Filmmaker sheds light on addiction with an unexpected story

Jan 7, 2020

After hearing about an unexpected connection made between a police officer, and a young man struggling with drug addiction, Fairhaven’s Alyssa Botelho decided to put her passion for writing and videography to use in the making of “Junkie.” The short film uses a true story to add a human perspective to an often-stigmatized issue. It was partially filmed in Mattapoisett, and one of the crew members is from Wareham.

Botelho said she got the inspiration for the film from a conversation she had with a family member in law enforcement. The relative told her about a shoplifter that they arrested, and later bonded with. After the arrest, the suspect was sent to the hospital for a mental evaluation. While there, he opened up about his struggles that led to his crime, and made an unexpected impression on the officer who arrested him. 

The name “Junkie” may sound harsh, but for Botelho, that’s precisely the point. While many  may have negative assumptions about those struggling with addiction, the young filmmaker hopes that her project will show the people behind the issue as individuals, and not just addicts. 

When asked about her heavy subject material, Botelho said “in my movies, I like to depict reality.” 

Botelho is a junior, studying film and business at the University of Rhode Island, and created “Junkie” as part of an advanced course there. While this may be her biggest project to date, Botelho’s love of writing and storytelling goes back about as far as she can remember. 

Her mother got her a library card at just two-years-old, and took her to check out books on a regular basis. From there, Botelho said she fell in love with things like motifs and symbolism. 

Her interests expanded to take on a more visual platform after taking a media production class with teacher Drew Furtado at Fairhaven High School. 

“At first, I just took it for an art credit,” she admitted, but the class would go on to influence her current career path. 

“When I took media production with Drew Furtado, he showed me that you can translate the stuff I love about writing and books into film, and for me personally, it became that much more beautiful,” she said. 

While she has been shooting videos since her freshman year in high school, the creation of “Junkie” offered new experiences for the student-filmmaker. 

“It was like a whole new world for each step of the way,” Botelho said. 

She began writing in the Spring of 2019, and continued until the start of the fall semester. She shot the scenes in just three days, and used a fourth day for “exterior shots” to go along with the main sequences. 

Botelho said that she led a cast and crew of about 25 people, some of whom included professional actors from New York City. 

She also enlisted the help of her boyfriend Sean Campbell, who served as the director of photography. Wareham’s Tammy Dousay also contributed to the film as a production assistant.

Dousay spoke highly of her colleagues who made “Junkie” a reality.

“To be around people who are that creative, and who can put their minds to work, and come up with such creative conclusions for things is truly a great experience,” she said.

When asked about how this film compared to others she has been a part of, Botelho said “This is the first time I really got to direct, and it felt so natural.” 

She added that being a director taught her to have confidence in her creative vision. She also said that managing “the insane amount of pieces that are moving” was the hardest part of making her vision a reality. 

The opening scene of Botelho’s film takes place in The Mattapoisett Diner. Although the film focuses on a serious topic, she said the diner scene offers a comedic intro, and a chance to meet the main characters. 

While some business owners might be wary of a film titled “Junkie,” Botelho said that the people at the diner seemed to understand her positive message, and were very accomodating to her cast and crew. 

She added that the diner even provided them with food, and that the film received a lot of curiosity from patrons who were there to see its creation. 

Other scenes were filmed in Fairhaven, Dartmouth, New Bedford, and Rhode Island. 

The first showing of “Junkie” will be at the Fairhaven Town Hall at 7 p.m. on Jan. 10. Admission will be free, and audience members will be able to ask Botelho questions at the end of the show.