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The film began in 2012 without us knowing it. Matt took time away from his successful career in photojournalism to study filmmaking as a Knight Fellow at Ohio University. While filming food distribution at a church, he was approached by J.P. – a key character in INHERITANCE – eager to tell his story. After listening to J.P. talk about his heroin addiction, trauma, prison, and a search for redemption, Matt made a short film telling his story. Amy was the second camera on the project.

We found ourselves on the frontlines of the opioid crisis in America.

As we spent time with J.P., his family, and his community, we realized the issue was far more complex than the devastation wrought by one drug. Here was a troubled America, one where communities that bore the brunt of economic decline now faced inherited poverty, joblessness, abuse, addiction, and hopelessness. At the core, it seemed, was a cycle of intergenerational trauma and mental health problems underlying America’s substance use disorder crisis.

In 2016, we met J.P.’s 12-year-old cousin Curtis – bright, captivating, and hopeful in a family where every adult battled addiction. His six-year journey to adulthood became ours as filmmakers, to let viewers ask themselves: What if I were Curtis? Could I forge a path different from my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, – and cousins like J.P.? Is it realistic, let alone fair, to expect a kid like Curtis to “pull themselves up by the bootstraps?”

We kept our focus on Curtis’s story, with a belief that audiences would view him as representative of millions of kids in America. We interviewed a local police officer who has known his family for 30 years and he estimated that Curtis’s situation represents up to 30% of all kids in the region. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that about one out of every eight kids in America grows up in homes with a substance use problem. INHERITANCE does not suggest policy changes but we passionately believe that empathy and understanding are the first spark toward change.

The deeper we delved into this story, the more we began to look at the impact substance use disorder has had on our own family histories. Although Curtis has faced many more difficult struggles than we ever did, we felt a deepening connection with him and his family, and a belief that audiences could be led to feel the same connection, empathy, and hope toward Curtis.

– Matt Moyer and Amy Toensing, Directors, Producers & Cinematographers

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