DRUG DEATHS in 2018 alone are heading toward the total U.S. death toll in the Vietnam War. In the face of this growing epidemic, most public schools are not designed to meet the complex needs of kids with substance abuse disorders. Northshore Recovery High School, in suburban Boston, is designed with exactly that in mind. "Recovery High" chronicles a year at this innovative public school, where students study English, math, science, history, art and music and earn a diploma while working to recover from their drug addictions. The documentary showcases a new model of education and offers new hope for troubled teenagers and their families.
Produced by Emmy award winner Zak Piper, "America to Me" producer John Condne and directed by Time Magazine award-winning photojournalist Steve Liss, "Recovery High" follows the emotional struggles of young people trying to turn their lives around and of the teachers, counselors and family members dedicated to helping them do that.
Due to this intimate access, we confront the raw anger, denial, guilt, and isolation that many of these young people experience.
But our journey also takes us through a deep sense of belonging. For many students Northshore Recovery High School is a surrogate family; a last, best hope for kids who no one else – not parents, not friends, not teachers or counselors – has been able to reach.
Principal and founder Michelle Lipinski is a former science teacher, and a true believer in the school. “Addiction is a disease, not a choice,” she says. Lipinski argues that in far too many communities, the attitude toward addicted children is still punitive. A critical and controversial component of Northshore Recovery High School is her refusal to stop engaging with students who relapse. “I’ve seen too many kids give up on themselves and become completely isolated,” she says, “and then they don’t come back to school at all. Mostly they get sicker. Too often they die.”
On average, about 50 teenagers are served by a dozen full-time faculty including a social worker, recovery counselor, guidance counselor and special education coordinator. The kids are drawn from school districts throughout the North Shore, where dilapidated triple-decker homes sit alongside seaside mansions. Some are from poor backgrounds, while others have grown up in considerable affluence. They are, in many ways, just like any teenagers. They're charming, intelligent and lovable. What they all have in common is navigating the phases of addiction treatment and recovery.
Some kids attend because of a court order. Others are referred by guidance counselors, school administrators, and, mostly, desperate parents. Still others come on their own, encouraged by students who attend the school. Many have suffered significant trauma in their lives, including sexual and physical abuse. Many are from dysfunctional families, using drugs to trade one hell for another. But others come from intact families and nurturing parents. Their addictions run the gamut of alcohol and drugs, with heroin emerging as a primary drug of choice.
Virtually all students and faculty have signed informed consent to participate in the documentary, with parents signing on behalf of minor children.
DISTRIBUTION AND MARKETING
We anticipate that this film will be highly marketable, given our rare access and the importance and timeliness of the subject matter. Supported by the deep media connections of the filmmakers, the distribution and marketing plan for this project will involve several key strategies that will effectively bring this issue to the attention of the public and policy makers:
- A network broadcast opportunity will be sought, either on PBS, cable outlets or online streaming services such as Netflix.
- Exhibitions in public settings with maximum exposure will be initiated with the goal of encouraging community involvement.
- Ongoing opportunities for presentations at conferences, seminars and relevant meetings will be solicited.
- Key advocacy, health and children’s welfare organizations will be notified about the film and its progress with an offer make available the final film presentation for significant gatherings of program staff and policy makers to stimulate discussion and reflection.
- Key distributers of educational films will be notified of the project with an offer to consider the material for inclusion in development and updating of curriculum materials.
We are currently seeking sufficient funding to finish some wrap-up production and move through the next phase: the rough cut. While the total budget, including post production and packaging hovers around $300,000 it will take us approximately $80,000 to get through to rough cut.
Please note: All donations to this film are tax deductible under IRS code 501(c)3.
1. All donors of any amount will receive a thank you letter which will serve as a receipt for tax purposes.
2. All donors of $50 or more will receive two complimentary tickets to a special screening of the film, date TBD.
3. All donors contributing $500 or more will receive their choice of a signed 11x14 print of a TIME magazine photograph of their choosing from the website www.steveliss.com plus two complimentary tickets to a special screening of the film, date TBD.
4. All donors contributing $1000 or more will receive their choice of two signed 11x14 prints of a TIME magazine photograph or one 16x 20 signed print of their choosing from the website www.steveliss.com
two tickets to a special screening and an invitation to the after-screening reception.
5. All donors of $5,000 or more will receive a thank you in the film credits, choice of two signed 11x14 prints of a TIME magazine photograph or one 16x 20 signed print of their choosing from the website www.steveliss.com two tickets to the premiere and an invitation to the after-premier reception.
6. All donors of $10,000 or more will receive a credit as "Contributing Producer" in the film credits , choice of two signed 11x14 prints of a TIME magazine photograph or one 16x 20 signed print of their choosing from the website www.steveliss.com five tickets to the premiere and an invitation to the after-premier reception.
7. All donors of $12,500 or more will receive a round-trip air fare to attend the premier, including two nights hotel accommodations, credit as "Contributing Producer" in the film credits, choice of two signed 11x14 prints of a TIME magazine photograph or one 16x 20 signed print of their choosing from the website www.steveliss.com five tickets to the premiere and an invitation to the after-premier reception.
We are deeply grateful for your consideration for what, we truly believe, will be a game changing effort in the treatment of young people struggling with addiction.
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