By Lauren Mineau for The Saratogian>>
July 15 is a special day for Ballston Spa resident Sean Kelleher. He’ll be three years sober and attending a film screening at Bow Tie Cinemas that he brought to life.
“The Anonymous People,” a film on the reality of addiction is being brought to the Spa City at 7 tonight through a combination of crowd-sourcing, The Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention Council of Saratoga County and Kelleher’s efforts. He saw the film and said it opened his eyes to the world of advocacy and he thought he’d give it a try.
“This is a way for me to give back. This film approaches recovery in a new way. A lot of people see the fun, dramatic and ridiculous side of addiction, that’s not the reality,” he said.
The film features interviews with some of the 23.5 million Americans facing long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and appearances from actress Kristen Johnston, former NBA star Chris Herren, Miss USA 2006 Tara Conner and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who are all in recovery themselves.
Kelleher never expected the film to gain so much momentum, but the screening sold out within six weeks. In fact, Bow Tie Cinemas upgraded the screening to a larger theater as of Monday afternoon to accommodate the crowd.
“When I set up the page, I thought ,‘This will never happen.’ I never expected to be watching ticket sales go up every day,” he said, “I’m really excited about the way this turned out. Addiction is here and it affects everyone in one way or another.”
He immediately felt connection to the film when he learned the director shared the same connection with July 15 — director and film producer Greg Williams also marks each year of his sobriety that day.
“I kind of thought it was meant to be,” Kelleher said.
Janine Stuchin, executive director at The Prevention Council, said this screening is part of a dialogue they hope to start in Saratoga Springs.
“Addiction is a chronic illness, and those suffering are the same as HIV or breast cancer survivors, we need to get around the shame of addiction and spark some discussion,” she said.
The film features interviews with those struggling with addiction and questions the stigma surrounding it, especially in American society. The film’s stay in Saratoga was brought together by Gathr, a service that works by giving people the chance to unite and rally for a certain film to be brought to their town. Once a certain amount of tickets are reserved, Gathr works to bring the screening to life, as requested.
“This film is not your tired old addiction story often seen on reality television or in the news,” Williams said in a press release. “There are no needles hanging out of people’s arms, pictures of the brain, or fried eggs in a pan. We set out to find the answer to one very fundamental question: Why don’t we treat addiction in this country like any other health issue?”
On July 22, the group will host a follow-up discussion at 7 p.m. at the Saratoga County Arts Council.
“A lot of people have a hard time asking for help, and I’d like to do my part to change that,” Kelleher said.