America’s opioid crisis gets personal in the new documentary “Death to Life” from director Nate Powers. Through a series of vignettes, including the story of former college and pro football player Markus McFolling, stories are told of how the drug addiction wreaked havoc on families and individuals. The film is currently making the rounds at film festivals while the producers are hopeful for distribution in 2022.
Powers recently spoke to Reel Faith’s DeWayne Hamby about why he wanted to tackle the opioid epidemic on film.
You have a very personal connection to this story. At what point did you think it could be presented as a film?
Markus and I dreamed of working together to tell his story from the moment he started speaking out about his journey with addiction to students and recovery centers around the country. It took a couple years for that dream to become reality, but we always knew that we would make something special when the time was right.
Before your encounter with Markus, was this subject something that resonated with you?
I grew up in Northeast Ohio. That area is one that has been ravaged by the drug crisis through the years. While I never had any experience with drug addiction myself, I saw many people in my life hurt by it in one way or another. I went to high school with Kurstie, who is one of the stories we tell in the film.
How long did this journey from idea to full production take?
The process for this film was lightning-fast and was centered around a lot of impulse. My Director of Photography, Trevor Hancock, and I bounced all over Ohio over a weekend filming all of our interviews. It was an impulse decision after a conversation with Markus where we finally decided to pull the trigger and make something together. We had the entire production filmed before we even knew the title of the film or what the finished product would look like. I wasn’t even sure if it would be a complete project. From there we took about 3 months in post-production to gather all the pieces together to make it all flow as a cohesive piece. It’s crazy what can be accomplished with something as simple as just taking action!
What are some of the responses – both professional and personal – that you have received from those who have seen the film?
The feedback we’ve received from “Death to Life” has been incredible to say the least. When we first premiered it in my hometown in January of 2020, all the news stations wanted to cover the story, and we had over 500 people from the community come out to support the project. We received a standing ovation during the credits. I would be lying if I said that didn’t put me in tears. Since then, we’ve been selected by 10 film festivals around the country and have won 3 awards. One of the festivals we were selected for was the Nashville Film Festival, which is Academy Award Qualifying. During that festival they asked me to participate in a Director’s Q&A. The moderator referred to the film as “important”, which was a word that stood out to me. That’s exactly what we want “Death to Life” to be. Important.
What do you most want viewers to walk away with?
Our big two focuses with this film are to challenge the way our society views and treats those struggling with addiction. We want to bring awareness to the humanity behind the statistics. We want to remind people that someone in addiction is just like you and I, and that their lives have infinite value. The second thing is that we want to provide a film that people in addiction can watch and be reminded that there’s hope. We want them to know that addiction doesn’t have to be a death sentence.
When will the film release to the public?
Right now, we are in the final phase of our Film Festival Circuit. Our ultimate goal is to land a distribution deal so that people around the world can stream our project sometime in 2022.
For more information about “Death to Life,” click here.