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Happy, ambitious faces, delicious food and a fantastic band that by the end of the evening had everyone on their feet made me want to stay at Park West in Chicago’s Lincoln Park for hours. And though the benefit for the film Using did eventually end, the buzz about the up-and-coming writer and director, Thomas Quinn, and his film most certainly will not any time soon.
Quinn and a tireless staff of interns, a production crew and countless volunteers are responsible for Using, a feature length, independent drama about betrayal, addiction and a father’s struggle to save his daughter from self-destruction. The screenplay, an original by Quinn, is a powerful piece produced by Fresh Bread Productions and Phenom Features, both non-profit organizations.
“The mission of Phenom Features is to mentor students to learn the art of filmmaking, and the mission of Fresh Bread Productions is to use art to give back to the community,” says Kymberly Harris, Fresh Bread producer. “Our missions are holding hands on Using, if you will.”
You can imagine that with two non-profits, eventually money would become an issue for any project. But though it might be a challenge, no one involved in Using is going to let money stand in the way of finishing the film. And the benefit that took place at Park West on Saturday evening was the perfect way to start to raise the money that they need for the film, while also spreading the word about the important topic of young drug addiction.
The evening was perfection, put on in association with Michelle Dupretti Events. The red carpet leading into the venue ended with friendly faces from the production companies, ushering you inside. There were hors d’oeurves from Phil Stefani Catering, the bar was nicely stocked and the silent auction had everything from vacations to artwork, again to help raise money for the film.
And usually, there would be nothing that could make such a perfectly described night even better. But most events don’t have Terry O’Quinn as the honorary guest, the actor that played both the heroic and infamous character John Locke on Lost.
O’Quinn is Quinn’s brother, and he was happy to come help amp up the event’s celebrity factor. O’Quinn happily took photographs with fans and greeted all of the guests at the event. He even donated John Locke’s famous dagger to the silent auction table, something that many fans at the event swooned over.
And when Aubyn Beth, the evening’s fantastic band, played their final song, the production crew, actors and the Quinn brothers were content with how the evening had ended. Thomas and Terry sat at a table in the back of the room for most of the evening, enjoying their time together. Harris was on the dance floor, mingling with friends and guests. Everyone had a fantastic time, and it was never overlooked that the fun came with benefiting a great film and a great cause.
Yes, Quinn and Harris and everyone involved in the film wanted to raise money and finish their project. That was a big goal. But there were other things on their minds when putting this benefit together. A portion of the proceeds went to both the Salvation Army Safe Harbor Shelters and Teen Challenge, and they also wanted to educate everyone on the darkness of addiction. The project is an ongoing process, not only to finish the film, but to bring awareness to the cause, as well.
It’s easy to see that this film is very important to everyone involved. Harris, most specifically, said that she knows teen drug addiction is something that is extremely dangerous and needs to be addressed.
“In the film, the daughter is educated and wealthy and has every material advantage, but she doesn’t have a true emotional bond with anyone or a safe place to express herself, and she turns to drugs and ends up on the streets,” she says.
In Terry O’Quinn’s final speech to address the attendees at the benefit to honor his younger brother, Thomas, he made it short and sweet and asked for help to make this film come to fruition. And that’s what this is: an important film that needs to succeed – for the filmmakers, everyone involved, and most importantly, for the general public to be educated on the strong and disturbing subject of teenage addiction.
For more information on the film, please visit the website at www.benefitforusing.eventbrite.com.