Art as a Weapon
New Hampshire is dealing with a public health crisis of epic proportion. In 2014, 326 people died from drug overdoses, due in part to a spike in heroin and opioid use. The numbers for 2015 will exceed that total. In early November, Gov. Maggie Hassan called for a special legislative session to focus on the epidemic, and Republican lawmakers soon will propose the creation of 26-member task force targeted toward finding solutions.
In this series, UNH Today takes a look at how UNH alumni, faculty and students are tackling the issues of prevention, treatment and regulation in their communities.
While Erica Tamposi '14 was finishing her studies at UNH, the reality of the state’s heroin problem was just beginning to catch the media’s attention.
“The drug epidemic back home is so scary right now, and the number of people we've lost to it is terrifying,” says Tamposi, who now lives and works in Los Angeles. “I personally know people who have struggled, and some didn't make it out.”
Tamposi, an honors graduate from the College of Liberal Arts with a degree in communication and film, began gaining experience in filmmaking even before she graduated — including work at ESPN, NHPTV, Lifetime, Columbia Pictures and MTV.
“I have been involved in the film community for a while and have such a passion for creating my own content. I wanted to create something that had a specific message behind it,” Tamposi says, explaining how her film “Extended Release” offers “a heartbreaking look into the struggles of this current drug epidemic.”
The film tells the story of Tim, a recovering drug addict who moves from New Hampshire to Los Angeles to escape his past.
“His best friend Brendan is a total instigator and takes the partying to another level,” Tamposi explains. “Tim has to choose between sobriety and losing his best friend. We've made some changes to the original plot as to not give so much away. I think everyone is going to be really impressed at the end, and it packs a mean punch.”
Tamposi initiated a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year to raise funds to make “Extended Release” a reality.
“Running a Kickstarter was one of the most challenging things I've done to date. Not only is it completely humbling and uncomfortable to go out on a limb and ask people you care about (and strangers!) for money, but then you need to keep pushing it until you make your goal,” she says, explaining that unlike other funding sites, where beneficiaries are able to keep whatever amount of donations they receive, if Tamposi hadn’t reached the $15,000 goal, all the funds raised would have been lost.
“It is a full-time job. Video postings, updates, tweets, Facebook posts. I was working as a post-production coordinator on USA's “Mr. Robot” at the time of my campaign, which was a crazy schedule to begin with. I don't think I slept for more than four hours a night for 30 days!”
And, Tamposi says, there were moments when it looked as if the funding would not come through.
“There were days when I'd come home late from work and cry in my bed with my puppy because it wasn't looking good,” Tamposi explains. “I was reaching out to news sources, blogs — anything for publicity that would get the word out,” she recalls. “We raised the last $5,000 the last day. It was an intense, scary moment. I slept for a solid two days after that.”
But then it was back to work — this time on the film itself.
“We shot three full days and have about 10 hours of footage to go through,” she says. “We finished shooting Sunday, November 1. Now we're backing up all the footage and getting it to the editor. After we cut it together, we get it to color correction and then to a sound stage to mix. I'm hoping to have it released by mid-January, but that might be a little ambitious!” Tamposi says. “I'm so excited to put it together; I can hardly wait.”
Ultimately, Tamposi wants to make a difference with “Extended Release.”
“I hope the audience takes away how detrimental drugs can be and how they impact not only the user but the relationships around them,” she explains. “Maybe 'Extended Release' would even inspire someone to go seek treatment. On the reverse, I hope that it makes any loved ones dealing with someone's addiction see that it's not always easy to just ‘become sober.’ Hopefully it opens up a conversation about drug addiction.”