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Hungry Heart film wins 2016 national award!


Kingdom County Productions is  privileged to announce  that its documentary film The Hungry Heart focused on the opiate epidemic in Vermont has just received the 2016 Media award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the College on Problems of Drug Dependency (CPDD).


Harvard Medical School professor Bertha K. Madras congratulated filmmaker Bess O’Brien on this prestigious award.   “We are thrilled to support this important work that moves the conversation of opiate addiction forward.” The film will be honored in June at the NIDA national conference in Palm Springs, California.

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The Hungry Heart wins the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s 2015 Media Award

The Hungry Heart Movie wins the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s 2015 Media Award

 The documentary film The Hungry Heart produced by Kingdom County Productions and directed by Bess O’Brien was granted the 2015 Media Award by the American Society of Addiction Medicine last week.

 The American Society of Addiction Medicine is a national medical society representing more than 3200 physicians and associated professionals dedicated to increasing access and improvement to addiction treatment across the United States.

 ASAM stated in its award letter that the film was being honored because of “its unflinching perspective of the prescription drug and opiod addiction epidemic seen through the eyes of physician Fred Holmes and the many brave folks in the movie struggling with this disease.”

 The prestigious honor will be awarded to director Bess O’Brien at the ASAM national conference in Austin, Texas in April of 2015.

 The Hungry Heart continues to tour across New England and beyond. Recently, the film was just screened in Alaska by the American Academy of Pediatrics and was featured in Littlerock, Arkansas at the Attorney General’s Opiate Summit.

 For more information about the film and screenings please contact Bess O’Brien at Kingdom County Productions.

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Writers for Recovery

Celebrate Recovery Burlington and Kingdom County Productions Present

Writers for RECOVERY

A Series of Summer Writing Workshops focusing on stories of Addiction and Recovery

Wednesday Evenings
(June 18th – August 20th)
Turning Point Center of Chittenden County 191 Bank Street, Burlington
5:30 – 7:30 pm
Pizza at 5:30 pm

Join Local  Authors and Award-Winning Writers and Filmmakers for “Writers for Recovery”.

This FREE workshop will focus on helping you get your story and experiences out on paper. You’ll be able to go at your own pace and tell your story as you would like it to be heard, with the guidance of some of Vermont’s finest writers. Learn from others as stories are shared.

If you are in recovery or are a family member who has or is struggling with a loved one dealing with addiction–we want to hear your stories!

This workshop is led by local author Gary Lee Miller. Gary’s short story collection Museum of the Americas is coming this summer from Burlington’s Fomite Press. Gary has co-produced two documentary films, and has been nominated for a New England Emmy Award for documentary scriptwriting.
Several guest writers, including Vermont Poet Laureate Syd Lea and
Seven Days editor Dan Bolles will contribute to sessions.

Reserve your spot today by contacting Gary Miller at or call The Turning Point at 802-861-3150

Drop ins Welcome.


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The Hungry Heart in D.C.

Senator Patrick Leahy invited us to Washington, DC to screen “The Hungry Heart” at the Motion Picture Association of America on May 13th. It was a warm and muggy night, a storm was brewing in the sky, but we were excited because our movie was showing in the big city!
Many folks came to see the film from different drug policy agencies, legislative offices, and health and addiction organizations. The Senator and Mr. Botticelli (the Drug Czar!) gave very lovely introductions praising the film and acknowledging the courage of the people in the movie who told their stories. Audience members were wiping away tears at the end of the film. The Q and A with Fred, Raina and I went very well. The folks there commented that so much of their time is spent wrangling budgets and going to meetings about policy on the hill that it was good to see the film and be brought back into the real lives of people struggling with these issue every day.
Thanks to Maggie Gendron, Senator Leahy and all that helped to make this evening happen. We were thrilled to be there.

The photo is of Michael Botticelli–the Director of the White House National Drug Policy Office, Raina Lowell, Bess O’Brien, Fred Holmes and Senator Patrick Leahy.


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The Second Half of the 32 Town Tour

Hello friends, now that we have finished the 32 town tour and the dust has settled I finally have time to reflect on the second half of the tour.

Our journey took us down to the southern part of the state in late October into November. We had a rockin’ full house– 500 people or more– at the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro! Our wonderful friends The Brattleboro Retreat did a great job in helping to spread the word down in that area and they even threw us a pre-screening party on stage with local community members.

We had an amazing night in the small town of Bellows Falls—a packed house, lots of students from the local high school and a number of health care providers who shared with us their daily struggle to provide for folks wanting to get off pills. Nurses and doctors talked about their hard work and their need for more resources, money and staff.

