Film with central Pennsylvania backdrop to make world premiere in Philipsburg

After two years in the making, “Shooting Heroin” will make its debut on the silver screen. Writer-director and Clearfield native Spencer Folmar hopes the film will evoke a sense of responsibility to combat the opioid epidemic in communities across the United States.

Beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday at Philipsburg’s Rowland Theatre, actors and crew members will walk the red carpet with a 7 p.m. screening to follow. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door, but Folmar said they are selling fast — already filling over half of the 1,000 seat theater. Inspired while visiting his family, Folmar said “Shooting Heroin” is the first narrative film to focus on tackling the opioid epidemic and was filmed in Clearfield and Centre counties.

“A couple of my classmates, from West Branch Area High School, are no longer here because of overdoses,” Folmar said. “It seems to really be affecting rural areas, especially in this part of the country.”

The $2.5 million film takes place in the fictional town of Whispering Pines and stars Sherilyn Fenn, Cathy Moriarty, Alan Powell, Nicholas Turturro, Rachel Hendrix and Brian O’Halloran as they work together to eradicate the heroin epidemic in their small town community with the help of a volunteer drug task force.

“Even though this is a national epidemic, we’re taking a slice — just a single story from this rural area — but it relates to the epidemic as a whole,” Folmar said. “We also have a newscaster throughout the movie who talks about what’s happening at the national level and the shocking statistics connected to it.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 700,000 people died from a drug overdose from 1999 to 2017, averaging 130 Americans per day. After moving to Los Angeles, Folmar said he was struck by the impact opioids had on his community in Clearfield. While it’s a tragic story, using central Pennsylvania to film served as “a great vehicle to tell this story,” he said, because the narrative goes beyond the local region.

“Shooting Heroin,” a movie filmed in Centre and Clearfield counties focuses on the opioid epidemic in a small, rural community. Directed by Spencer Folmar, the film will have its world premiere on Thursday at Philipsburg’s Rowland Theatre.

“Our film is intentionally not a solutions-based movie,” Folmar said. “No matter what people do right now in the nation, the epidemic grows by 10% in death and devastation every year. What I hope audiences walk away with when they leave is a sense of responsibility for their community, their neighbor and empathy for the situation and everyone affected from all different angles.”

Before filming began, Folmar said he interviewed community members, Penn State professors, county officials, drug dealers and users to research how the problem “got so bad, so fast.” Folmar said the overarching theme during interviews was “despair” — a word almost every subject used to describe the opioid epidemic and its impact on their lives.

“We still have the mess to deal with,” he said. “Unfortunately, everyone thinks it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

While some interviewees expressed a lack of hope, Folmar said he has hope and thinks the United States is in the early stages of combating the opioid epidemic and pharmaceutical companies that promote its growth, but he thinks real change won’t occur for another decade or two.

“I think anything people can do to try and stop that percentage from growing is great,” Folmar said. “You’ll see in this fictional tale that a lot of the local community members are enraged and grieving loved ones and seeing dealers still openly deal in the public — like they do in these parts — but nothing is visually being done in front of them. People are still operating their business, so this small town takes justice into their own hands because nobody else is helping them, and you’ll see how that turns out.”

Marley Parish reports on local government for the Centre Daily Times. She grew up in Slippery Rock and graduated from Allegheny College.