16 minute documentary, "Epicenter: Dayton's Opioid Crisis," the 22 students in the class conducted dozens of interviews, including Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer, Coroner Kent Harshbarger, recovering addicts and family members of those still in active addiction.

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“During the course of our research, we have determined that most addicts do not use drugs to get high — they use them to avoid feeling sick due to their chemical and physical dependency,” a description of the film on YouTube reads. “Our documentary is a call to action for the community at large, and we want to break the stigma of addiction. Whether you are married to an addict, lost a parent to addiction, or are a politician capable of spurring change, addiction does not discriminate.”

The class held a premier on campus in late April that drew more than 200 people.

The students said they’ve gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback, including from interview subjects and their families.

“These students did a great job technically; setting up interviews, lighting, audio, editing,” said Greg Kennedy, one of the course’s instructors. “But they also captured a level of emotion that can tend to be difficult for beginning filmmakers.”

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The students said they learned not only the ins and outs of actually creating a documentary, but also gained new perspective on the addiction crisis and what’s possible in recovery.

“I really like how the community is coming together,” Cook said of the efforts highlighted in the film.

Kennedy said the students are entering the film into numerous festivals and awards so it can be screened by a wider audience.

It can be viewed on YouTube at https://youtu.be/aqvP5v_uMwM.

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