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Shepherd filmmaker takes on state drug epidemic
April 17, 2017

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Shepherd University Communication and New Media student Austin David Susman will be premiering his Senior Capstone Short Film, Dr. J & Mr. H, at the Shepherdstown Opera House on Wednesday April 12, 2017. The film is a short drama about the West Virginia Heroin Epidemic loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

This short film is the culmination of Susman's time at Shepherd, as well as a year long research and production process looking at the drug epidemic, various adaptations of the Jekyll and Hyde Story, and adaptation theory as a whole. It tells the story of Dr. Henry Jeffries, portrayed by local actor Jeffrey Marcum, a modern day Dr. Jekyll who turns to opioids after a bad car accident. While Jeffries is a fictional character, he is a composite of many victims of drugs in West Virginia and around the country Susman read about during his research. In many ways Jeffries is not only one addict, but a metaphor for the state itself during this crisis.

"I've always been fascinated with the concept of 'adaptation'-taking stories that have been around for hundreds of years and making something new out of them. When it came time to do my capstone film, I knew I wanted to do something like that; take an old classic and put a new spin on it," said Susman.

While Susman was debating different ideas for a capstone that would be a culmination of his work and time at Shepherd, he said he came across Jekyll and Hyde.

"As I was reading the book, there's this section where Jekyll compares his predicament to that of a drunkard. That got me to thinking about addiction," said Susman. "In today's society the big problem with opioids, painkillers, heroine, made it relevant."

Susman is from Charleston and he said coming to the Eastern Panhnadle made him more aware of the rampant drug addiction going on. He began to hear more and more news stories about it, both here and in southern West Virginia, where he's from.

"As soon as I read that part of the book-about Jekyll's addiction, I immediately saw a link between the classic story and today's world," said Susman.

In addition to doing months of research into the drug epidemic, Susman also wrote the screenplay and directed the production.

Rounding out the cast is Temetrie Encarnacion as Dr. Stone, Kaitlyn Miller as Andy, Michael Pittel as Alex, and Josh Meyers as Dr. Lanyon.

Production crew includes Dr. Jason McKahan, Breanna Gladden, Attalia Brown, Greg Havenner, Alex Ponton and Blair Cherelstein.

The premiere will be held at the Shepherdstown Opera House, 131 West German Street on Wednesday April 12 2017. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the film begins at 7:00. The event is free and open to the public. The film will be released publicly on YouTube shortly after the screening.

For more information, contact Susman at 304-780-7620, ASusma01@Rams.Shepherd.Edu or vistit Facebook projects at www.facebook.com/DoctorJMrH.

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