What we’ve already done to spark dialogue and change:
Prescription Drug Abuse in Franklin County, a documentary film (in production) that explores the world of prescription drug addition and it's impact on a community.
Ask Us Who We Are , a documentary film focused on the challenges and extraordinary lives of youth in foster care. The film is a reflection on loss and the search for belonging and finding family. Although the film highlights the heartbreak that many foster care youth carry with them as they move through their lives, the documentary also reveals the tremendous strength and perseverance that grows out of their determination to survive and thrive.
The Voices Project (the live show) and Shout it Out ((the feature film) both based on the lives of Vermont youth. These projects spurred state wide dialogue around teen issues, created awareness in communities, and produced a powerful prevention tool for schools and educators across VT and the United States. Teens were given a voice to speak out.
Here today, a documentary film about recovering heroin addicts. This project brought addiction in Vermont into the open and consciousness was significantly raised through the touring of the film. Legislation, the development and expansion of Recovery Centers and the opening of the first methadone clinic in the state were fueled by the tour of Here today.
Journey into Courage , a play and then documentary film focused on women who survived domestic violence and sexual abuse raised awareness throughout VT through an extensive tour. State domestic violence organizations to this day use the film as a prevention tool with clients and communities.
Awards and Recognition:
Past films and projects produced by Bess O’Brien have garnered the following recognition:
• Voices for Vermont's Children 2011 David Goldberg Youth Advocacy Award for Ask Us Who We Are.
• National Education Association’s 2010 Civil and Human Rights Award for enhancing student’s sense of worth and dignity for Shout it Out.
• Vermont Agency of Human Service 2005 Award in recognition of The Voices Project for excellence in improving the lives of Vermonters.
• U.S. Department of Justice Special Recognition for documentary film, Journey into Courage.
• Jack Barry Communication Award for Here today, state-wide recognition for Excellence in prevention awareness
• The prestigious Producers Guild Of America Award in Los Angeles for outstanding work in film producing.
Film Festivals include: Sundance Film Festival, Palm Beach International Film Festival, The San Francisco International Children’s Film Festival, The Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival, The Philadelphia Independent Film Festival, The Boston Film Festival, New Filmmakers Forum, NYC and many more.
Organizations collaborated with to date:
VT Department of Children and Families, VT Dept of Mental Health, VSAC, Casey Family Services, The VT Department of Education, Spectrum Youth Services, NFI , Vermont NEA, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, dozens of schools throughout Vermont and other non-profit.
“This is what a film should do…raise awareness without sounding preachy. So delicate is the balance of information and compassionate insight. The movie is sure to be part of conferences, independent living classes and training courses all across the country."
Foster Focus Magazine reviewing Ask Us Who We Are
“Every state in the Union should be so lucky to have Bess O’Brien working for them in support of children and families!”
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin
“Shout it Out is the first film that I have ever seen that allows students to portray themselves in a way that makes sense and is real to the issues at hand.
Michelle Rath, Ph.D., Director of Guidance- Essex High School
“Bess O’Brien’s Shout it Out is the one of the most real-life looks into the lives of high school students that I have ever seen.
David Baker, age 17, St. Johnsbury, VT
“The Voices Project captured the essence of teen issues with both humor and dignity. The production is truly a gift.”
David Kirby, U.S. Attorney General
“Ambitious and so real! I was choked up by the poignancy and the true stories that came alive in such vivid and authentic ways. Bravo!”
Bernie Sanders, U.S. Congressman
“The Voices Project is an unprecedented production, never before seen in Vermont. To reach out to so many teens, to create such a dynamic artistic outcome is ambitious. It has made a huge impact on the state.”
Alex Aldrich, Executive Director Vermont Arts Council
“The Voices Project is wonderful. The best and most entertaining and powerful presentation by kids that I have ever seen! Beautifully written, moving and hilarious!
Howard Mosher, Irasburg, VT
"I taught middle school and high school for over 25 years in the inner city and rural towns. The performance of The Voices Project captures the thoughts and feelings my former students shared with me."
Bill Miles, Rutland, VT
"The Voices Project was a turning point in my life. I literally found my voice.”
Ruby Hover—teen cast member
“Being cast in The Voices Project was so important for me because I played a girl, dealing with body image issues. Wow—this character had a lot of me in her! By speaking out every night on stage about these issues, I moved forward in accepting and being at peace with my own body issues."
Annalise Shelmandine—teen cast member
"Being in the film Here today helped my recovery more than anything else in my life! Speaking out about addiction was a critical part of my healing process.”
Margaret Masure – subject in film
“Journey into Courage was a way for me to speak about a part of my life that I had often hid away. Being in the film was a way to heal and to raise consciousness about domestic violence in Vermont.”
Tonya Howard – subject in film
"Our town created its first teen center after seeing The Voices Project. We were so inspired by the play that we scheduled a series of community forums on teen issues and a year later opened the teen center in Middlebury. Thank you!"
Emily Joselson—teen center founder