Oceana, West Virginia, sits squarely in one of God’s blind spots. It’s one of the old coal mining communities that feeds the nations insatiable appetite for energy. Set in the middle of unbelievable natural beauty, a beauty that in the last number of years, has been marred by the Appalachian scourge of Oxycontin. Life persists, but it’s a living that few Americans could explain or even believe; closer in kind to the world of a medieval plague. Men and women die epidemically. The addicts— who are the vast majority, and all nice enough people— sell, scramble, and steal in an economy of nigh-endtimes desperation. Worn down and out by the pills, the mines, or the indignity of both, everyone is easily twice their own age, and unable to imagine an existence outside of coal, subsidies, and prescription narcotics. Things could hardly get darker— or more fucked and implausible— than in this place called Oceana.
Nevertheless, there it is. A little village in the valley of Death, where children are born, groceries are still purchased, and festivity is expressed through firearms and poor decision-making. But is this enough to live for? Is it enough to provide anyone with any hope or deliverance? Oxyana is an unflinchingly close focus on the anguish and horrors of a community that the rest of the country would just as soon forget. A nearly Biblical narrative of American forsakenness.
SEAN DUNNE - DIRECTOR
I make documentaries and commercials. I've had some success putting my work online and gaining an audience. Most notably for THE ARCHIVE (which was selected to Sundance and nominated for a goddamn Emmy) and AMERICAN JUGGALO (which, once again, made whip-its an acceptable form of drug use).
Now I'm here to exploit all that good will and beg for money so I can make a feature length documentary. FUN!
HILLARY SPERA - CINEMATOGRAPHER
Hillary Spera works as a cinematographer on documentaries, music videos, feature films, and commercials. Recent documentaries include DARKON, ALICE NEEL, THE BOWLER, AMERICAN JUGGALO, and AFTER TILLER, a film about four late-term abortion doctors in America.
Hillary has also shot short form content for the New York City Ballet, Sundance Channel, and PBS/Nova, and commercial work for clients such as KELLOGG'S, Ancestry.com and NIKE's ROAD TO GAMEDAY campaign starring hockey player Steven Stamkos. Current narrative feature work includes comedy improv feature HIGH ROAD, directed by Upright Citizen's Brigade founder Matt Walsh, and the recently completed BLACK ROCK, directed by Katie Aselton, which premiered at Sundance 2012.
KATHY GATTO - EDITOR/CO-PRODUCER
Kathy Gatto is an award-winning editor and dedicated artist. Her work has garnered a variety of PromaxBDA and CTAM Mark awards. Additionally, she counts among her successes several programs in permanent installation at museums around the U.S., including Tribute - the World Trade Center Museum, The Smithsonian Institute, Federal Hall and the World War II Museum. Her documentary work has screened in many international film festivals, including Silver Docs, IFFB, and DOXA. Her most recent film, AMERICAN JUGGALO, directed by Sean Dunne, won the 2012 Short of the Week Awards for Best Documentary and has been viewed over one million times on the web. Kathy's commercial work has included spots for such industry titans as NIKE, MICROSOFT and ANCESTRY.COM. After graduating Magna Cum Laude from film school at Hunter College, she began her career at HBO as an assistant editor. While her roots are in TV, her passion is in film, particularly documentary film editing.
NADINE BROWN - PRODUCER
Nadine has been working in communication since studying at Pembroke College in Cambridge, England and graduating with a BA in English from UCLA. Her career has been varied, but the germination of creative ideas and facilitating their execution has been a constant.
In 1990 she moonlighted as the U.S. segment producer for the BBC documentary; “The History of Mountainbiking”. Unaware that the die had been cast for a career that would eventually meld her experience as an environmental intern in Washington D.C., love of sports and story telling, Nadine joined Gary Fisher’s marketing team.
In 1997 Nadine left sports marketing to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. While the move seemed like a giant leap, the process of taking an idea or story and bringing it to fruition on film was remarkably similar to the process of translating an athletes needs and ideas into a design...and eventually a manufactured product.
Nadine’s track record of delivering numerous projects on time and under budget has continued in the entertainment industry. Projects include commercials for XM Satellite Radio, Coca Cola, Nike, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, VW, 1st Health, Barbie, Verizon, HTC, Taco Bell, Minute Maid, Bacardi, Sony Playstation, Children’s Tylenol, Compaq Computers, Discover Card, Bud Light, Keystone Light, Sears, Nintendo, Columbia, Bank of America, 5th Third Bank, Arizona Lottery, Cable One, and Boston Market; promos for USA Networks, PBS, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox Family Channel, The Health Network and The Learning Channel, repackaging of the classic Three Stooges short films and six episodes of one hour reality programming for Paxtv.
In 2011 she produced Stacy Prealta’s film “The Bones Brigade – An Autobiography” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
COLBY GLENN - EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Colby is the man with the plan. Motivated by the recent rash of Oxy related stories in the news and a personal connection to the subject matter, Colby hightailed it out of his job managing a hedgefund and decided to try his hand at documentary filmmaking. His knack for creativity, leadership skills and financial background are what got this project off the ground. Oxyana is Colby's first venture into filmmaking and we couldn't be prouder to have this untapped resource on board.
HOW WE'LL SPEND THIS MONEY
-Shooting: Two cameras, field sound, a gaffer/grip/AC, myself and our producer. Not cheap getting everyone there and keeping them fed and sheltered.
-Equipment: The stuff that all of the above people will be holding. Also, not cheap.
-Post Production: Editing, sound mixing, color correction and putting everything to tape. Those people don't mess around. They want their money and they want it now.
-Music: In addition to licensing some music we have some VERY exciting and amazing musicians who have signed on to compose the original music for the film. Can't announce who they are yet, but I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
-Promotion/Distribution: All the stuff that happens after we finish the film ie. film festival submission, publicists, travel.
How did you discover Oceana WV? How long did it take you being there to realize it had the makings of a great story?
I was on tour with my friend Jonny Corndawg and we were driving from his hometown in Virginia to Nashville. We took the scenic route through West Virginia and stopped for the night in Oceana. Jonny had spent some time there ATVing in the past. We pulled into town and made some friends. They started to tell us their stories and what had happened to this small town in the past few years. The next day they introduced us to some more people who had similar experiences. These were good people who were dealt a shit hand and ended up addicted to prescription pain medicine for one reason or another. The more people we met the more we heard the same thing. There stories stuck with me so we decided to come back a few months later to find out more. Our experience on that trip was really eye opening. We saw some things that were truly alarming and understood then why this town had gotten the nickname Oxyana. So we decided to make this place the subject of our next film. We're giving these people a voice and letting them tell the story in their own words.
What made you choose this subject matter?
This subject matter is very near and dear to my heart. My father struggled with pain pill addiction for the better part of two decades. I saw it rob him of his career, his family, his friends and his dignity. This was a good, hard working family man who was over prescribed pain medication for a back problem and thus saw his life spiral out of control. I've seen too much of this. Too many talented people who have had their lives reduced to nothing but the pursuit of a magic pill. We were able to get my father help and he's five years sober now. Having traveled and seen what this epidemic has done to people really opened my eyes and I felt compelled to share some of these stories. The challenges that come along with a project like this are the hesitancy of people to speak about it. For something that effects nearly everyone there still seems to be an embarrassment factor that prevents people from talking about it. Hopefully our approach will help alleviate that a little and get them to open up and get their voices heard. I'm no saint, I'm just a guy who makes documentaries. This subject matter is personal to me and I just want to treat it with the seriousness it deserves.
- (35 days)