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Small-town Filmmakers Provide a Way to Open Hearts, Change Perceptions

Through his nonprofit, Silas Hagerty is giving young people the opportunity to learn from one another, discover new possibilities and use their creativity to explore positive change.

Silas is a filmmaker and founder of Smooth Feather Youth in Porter, Maine. One of the organization’s programs is an immersive film school experience, where students choose a topic, create an outline, cast actors, produce and edit a film – all within one week.

Each film tackles issues the students want to explore, such as anxiety and eating disorders. A recent production, As We Are, examines the complexities of drug use. The writer/director of the film is Tyler Muise, a senior at Sacopee Valley High School.

“Tyler wanted to explore how we as a culture could begin to humanize people who use drugs,” Silas explained.

When Ericka Hartford, Communications Coordinator for Sacopee Valley Health Center, heard that a film dealing with addiction was being produced by youth in the area, she felt compelled to get involved. Ericka teamed up with Silas, and they planned a screening and panel discussion at Silas’ Kezar Falls Theater. With the support of Linda Watson, CEO of the health center, and Carolyn Delaney, editor of Journey Magazine, the event was promoted via Facebook, posters and getting the word out to programs like Medicaid Assisted Treatment and Healthy Oxford Hills.

“The film brings humanity to what’s going on and hope,” said Ericka, a lifelong area resident. “Our community needs that, so I said let’s bring it to as many people as possible.”

The team’s efforts paid off. Nearly 100 people attended the November screening and post-film discussion with people involved with the production and people in recovery at Silas’ Kezar Falls Theater.

That’s when the magic began.

The discussion, scheduled for a halfhour, lasted more than 90 minutes. People shared their personal recovery journeys, and others spoke of the understanding they gained for loved ones because of the film.

One woman brought tears to many eyes when she publicly thanked the students and film school for showing her a pathway back to loving her son. As one attendee described it, “You could have heard a pin drop after she spoke.”

Other comments included: “I am going to look differently at my neighbors now after seeing this movie” and “For the first time, I feel seen.”

Silas Hagerty

Silas called the event “a proud moment.”

“It was one of the most powerful events I’ve ever attended,” he said. “It addresses a massive issue in our town, and the event opened hearts and connections.”

Gwyneth Hibbert is the producer of As We Are. The actors are: Jonah Naratil, Eli Murray, Johnna Shortsleeves, JP Espinosa, Evan Drozdowski, Justin Lacroix, and Charli Vaillancourt.

Beth Ellis D’Ovidio
Beth Ellis D’Ovidio
Beth D’Ovidio is a public relations/communications professional with extensive experience writing compelling content for PR, marketing, and social media. She has 20 years of experience in developing and implementing successful media strategies, plans and campaigns.

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