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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Locally Produced Feature Film Aims to Shine Light on the Heroin Epidemic

On the set of 75 (photo: Steven Jackson)
There are many movies about heroin; Trainspotting, Requiem for a Dream, even Frank Sinatra played a user in The Man with the Golden Arm.  But none of those movies deals with heroin the way it is today in our community. 

Fort Thomas may have been named the safest city in Kentucky, but, as regular readers of Fort Thomas Matters know, heroin addiction all too often rears it’s head in our community and affects too many lives. Local production company Brand Old Productions have recently wrapped their latest feature, 75, which deals with the heroin epidemic currently facing America, and aims to shine a light on how it affects communities just like ours.

This time last year the partners behind Brand Old were meeting, talking about what their next project would be, when someone mentioned the heroin epidemic. Producer Myra Zimmerman Grubbs remembers, “We all thought, “Lets do something about it.” It seems to touch nearly every person in some way, so it really captured our interest.” Now, one year on, their feature 75 will have it’s first preview screening on May 16th at a sold out 20th Century in Oakley.

 “It’s a dark, ugly, serious matter and we come at it pulling no punches, we show exactly how dark and serious it can be.”

The film is set over three days and nights and deals with several intertwined stories with one crucial, common thread: heroin. Myra herself appears in the film as well as producing it, “I play the wife of a man who had a car accident, he had surgery on his backed and is hooked on pain meds. In the course of the film he uses heroin for the first time.”

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The writers Sahil Sharma and Joe Zappa took time to learn more about the heroin epidemic and talk to people who had been affected by it. Sahil recalls, “We were very fortunate at the beginning to have someone close to us take the time to share true, personal stories of those who succumbed to the effects of addiction. Those true stories were deeply moving and became the foundation of the script and gave us a sense of direction to make the movie less glossy and more true to life.” 

The movie was filmed in Cincinnati/ NKY, and is set in the suburbs, close to Interstate 75, which is known as a major drug gateway. Myra Zimmerman Grubbs explains, “Heroin doesn’t know any socio-economic restraints. The film takes place in the suburbs, in nicer areas. We wanted to show that the heroin epidemic shows no boundaries.”

The reach of the heroin epidemic struck home further during production, as all kind of people got in touch to let them know how they’d personally been affected by heroin addiction. 

“You don’t realize how many people are affected until you do a project like this, you realize how it can affect anyone and how it seems to touch so many lives,” she said. 

Most of the cast and crew of the movie are local to the Tri-state area, including many from Northern Kentucky. Nathaniel Sizemore, an attorney from Fort Thomas plays a prominent role. Nathaniel had personal reasons for working on the movie: 

“I signed on to the project because of the relevance of the subject matter to Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky and the goal of the director and production team to offer a different perspective on the local heroin epidemic. This project also hit home with me because my wife is an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Campbell County and prosecutes heroin cases. As such, I have to give a big shout out to the law enforcement officers, attorneys, judges, and emergency and medical personnel who fight this problem every day.”   

Brand Old Productions is composed of Joe Zappa, who directed 75, David James, who was director of photography, Larry Kip Bennett and Myra Zimmerman Grubbs, who both acted in and produced the movie. Myra explains, “We all wear multiple hats!” They were assisted on 75 by executive producer Sherrie Allyn. They met through the independent film community and their last project, the web series Clever Girl, has been incredibly well received, winning multiple awards at independent film festivals.

Nathaniel Sizemore can’t speak highly enough of his experience on the movie. “The cast and crew of 75 were excellent to work with, especially on a film that highlights such an intense drug problem in our community. The film industry in Cincinnati is booming and Brand Old Productions is certainly making a name for itself as one of the major players in the field.” 

Brand Old clearly feels just as strongly about their cast and crew, many of whom believed so much in the project that they donated their time. “We’re so blessed to have so many people that want to be a part of the project and donated everything from locations to their talents to make that happen. The actors come together in such an amazing way, we’re just so thankful for that.”

Myra Zimmerman isn’t sure what the future holds for Brand Old, other than a lengthy period showing and promoting 75 “One year is pretty quick to from filming, to post production to the screening. After the screening we’ll submit to film festivals and try to secure distribution for 75.” A lot of work goes into promoting a film and there are many film festivals they can enter, so that process could be as long as a couple of years.

The first screening of 75 is at 20th Century, on Madison Road in Oakley at 6:30pm on May 16th. The screening is a sell out.

Nathaniel Sizemore in 75 (photo: Brand Old Productions)

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