Friday brought the report of yet another tragic death of a talented individual, which appears to be drug related. I don’t want to jump to conclusions but the New York Times is reporting that he was found with a crack pipe, crack and prescription medication.
I could write a lot about this situation since it has become an all to common headline, however I would like to focus on one aspect of this particular set of circumstances. In one of the articles I read, it was mentioned that Adam Goldstein (DJ AM) had just finished filming 8 episodes of a highly anticipated series for a major network, in which he attempted to help kids and their families, struggling with drugs. I happen to know a little bit about this production because I was approached by the show’s producers to assist them in finding individuals to help, as well as assist them with finding treatment for the addicts who wanted help.
This is a role I’ve played countless times for the media and one I enjoy as long as everyone involved id focused on raising awareness and helping those without options. Nine times out of ten the experience is overwhelmingly positive; however, my experience with this particular production company was frustrating and sadly, not unusual. I found them to be largely uneducated about the disease itself and that always poses a problem for all those involved. I was basically asked to identify individuals in crisis and then asked to wait while the casting process was performed. I found this to be a hard pill to swallow for myself and my company. I found that the bulk of the decision making on everything from which subjects to pick for the show to where to place them in treatment was centered around production concerns, logistics and politics, rather than what was in the best interest of the individuals in crisis. I understand there are issues which have to be addressed during the production of a show of this nature, however I believe that this can be accomplished while keeping the subjects’ best interest in the forefront.
I found that the people I spoke with at the production company were largely ignorant to the nuances of the disease, recovery process they were attempting to portray and the proper sequence of events that takes someone from crisis to solution. I realize that sacrifices are made when creating entertainment from crisis, however, I have to ask myself if those directly involved were more thoroughly equipped with information about the disease and recovery process, would they have been able to see that the star of their show was in trouble himself, or did they see it but determine that the show must go on? I am certainly not assigning responsibility to the network or the production company for this tragedy; however, I am just asking some questions that I believe need to be asked about this situation and to the entertainment industry as a whole.
Earlier this year I attended the Prism awards in Beverly Hills. These awards are given to the entertainment industry for the accurate portrayal of addiction and mental health issues in entertainment vehicles. There are many great shows out there that through their craft are raising the awareness of these issues in the consciousness of their viewers. Shows like A&E’s “The Cleaner” are very cutting edge; however “The Cleaner” is a fictional drama and certainly not reality. When you get into reality realm, it is a different beast altogether. Cops was probably the mother of all reality shows, where the film crew follows the professionals and films whatever happens. They are not involved in the decision making process and they do not cast the subjects. If the entertainment industry wants to do a reality series why don’t they identify a recovery professional and film them doing what they do without interfering, then they can go back to the editing room where it is completely safe and ethical to make decisions. When I need to produce a video, I go to the professionals and follow their guidance, when these production companies want to do a show about addiction shouldn’t they do the same.
Just a thought.