‘On Island’ to premiere at the drive-in

The documentary film "On Island" uses individual stories of addiction and recovery to illustrate just how prevalent substance use disorder is in our community.

The locally made film “On Island” will have its public premiere at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival Drive-In at the YMCA on Saturday, Sept. 4, at 7:30 pm. 

“On Island” highlights the struggle of Vineyarders with substance use disorder. As Lucas Thors wrote after the film’s digital premiere in February, “The film follows the story of several Islanders who have battled (and continue to battle) substance use, along with health professionals and first responders who have faced this issue head-on. The film illustrates how the unique Island community makes people more susceptible to falling into the throes of addiction. At the same time, many of the elements of our tight-knit home create a network of support for anyone who is struggling with substance use disorder.”

Among many others, the film focuses on Tyler Paulson and Riley Dobel — roommates and coworkers at Tabor Tree & Land Co.

Dobel said in the film that he started experimenting with drugs at an early age, in part due to the pervasive drug culture that existed, and continues to exist, here: “You go to the high school here, and it’s kind of like a rite of passage.” While in recovery, Dobel was hired by Dennis Redican, the late owner of Tabor Tree, who was a pillar of the recovery community on Martha’s Vineyard. Struggling with addiction himself, Redican made it a point to hire folks in recovery, and take them to the trees to find solace.

Tyler Paulson said that when he is up in the trees working, he feels an overwhelming sense of gratitude and pride, and even though he hates heights and is in a new and uncomfortable situation being suspended so high up, “it makes [him] focused.” 

Since February, more than 8,500 people have viewed “On Island,” which was produced by the Public Good Projects (PGP), a national public health communications organization specializing in large-scale behavior change campaigns and programs. The film was funded by grants from the Tower Foundation, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, and by Island donors, with the support of the Island’s Substance Use Disorder Coalition (SUD). SUD subcommittee chair Chip Coblyn says that while support has been generous, the committee is seeking additional donors.

“We anticipate the need to seek and refine more data,” Coblyn has said, “as well as to create assistance programs and interventions associated with a proposed behavior change campaign spearheaded by PGP. While these initiatives will require resources that we don’t yet have, it has been gratifying and heartening to witness the generosity of a growing number of benefactors, who obviously view the ‘On Island’ endeavor as a positive undertaking for our special community.”

TMVFF executive director Brian Ditchfield will introduce the film and host a brief Q and A with SUD coalition member Brian Morris, a rehabilitation counselor. 

Gates open at 6:30 pm; the film and discussion with rehabilitation counselor Brian Morris begin at approximately 7:30 pm. Visit driveinmv.com/onisland for tickets and more information.