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Student-produced film sheds light on substance abuse

“Anybody in There” selected to show at film festival last month, depicts alcohol, opiate addiction

“Anybody in There,” a short film produced by Brown students about substance abuse, was shown at the Quincy, Massachusetts independent film festival “Stories by the River” Jan. 26.  The Brown Motion Pictures-produced project initially premiered on campus last September.

Co-director Alexandre Davis ’20 became inspired to create the film about an addict’s road to recovery through his personal experience as well as those of his friends and their families, he said. The film addresses substance abuse — encompassing opiate abuse and binge drinking — and Davis’ concern with how many people refuse to acknowledge the severity of the issue, especially in university settings, he said. “No one says that any kid in college or high school has a drinking problem; they just say they party too much,” Davis said. “But this is a real issue. I know kids that do suffer from this that go to Brown.”

After an actor suggested that the production crew apply to “Stories by the River,” a film festival centered around topics of social awareness and change, “Anybody in There” was selected for showing last month. The film was one of 10 to be selected from a pool of 80 entries, said Kristina Kaiser, co-founder and judge.

“(The film) opens up the opportunity for conversation about what to do with young people that are exploring drugs and alcohol,” she added. We like to “have a film that allows us to help people get through various difficult things in their lives.”

“Anybody in There” is based on a short story Davis wrote in his senior year of high school, which he developed into a full script for his screenwriting class final last year, he said. He then approached his friends, co-directors David Holmes ’20 and Robert Capron ’20, to transform the script into a film. Davis gathered the film’s crew from “Facunda,” a Brown Motion Pictures film he previously worked on, held auditions to cast actors and obtained funding through a Kickstarter campaign. They shot the movie in February 2017 and finished editing the film last summer.

“Anybody in There” was released in September with a premiere in Smith-Buonanno Hall, which attracted 100 people, including President Christina Paxson P’19, Davis said. It was followed by a panel in which the three directors, Assistant Dean of Chemical Dependency Shannon O’Neill and Scott Bienenfeld, an addiction psychiatrist, discussed the effects of binge drinking on college campuses and the reality of the film, he added.

“It’s an in-depth look (into substance abuse) for people not familiar with how this disease affects young people, … and for those who are familiar with it, to feel support for what they’ve gone through,” Davis said.

“I had people come up to me and tell me, ‘I’ve had experiences like that and you guys portrayed it well,’” said Andrew Gord ’20, who played Peter, the film’s protagonist who eventually ascertains his need to quit his addiction.

Gord said he prepared for his role by watching existing films recommended to him by Davis that portray substance abuse. “I was kind of struck by … (those films’) degree of glorification of addiction,” Gord added. “There was something (portrayed as) poetic and beautiful in it.”

The film crew is still in the process of applying for other festivals, but Davis, Holmes and Capron have already begun production for their next project, “Issued at Random,” which is another message-oriented short film, Davis said. It presents a love story that addresses eating disorders, inspired in part by Holmes’ personal experiences, he added.

The directors plan to release “Anybody in There” for free online soon.


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