New Richmond HS students' film shows consequences of teen drinking and driving

6:13 PM, Dec 5, 2011   |    comments
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Image from "Forever"

NEW RICHMOND, Wis. -- It is one thing to tell a teen about the dangers of drinking and driving. It may be a bit more impactful to show them the consequences.

The students in New Richmond High School's SAFE Youth (Supporting an Alcohol Free Environment) group spent a week shooting the 60-minute film; it was in production for about 3 months.

"Because no one really seems to get it," junior Rose Smith said. Smith, a member of SAFE, plays the part of a teen that drinks at a party, gets in the car with a drunk driver and is killed. "The point was to show you that this is not okay."

Junior Adam Halonen plays the part of a teen who hosts the party. In his role, his fictional parents provide the alcohol and the consequences of that decision is played out on screen as well. Halonen says if his friends in real life drink at parties, they know not to invite him. "In the real world, this happens a lot," he explained. "I really think this [film] is going to get the word out."

The film is graphic at times. There is a point to the gruesome crash scene. The film was screened at New Richmond High School last week. It will be shown publicly at New Richmond High School at 7 p.m. on December 7 and 11. Admission is free but DVD film copies will be on sale for $20 and proceeds from the sale will benefit the SAFE Youth program.

"It was very emotional for me. It brought back a lot of memories," New Richmond science teacher and SAFE leader Deborah Swanson said. Swanson wrote the screenplay with her husband and both were very involved in the shooting and production process as well. The Swanson's lost a loved one to a drunk teen driver four years ago.

It was Alec Knox, a senior, who was cast as the teen drunk driver in this movie. He says it was scary to play the part. As part of the filmmaking, Knox was surrounded by real EMTs, arrested and booked by real law enforcement officers, and marched in front of a real judge. "When I was sitting there in the jail cell and I basically thought about what if this actually happened to someone I knew," he wondered.

The film is called "Forever." Members of SAFE say it's already made a lasting impact on their classmates.

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