Fashion Meets Drug Addiction in a Film with a Purpose

Monday, December 9th, 2013

The 18-minute film Candyland shows a day in the life of Jack Smith (Noah Mills), a handsome and successful guy with a deadly problem. Jack jets to business appointments, meets up with his beautiful girlfriend (Roxy Olin), speeds through Los Angeles in an expensive car, and swallows pill after pill just to make it through the day. Via pulsing music and glamorous scenes, this fashion film reveals Jack’s addiction to a cocktail of prescription drugs: Ritalin, Vicodin, and Adderall.

The film is written and directed by Jouri Smit, founder of R.A.D., an artists’ collective and production company dedicated to socially conscious storytelling.  Phoenix House spoke with Jouri about Candyland and his mission to create awareness about prescription drug abuse.

Candyland promotional posterPhoenix House: How did you get the idea for this film?

Jouri Smit: A lot of my friends were using drugs like Xanax, Ritalin and Adderall. Some were taking them to party, some were taking them to study, and some were taking them as medications. All of a sudden I saw how many people were using prescription drugs, and then I really wanted to tell a story about it.

I felt that the people affected the most were young people – the MTV crowd – as well as a lot of people who work in fashion and film, the world where I come from. A lot of the PSAs and the information about these drugs are not entertaining, not even interesting, and especially not interesting to that kind of crowd. I wanted to create a film that would speak to those people.

PH: You chose to set this message in a glamorous setting with beautiful people. Why this setting?   

JS: Often when we look at the problems within society, it’s portrayed that people on the fringes of society are the ones who have all these issues. But most of the people I know who take these pharmaceutical drugs are really successful. They’re lawyers; they’re working on Wall Street. On the outside, they have a great life. On the inside, they are hurting and that’s what you don’t see. You can be successful, but that doesn’t mean everything is ok. Everything is far from OK if you need these drugs to function.

PH: Your film doesn’t have dialogue but it uses music and ambient sound to show the ups and the downs of a high. Can you talk about the artistry behind that?

JS: I really wanted to stay away from coming across as preachy. Instead of telling you what’s going on, I’m going to let you experience it. It was about letting people get inside Jack’s head. We chose to go without dialogue because this subject is so sensitive, and once we made that decision we took it further with the prescription drug labels that appear on the screen when Jack is taking a pill. The labels are warnings that all of these pharmaceutical brands have on their own pills. They’re like modern title cards – it has all the elements of a silent film but in a modern format.

PH: How do you see people using your film to help others? 

JS: If you think a friend has a problem, it’s a foot in the door. It’s easy to say, “Oh you should watch this fashion film” and afterwards say, “Maybe you should go to this website because I think you have a problem.” The ultimate goal is to get people to talk about it openly. Right now people either don’t talk about it or they think it’s not a big deal. When people take illegal drugs they know that what they’re doing is damaging to their bodies; the danger with prescription drugs is that people think because the doctor prescribed them, there’s no risk and no damage. That misperception gives them the ease to just use those drugs at will.

PH: We love that you included such strong calls to action and that you directed people to places where they could get more information or find help. Why did you find it important to turn a fashion film into a strong advocacy tool? 

JS: On the one side you have these fashion films that are beautiful and sexy and they talk about nothing. On the nonprofit side, you have all these great causes but the messaging is done in such a way that it’s not interesting. We want to bring Hollywood and film storytelling to these causes. We’re trying to create a win-win situation for both parties—the fashion brands get to humanize themselves, and the nonprofits get a chance to reach an audience that they normally wouldn’t. Just creating the film is not enough. If you make a film like this and you don’t add a call to action, it’s not going to work. The film has just raised the question and created awareness, but that is not the solution. The solution is that someone thinks about it and takes the next step, which is getting help. Otherwise it’s just a piece of entertainment.

To watch the film, visit

If you or a loved one needs help for a substance abuse issue, Phoenix House is here for you. Email us or call today at 1 888 671 9392.

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