We also spent time in the Northeast Kingdom (my home turf). Halloween was spent in Barton where we arrived at the Town Hall to find out that there was no heat and a number of the lights didn’t work. So—we schlepped all our equipment into the Town Hall basement meeting room and showed the film down there. About 30 people showed up. Katie, who traveled to every date with us drew a Slavador Dali mustache above her mouth (in the spirit of Halloween) and took tickets from folks with a smile and a handshake. Even though the audience was small we had a great conversation.

Lyndonville and St. Johnsbury were great screenings—a number of local doctors and pediatricians came and talked about their frustration with not being able to refer patients to treatment centers because there were waiting lists in the state. Dr. Ajami aptly commented, “If a person walked into my office and needed his appendix out I would book him for surgery the next day—but if a person walks into my office needing immediate help for his addiction and I can’t find him a bed at a treatment center for a month or 3 months—that is unjust.”

In Hardwick, the local high school raised money from local businesses to cover the screening costs so audience members got to see the movie for free. Lots of folks showed up and we had a terrific Q and A. The same thing happened in Ludlow where free tickets were given out and we had a full house in the newly renovated Town Hall.

In Rutland we screened the film at the local high school where we competed with the Vermont Football Championships going on at the same time as the screening—but we prevailed and packed in 160 people into the school audiotirum including the Mayor and lots of folks in recovery.

Our last weekend was in Addison County where we also played Mt. Abe High School and Vergennes high School during the day. The most important thing that came out of those screenings was that three high school students after seeing the movie came forward to their school counselor and said they needed help with their drug addictions. It made us feel like we were truly making a difference. Our screening at the lovely Vergennes Opera House was great because the Chief of Police George Merkel came and rallied the audience to take action during the Q and A. It’s always good to have law enforcement on your side!

We ended the tour at the beautiful Champlain Valley Universalist Society in Middlebury. What a fabulous modern church. It was a festive evening—the local Turning Point served coffee and some special guests who were in the movie showed up for the last screening to surprise me. There was lots of great testimony during the Q and A around the need for Suboxone doctors in Addison County.

After we packed up the projector, speakers, t-shirts and box office stuff for the last time—Fred, Linda, Katie, Joyce, Lexi, Raina, and me gave each other big hugs and said goodbye. There was a melancholy feeling leaving the tour behind after seven weeks on the road—but we were also pleased to have made such an impact across Vermont and proud of our hard work.

As we drove home, there was a dusting of snow falling from the night sky and I’m sure all of us felt a sense of accomplishment, pride and immense thanks to everyone who worked with us to make this tour a wonderful success.

Onward and upward!

Post script thoughts:

According to Dr. Fred we traveled 4672 miles and showed the film to 7266 people across Vermont on our tour. We collaborated with every Recovery Center in the state, all local branches of The Department of Health, local United Ways, churches, many schools and social service organizations.

Since the tour ended we are getting calls every week from schools, hospitals, health centers, universities and treatment centers across Vermont and into New England to show the movie. We will be screening the film at the state house in collaboration with the Governor to show to all legislators in early February.

We started a real conversation across the state of Vermont with the movie. The amount of heartfelt thanks and personal notes that I have received from community members, parents and health care providers has been overwhelming and heart-warming.

Next steps: distribution into schools, film festivals and national screenings.. This movie has legs–let’s keep it going!!

The take away from the 32 town Vermont tour of The Hungry Heart is that the issue of prescription drug addiction is everywhere across Vermont–small towns, high schools, and cities.

The outpouring of appreciation for raising this topic in communities was amazing–audience members were extremely appreciative of bringing the epidemic of prescription and opiate addiction out into the public and creating a statewide conversation about something that we are all dealing with in our communities.

The number of health care providers at screening that are valiantly working to help addicts in recovery was amazing to see. It was also sobering to hear how overwhelmed they are and how they all need more resources, money and help. There were many parents who came to the screenings who had children that were suffering from opiate addiction and they were clear that they needed more support and so did their kids.

Vermont is doing a fine job in many areas–but we need to stay the course and to continue to improve and bolster our efforts to deal with this epidemic.

We made this movie to raise consciousness in Vermont around prescription drug addiction and that is certainly what we did–for folks that would like to have a screening of the movie in their town, school or organization please call Kingdom County Productions and talk to Bess about booking the movie (802-357-4616). We will be on the road for a long while with this movie. Thanks to everyone who supported the efforts of this tour and the making of The Hungry Heart.

