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Fri May 29, 2009
Local Filmmakers Pool Talent to Battle Drunk Driving
By Casey Northcutt
Eddyville, KY – Trends are just that Trends. What worked years ago might not get the message across now. That's what one regional police officer found out when showing a film to students to warn them of the dangers of drunk driving.
"It's my fault, Mom. I mean, there's no way you could have known anything. I wouldn't tell you anything. Mrs. Wilson, you know, you and Eric are certainly on the right track and I think we can stop individual therapy for a while."
Eddyville Officer Coleman Dixon showed a video similar to this, obviously outdated one to high school students in 2005. They laughed.
"All they could focus on was what they were wearing and how they were speaking because the movies were made in the early 80s."
After acid-washed jeans and outdated lingo hindered his cause, Dixon decided it was time to update the material himself. He planned to make his own movie. He sat down to a computer and after three weeks, he had written a script for a film called "Such a Waste," a feature-length piece portraying the dangers of drunk driving. The students, he hoped, would provide the acting talent.
"Unfortunately, the kids today are very desensitized to a lot of things that are going on especially with underage drinking and driving, which is why I wanted the students to be a part of the film. I feel I could reach more students that way - if they were directly involved instead of me just showing them a film that somebody had shot 20 years ago."
Dixon soon teamed up with Dave Baxter, the chairman of the Lyon County "Champions Against drugs," and the co-owners of Time Line Moments/Resolution Multimedia, Dave MacGowen and Nathan Russell. While Baxter served as executive producer, the other three served as writers and cameramen on the production of "Such a Waste" - an endeavor that eventually failed. Dave Baxter
"We actually got it casted, we started filming and really just ran out of money. So, we actually had to shut down that movie because our cast graduated from high school and start over."
A little over a year ago, the group began again. This time with a brand new script written by both Russell and Dixon titled, "Voluntary Action." They penned the story of Stacy and Steven, a teenage couple who must face the consequences of drunk driving as well as legal penalties under the state's Zero Tolerance laws. With new high school leads and a revised format for educational videos, they hoped to improve upon Dixon's former material with a heartfelt tale about life consequences.
"My life would be just fine if everyone would just let me learn from my own mistakes. . That's the problem. You've been making them alright, but I don't think you've been learning anything."
While crafting the plot, the writers pulled events from the lives of their cast members to complete the film. Debbie Hopper's life provided quite a bit of material.
"My son died. His accident was alcohol related. His girlfriend was driving. They had both been drinking, and I think he knew that he didn't need to drive, but she felt like she was ok to drive, and she was not ok."
The car crash occurred in 2000, and the girlfriend survived only to face trials, jail time, probation and the emotional agony which followed. Some of these elements were woven into "Voluntary Action," illustrating consequences at their most dire. Hopper has spent the past several years educating teens on alcohol, drunk driving and the importance of good decisions. When she got the opportunity, she accepted a role in the film as the grandmother of Stacey, the female lead.
"It was very hard, but I considered it a great honor to get to be part of it and to get to do something that might make a difference even just in one person that might see it and make a better choice."
Caldwell County High School student Sarah Hall plays Stacey and describes her character as a girl with wayward tendencies who can negatively influence her boyfriend, Stephen. The events that surround the two teenagers, she says, serve as lessons to the students watching.
"We're always told, you know, there's going to be consequences - this will happen, this will happen. Well, this movie not only shows what happens to you in the long run but what happens to people in the long run - how it affects your friends, your family, your school. You see how it affects Steven a year after all this happens."
Baxter says the group is hosting an invitation only screening of "Voluntary Action" June 2 at the Badgett Playhouse. But, getting the film out of the screening room and into schools, is their next concern. They had very little money for production and almost none for distribution, but they hope to somehow raise enough to make copies of the DVD. Once this happens the production team hopes it could change alcohol education for teens used to long lectures and cheesy videos.