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An Interview with Adam D'Addario

Can you introduce yourself and your project as well as tell us how it all came together?

My name is Adam D’Addario I am the director of the 2019 documentary “Flood: The Overdose Epidemic in Canada” or “Flood” for short. The drug poisoning crisis in Canada was officially declared in 2016 however it had been going on well before then with fentanyl and its analogs contaminating the drug supply both nationally and internationally. Growing up in rural Ontario, in a town with only one high school, drugs and people using drugs were very commonplace. The stigma surrounding drugs and people who use them was also very commonplace so drugs and people who use drugs were among some of my close friends and family. So with that said, fast forward to 2018, this crisis that had been on my mind for several years became something I was actively researching, and as a filmmaker, I just felt compelled to act upon the research I was doing and direct this film. A friend of mine put me in touch with the person who would go on to become the assistant director of Flood, a close friend, and collaborator named Kirsten Rowe. After Kirsten and I got in touch, she put out an open call for interviewees in a few different Facebook groups, and overnight we had virtually enough interviews around the country to do this film. We knew early on of the responsibility we had to not just put out some voyeuristic shock and awe type of documentary and that we were in a position to depict the humanity of this ongoing crisis from the grassroots initiatives and beyond. Were we the first to take this approach? No. Not even close. Many people, including many depicted in the film, have used other mediums and their voices to express the same messaging over the last several years, a vast majority of whom have lived experience which I feel needs to be acknowledged and appreciated. There was lots of help on this film from Kirsten, my brother Stefano D’Addario, my roommate and friend Nolan Palmer, and my friend Justin Pinto who traveled with us and helped with costs and took on a great deal of the research. On top of help from friends and family, we crowdfunded a large amount of the expenses through GoFundMe so I have a huge appreciation for everyone who had a hand in taking this film from idea to reality.

How did you get involved in film?

I got involved in film at a young age. When I was a kid I taught myself how to edit on my mom’s Macbook and would make short films on the webcam with my friends and my sister. When I got older filmmaking was still always something I wanted to do but I began conforming to the idea of going to school and getting “a real job”. When I got to university I was miserable so I left and began working for my family's business until my mental health started seriously deteriorating and so I took some time off and fell in love with photography. At around the age of 18 or 19, I started freelancing as a photographer but eventually, more and more people I was working with started asking if I do video and so by age 20 I was doing corporate and freelance video work full time. Creatively speaking it was not very fulfilling and that’s when I started researching what became “Flood”.

Describe how you would ensure that production is on schedule. What steps would you take?

We would simply just coordinate with the people we were interviewing and would leave about a 1 or 2-hour window between interviews. For us, “Flood” was the first time any of us had worked on a production with that much travel and commitment involved so we were just guessing as we went along. I hate to say it’s true, and no amount of preparation can prepare you for when something unfathomable happens. As a first-time director, I found myself getting irritable at times and would often pity myself which helped no one. Eventually, you have to learn to grow up and expect the unexpected and get out of those modes of “why is this happening to me?” or “everything is my fault and everything I do sucks” and just learn to improvise.

How long did it take to research and make your film?

The research began in November of 2018 and the film was released in October of 2019 so just under a year.

What, in your opinion, is the most important quality of a film director?

I think it would be similar to what I said before. A good director learns to detach themself from the project. Especially with a documentary, you have to constantly remember “this is not about me”. Don’t fall into those traps where it becomes really easy to be irritable, or bossy, or looking for pity because you’re going to just end up making a film that reflects your bad attitude. I would also say that learning how to decompress after filming all day is super important especially when you’re covering a heavy topic. I think for everyone that looks different, but for me, it was being able to speak to friends who weren’t so involved in the film and just being able to set boundaries for myself so that the documentary work does not bleed over into other areas of my life, which is something I still struggle with. Lastly, learning to appreciate the moment. Even if the subject matter is heavy, the actual act of making a documentary is the most fun and fulfilling thing you can do. You meet people from all walks of life, you get to travel with your friends and collaborators, and you get to bring some light to something that maybe people aren’t so attentive to.

What were your key challenges in filmmaking?

When you’re a filmmaker working with little to no budget and you have maybe taken on more than you can chew, every single thing is a challenge. Mitigating challenges is probably the biggest challenge but is the most crucial thing you can do as a filmmaker. What I mean by that is to get all the administrative things done as soon as you can. For example, getting releases signed, scheduling interviews, writing questions, booking travel and accommodations, and especially getting production insurance. Just assume that anything that can go wrong could very easily go wrong and make sure you have everything you need on the backend done so that you can mitigate those challenges.

An actor is being unprofessional. How do you manage the situation?

Don’t work with actors just make documentaries. I’m kidding of course. However, since I do make documentaries and I don’t often work with actors if someone on my crew was being unprofessional I would try and get to the bottom of why that is through conversation. In regards to this film, we traveled long distances in short times and were attached at the hip so arguments arose. I did not always handle it in the best way but every situation that occurs like that prepares you for the next time something like that happens. As the director, you have to put your ego aside and try to broker peace at all times even if you feel like you’re right and someone else is wrong. If a resolution can’t be reached and you think it’s best to go your separate ways then you just have to be honest, don't try and sugarcoat it or tell a little white lie to make it easier. Just be honest.

What is the role of film festivals?

For independents and newer filmmakers like myself, film festivals are your best friend. It’s a way to showcase your work globally. Getting involved in as many as you can is rewarding and pays off in the long run.

Describe a time when you made a mistake in your duties. How did you rectify it?

Every day during production, I make mistakes. Big and small. Most recently, on a film I’m currently working on, I conducted a whole interview, and after the interviewee left I realized I had not recorded any of the audio. I rectified it by emailing the person and redoing the interview via skype.

What is the future of film?

Independence. Filmmaking is increasingly becoming more and more accessible a thing to do and you no longer need cutting edge technology or big budgets to do it. Getting your film out there and finding your audience is easier than ever too. So I truly think more and more people will continue to take it upon themselves to create and distribute their films. That’s something I’m always going to be interested in personally so I hope that continues to be the case.

What has been your favourite film to make and why?

In hindsight, “Flood” was a very rewarding experience and helped me become the filmmaker I am today. However, the film we’re currently working on has been my favourite thing that I have ever worked on. Without saying too much, it is similar to “Flood” but it’s more specific to current events unfolding in a specific province in Canada. This film has thrown more curveballs my way than anything I’ve ever worked on so I hope the finished product will show how hard we worked on it.

What has the audience reaction been like?

With a film like “Flood” which deals with subject matters of drug use, harm reduction, decriminalization of drugs, etc. you do receive lots of negative feedback. However, whenever we’ve shown the film publicly or been a part of a film festival or even the feedback on Facebook and YouTube the overwhelming majority of people who have seen the film have been very positive and appreciative of it.

Can you say something about the collaborative nature of filmmaking?

Collaboration in filmmaking is unavoidable you cannot have one without the other. Whether it is an interview for a documentary, a creative disagreement with a colleague, or a 3 AM editing marathon, you have to be willing to collaborate and enjoy it too. People bring their own set of skills and experience to the table and pulling from that makes for a better film and better filmmakers.

Is there any way to see the film?

The documentary is called “Flood: The Overdose Epidemic in Canada” and is available free to watch on both Facebook and YouTube on the First Gear Productions channel.


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