The Heroin Effect

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Post-Production


144 people die every day in the US from heroin and other opioid overdoses...but there is hope. Dean, Sandi and Eric are in long term recovery and they are part of the solution. That said, Daniel’s video diary serves as the most personal of warnings.


Daniel Couzins was an assistant bank manager in southern New Hampshire. He documented his heroin use in a cell phone video diary. Born in Bristol England, with a warm smile and a British accent, he complains about tedious tasks at his job, he rocks out during his commute, and he gets high on heroin. Over the course of three months, Daniel made 64 entries. We come to know him and like him as a regular guy, at the same time watching him struggle with an awful addiction. His diary recordings are the most personal of warnings.

144 people die every day in the US from heroin and other opioid overdoses. That's over 52,500 deaths per year. Countless grieving families and friends are left behind. We don't need another documentary to tell us this. We don't need to see more “junkies” and needles to know there is a problem. We need to see that there is compassion and hope for a solution. Our story is about hope.

Sandi Coyle is a petite young mom. You would never expect her to be addicted to heroin, but she was. She doesn’t look like a girl who would drive down to northeast Philadelphia to buy heroin, but she did, often.

Eric Spofford was an IV drug user by the time he was 15 years old. He committed crimes, robbed drug dealers to fund his addiction, and was a general burden on society. He overdosed five times on heroin, and was revived with Narcan each time.

Dean Lemire had a history of stealing his grandfather’s oxycontin pills. It only took one Facebook message to an acquaintance to get his first dose of heroin.

Sandi, Eric and Dean are members of the seacoast New Hampshire community and they are in long term recovery. They are also a part of the solution. Eric is the founder and CEO of Granite Recovery Centers and operates 5 treatment facilities in New Hampshire, employing 160 of the most qualified treatment professionals in the state. In 2016, Sandi opened Safe Harbor, a peer-led recovery center. Dean teamed up with others in recovery to found Bonfire Recovery Services. He is currently Director of Community Relations at New England Recovery and Wellness.

Their inspirational stories are supported by insights from experts, each with their own personal experiences framing their attitudes toward addiction. 

Portsmouth Police Detective Seth Tondreault learned on the job that public perception of a drug addict does not match reality. He’s seen people he never suspected as drug abusers die from overdose. He knows first hand that we can't arrest our way out of addiction.

Tym Rourke, Director of Substance Use Disorders Grantmaking at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, considers addiction a “disease of belonging”, of community. When his son was diagnosed with cancer, his insurance card worked. He wants the same for those struggling with addiction.

London journalist Johann Hari went on a three year, thirty-thousand-mile journey around the world to find out what is and is not working in the “war on drugs”. His New York Times best-selling book "Chasing the Scream" documents this journey. The solution is not what we have been led to believe.

There is no single solution, but we know that the key to fighting the opioid epidemic lies in bringing people together. The police, medical professionals, persons in recovery and members of the general community all have a role. This is our community, our crisis and only as a community, and with a shift in our perception of addicts and addiction, can we begin to tackle this crisis.



With a background in music, psychology and counseling I tend to see the world in a very unique way. As a musician, I see things musically. I visualize the characters in the film as a musical score and the editing and the pacing of the film as the culmination of the underlying cadence of rhythms, lyrics and melodies. In the case of "Community > Heroin", it is first and foremost a film about people and the various personalities from all walks of life it’s comprised of. Therefore, it’s underlying skeletal framework is in the conversational sit-down interview style, which can be see as laying down the bass and drum tracks in a recording studio. It’s the basic foundation for establishing a relationship with the characters as well as our musical structure. Without a solid foundation, the song will fall apart and never reach its full potential, and as with this example, so will the film. This has its advantages because although you lead with a visual that’s a single camera interview, as the story takes shape, the visual imagery that manifests itself can be taken out of the interview and into the lives of those sharing their stories. As the characters and their level of trust grow, so does their movement and interaction in front of the camera. In the same way the melodic instruments are layered upon the initial rhythm tracks to create a song, so is the growth of the characters and our community. The initial sit down face to face interactions and subsequent follow up interviews and moments spent in different settings go from a drumbeat, to adding a guitar riff, a lyric, a verse and a chorus and eventually to the first live performance of a new song.

My approach to this film is immersive and journalistic in nature. To observe without being obtrusive; to be a fly on the wall as these events in our community unfold and take shape before our eyes. I will involve myself with the various characters and groups that make up this story. My background in psychology and counseling help me to form the necessary relationships of trust, understanding, and compassion with the characters in this film. By forgoing any scripted questions and preconceived ideas of where the story will take me, I am instead able to employ a real interpersonal and conversational approach to each of the characters I interview and interact with. Through the course of the filming process, relationships are formed, friendships are made, and another community is born.

My last documentary film had a community aspect to it as well. It’s something that is a common theme I find at the heart of every film and will expose this to the audience. Without the support of community, the individual struggles and success is harder to achieve. Through the sense of belonging, the community makes the individual greater and more accomplished They are able to achieve more than ever imaged together, then what one could ever do alone. From my perspective what they say is true... it takes a village.


Michael Venn - Director

Michael is a director and producer whose background in music led him into the film world. He made his directorial and writing debut in 2010 with the short film “Dark Scribbles.” Michael went on to produce and co-direct the award winning feature documentary film “In Danger of Being Discovered” in 2012. In 2014, he wrote and directed a series of music videos for singer/songwriter Lizzy Marella, a member of the New England RADAR Award Class of 2015.

Karlina Lyons - Producer

Karlina has 20 years of experience in production. She spent eight years in the International Production Department of Sesame Workshop. In 2005 she became a consulting producer for the Cambodian Educational Media Initiative (CEMI), a partnership between WGBH and the global NGO World Education where she produced Cambodian versions of “Sesame Street” and “Peep and the Big Wide World.” Recent credits include “Angkor’s Children” (2014) and the award winning films “Only Daughter” (2013) and “In Danger of Being Discovered” (2011). Karlina received an Emmy for her work on a PSA concerning child abuse awareness. Karlina lost a sister to heroin in 2005.

Mike Bernard - Post Production Supervisor

Michael Bernard is the owner of FUEL Creative in Portsmouth, NH. He has over 20 years of creative production and post-production experience in commercial advertising and corporate marketing. He has worked with some of the most prominent, media-savvy companies including Nike and Reebok and edited award winning films such as “Bighorn”, “The Pond”, and “Rocketship”.


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UPDATE - December 21, 2015

UPDATE - June 28, 2015  View the Article

UPDATE - June 04, 2015

On June 4th, we're planning a fundraising event for donors at the 100 Club in Portsmouth New Hampshire. 

UPDATE - June 04, 2015

We are interviewing our US Senator Kelly Ayotte, from the State of New Hampshire this week. 

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