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On The Road

We just played our 17th date on our 32 town tour of “The Hungry Heart” across Vermont!

What a ride it has been so far.

We started off with the “world” premiere in St. Albans on Sept 21st. 500 people showed up–it was packed and the excitement was electric. It was so gratifying to show “The Hungry Heart” in the town where I shot the movie and to see the hometown crowd embrace their neighbors and friends who were up on the big screen.  After the film finished I brought everyone up on stage to a standing ovation and a round of local hugs and congratulations. St. Albans should be so proud of the many brave people from their community who told their stories in the film.

Then it was off to the Flynn Theater in Burlington on Sept 27th for the “gala” premiere. I was biting my nails up to the last minute—but WHAT A NIGHT! We had 1200 people there—we gave away 400 free tickets to people in recovery—there were young people there, high school students, underwriters, donors and VIPs—including our special guests Mayor Miro Weinberger, Attorney General Bill Sorrell, Commissioner Doug Racine from VT Dept of Human Resources, Michael Casarico from Burlington Labs , Mark Ames from the Recovery Centers and Martha Maksym from Chittenden County United Way and—-Ta da!!! Mrs. Vermont—who was fabulous, is in recovery and wore her crown. Many people were thanked, the excitement was palpable and the movie started. I don’t think I will ever see the film projected on such a huge screen again!

People laughed, cried and cheered at the end of the movie. It was a fabulous night at the Flynn.

And that launched the state-wide tour! So far we have shown the film in Stowe, Morrisville, Fairlee, Richford, Enosburg, Swanton, Montpelier, Randolph, Waitsfield, Barre, Rochester, Winooski, Jericho and Shelburne.

Every night has had its indelible moments. Some particularly memorable evenings have been at the Richford screening when community organizer Sarah Jane Davis rode up to the event in her car that was plastered with Hungry Heart posters, got out of her vehicle and with outstretched arms yelled across to me and my roadie Jessie “You’re here!”—Sarah helped organize the town, had high school students literally waving down cars to stop and come to the show and was just an all out cheerleader for the movie. Thank you Sarah!

Another memorable night was Swanton ( I was not there—I took one night off to just catch my breath!) But according to Fred and the gang 300 people showed up at the high school and Sally Greeno from the movie made an impassioned speech and got the crowd riled up! Good for her!

Winooski was a special night because we dedicated the evening to local town hero Timothy Bergeron who had just passed away from a long battle with drug addiction. Many of his family members attended the screening and his brother in law Les got up and memorialized his life and struggles. There was not a dry eye in the house.

Barre was also amazing—we had 250 people attend—many people from recovery came including a bunch of folks on parole who asked great questions during the Q and A. Bob from the local Turning Point did an excellent job in community organizing to help get the audience there. That night before the show The Mayor from Barre read a proclamation saying that October 16th was here on named Recovery Day in the city. Fantastic!

Montpelier was packed at both Bethany Church and CCV—Shelburne, there weren’t enough chairs so people had to sit on the floor and on tables in the back of the town hall, and in Waitsfield people lounged in comfy couches in the movie theater and had a conversation with us afterwards as if we were all sitting in a big living room. That was cool.

The many conversations and discussions with audiences after each show have been illuminating, honest and reveal the fact that opiate addiction is everywhere and in each town across Vermont that we have landed.  The people attending the shows are diverse—including many parents who come to share their heart-wrenching stories of struggle about their addicted kids and those in recovery—and although the stories are tough, there is also a lot of hope that emanates from each of these events because people are coming together, sharing their stories in conjunction with the movie and empowering each other to take action and make change.

Behind the scenes, my compatriots from the movie Pediatrician Fred Holmes, Katie, Linda, Sally, Ron, Raina, Stephanie, Pat, Jessie and others who have showed up for the Q and A’s have all been articulate and amazing. Each of them bring something special to the conversation with audiences.

And of course….. we are also having lots of fun on the road…driving to far away places, showing up in the middle of nowhere, setting up our box office wherever and whenever, finding places to eat along the way that range from hamburger joints to high cuisine eateries, laughing uncontrollably at Katie’s hilarious stories and jokes, and even taking care of a stray baby in Randolph (inside joke)….Anyway, we are half way through the tour—another 15 or so dates to go. Thanks to everyone, including my roadie “Jess-he” for being on time, ready to go and always schlepping the equipment into the next venue with a heave-ho and a good sense of humor.

So—that’s it for now—On to the next town! See you on the road.

Bess O’Brien—Producer/Director

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