The line snaked all the way down the multiplex corridor. Over 200 people, sipping soft drinks and chewing popcorn, waiting patiently for the theater door to open. Energy coursed through the air; the anticipation was thick and tactile.

But this was no premiere of a Hollywood blockbuster, no much-clamored-for high-grossing sequel. What the throng of eager moviegoers had gathered to see was something bigger, something better, something more riveting than even the most advanced cinematic effects house can conjure.

It was the first ever Brickyard Film Festival, held at O’neil Cinemas in Brickyard Square in Epping, NH, and the feature attraction was our region’s youth taking a stand. Taking a stand against the substance abuse that devastates their peers. Taking a stand for the right choice, no matter how difficult that might be.

The event was the culmination of our first ever Youth Venture. We opened up the opportunity for local groups of youth to apply for funding of a film short, dealing with an assortment of prevention and peer leadership topics. The timetable was aggressive: about three months for the kids to plan, present and execute their films. But the payoff was amazing.

We had Timberlane School lauding the virtues of Enjoying Life in a Natural State, the Raymond Coalition for Youth warning of the dire consequences of Just One Hit, Epping middle and high schoolers urging their peers to make the right decision when confronted with A Fork in the Road, Portsmouth’s Project Safety tackling the insidious menace of prescription drug abuse in Need for Speed and, finally, a group of students with special needs, dubbing themselves “The Wolf Pack” sharing an intimate look into what true prevention is, as they documented their trip to a residential school in the White Mountains that serves students with ADHD, Asperger’s and other issues to plant a garden and build community.

And in front of a packed house, on a 52′ screen, they saw their works debuted, one after the other. After the credits rolled and the applause subsided the youth shared the purpose of their films with the crowd and the real-life issues that prompted their creation.

There was magic on the silver screen that night.

Special thanks to O’neil Cinemas, Exeter Hospital and Allegra Portsmouth for sponsoring the event.

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