The official trailer for the locally-produced short film “Blink of an Eye” could pass for a music video until a few seconds before it ends.
The camera lingers close to a lovely, languorous ballet dancer, 16-year-old singer and actress Camryn Clune of Amherst, while on the soundtrack she sings a lilting song from the debut album by the English alt-rock group Nothing But Thieves, “If I Get High.”
Finally the screen flashes a message: “Heroin is evil disguised as happiness taking life in the blink of an eye.”
That’s a hint of what’s ahead in rest of the film, which runs 11 minutes and 55 seconds. It will premiere May 21 in Evergreen Health Services, 206 S. Elmwood Ave., which provides medical care for many with addictions. The trailer is on YouTube and the film has been submitted to the Buffalo International Film Festival.
“It’s gut-wrenching,” says writer and director Greg Robbins, who has lived in Amherst for the past six years.
The film, which has no dialogue, focuses on a dancer who injures her knee.
“This story happens every day, all the time, and it seems so innocent,” Robbins told Buffalo News Staff Reporter Anne Neville when shooting started in February on what originally was going to be a five-minute short. “The doctor puts her on painkillers, she gets addicted to the painkillers, builds up a resistance, so she goes to something harder, which is heroin.”
Robbins conceived “Blink of an Eye” after continually hearing reports about fatalities caused by opioids.
“Every morning my wife and I would watch the news and there would be overdose deaths,” he says. “It hit me in the heart.”
He mentioned it when he met Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown last year and they talked about the opioid crisis.
“I remembered this script I wrote for the Ad Council,” he says. “But I didn’t sell it to them. I kept it.”
A few days later he heard from Police Capt. Stephen J. Nichols.
The mayor asked him to call, Nichols told Robbins, adding, “He wants to do it.”
That gave Robbins support and assistance from the city and the police, but there was no funding to make the film. Nevertheless, he assembled a crew that pitched in to work without pay. Many of them had experienced the grief from friends and relatives dying from overdoses.
“All of them had their reason why,” Robbins says. “There was story after story.”
Robbins ran 21 screen tests before choosing an actress, Camryn Clune, a student at Christian Central Academy whose aunt died from a fentanyl overdose. On stage since she was 9, she has won several talent contests, has sung the National Anthem for the Bills, Bisons and Sabres, and organized Backyard Broadway, which puts on shows to raise money for those in need.
The principal at Christian Central Academy, Thad Gaebelein, offered the use of the school and his home for filming. The owner of California Road Studios in Orchard Park donated time for Camryn and a band called Joyful Noise to record the film’s theme song and provided additional time for the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra to record an instrumental version.
But not everything came for free. Nothing But Thieves charged a fee for the use of the song. Also costly were the special effects needed to make the text messaging between the dancer and her mother seem more realistic on screen.
Robbins and his co-producers attempted to raise funds via Kickstarter, but were unsuccessful. Even so, he has no plans to monetize the finished product. Any group that wants to show it can have it without charge.
“I’m not selling the film,” he says. “My idea is to give it away to anyone who wants to use it. I just couldn’t be capitalizing on the back of death.”
Story topics: movies