Have you noticed more interest from networks in films set in rural America since the election?
While the demand is greater, I’m not seeing foundations and networks finding people like myself who are embedded in communities. I’m seeing [organizations] give money to folks that are distant from those communities. I’m excited that there’s more attention drawn to the issues and the stories of this place, but I worry that it’s just more of the same. More of this outside view looking in.
I always get really defensive when people call places like where I’m from “Trump Country,” even calling this place “coal country.” It’s an “othering” that really bothers me, and it’s not wholly true. West Virginia went for Bernie [Sanders] pretty hard, actually, and we don’t talk about that. Rural America is not that hard to understand. It’s pretty similar to a lot of the other places that we look at.
What do you think other filmmakers or writers get wrong about West Virginia and Appalachia?
When people come to a place like Appalachia, they’re coming here because the overdose rates are high, because the child welfare system is overwhelmed. That’s their angle, rather than trying to find the resilience or the hope for the change makers that are actually doing things about it.
When you’re dropping in and out, and you’re not staying for long — or long enough — you don’t get to see the beauty, the resilience, the humor, all the layers of a crisis. People continue to change their lives. And if you’re only coming in for a day, you’re not going to see that.
Is “Recovery Boys” the next chapter after “Heroin(e)”? Where do we go from here?
We feel we have contributed to the conversation that’s already happening, with “Heroin(e)” seeing what’s happening on the front lines from a community response and “Recovery Boys” from an individual response — Dr. Blankenship stepping up to help these guys taking the steps to change their lives.
But I think one of the bigger stories is what’s going to happen to the kids — the generation behind the people currently suffering from substance abuse disorder, overdosing and dying, locked-up in prison, or getting their kids taken away from them. [That is] the next impending crisis that we have to look at.