Spot director’s feature-length doc on raging Downstate meth epidemic to shoot in fall

Researching the effects of methamphetamine abuse on central Illinois addicts for his forthcoming feature documentary, John Novotny kept encountering the same image from his sources.

“Meth destroys the euphoria receptors in the brain, so the little pleasures we take for granted, they can longer get,” Novotny said. “We can look at a sunset and feel this sense of wonder and euphoria. They don’t get that anymore.”

Novotny’s doc “Vanishing Sunsets” explores the widespread impact of meth in rural communities, a phenomenon he said is on track to rival the level of the inner city crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980’s.

“Every other day it’s in the local papers down here,” said Novotny, who splits his time between Chicago and Downstate Mattoon. “Talking to people about it, I was moved by the passion they have for what they’re up against, and the way they open up about it.”

Novotny is raising the $90,000 budget from state and local government, foundations, and corporate and individual investors through his Findley Films, LLC. He has completed preliminary research and plans to shoot through the fall.

Some of his sources have told Novotny that a Los Angeles production company is also readying a doc covering the meth problem in the region. “We’ve got to get moving and strike while the iron is hot,” he said. “I know the area very well. I have the confidence of a lot of the people down here, which allows them to feel comfortable with me and gets me access to current and former addicts and their families and to the court system.”

Novotny plans to launch the film on the fest circuit next year, with an eye to cable broadcast and video sales targeted to rural areas in Illinois and across the country, hopefully generating enough attention for a theatrical release.

“‘Vanishing Sunsets’ is something the rural areas will put into movie houses,” he said. “All these people can relate to it. There’s not a person there who doesn’t know somebody affected by meth.”

Novotny spent 15 years as a marketing exec, writing and producing spots for telecom companies and for the White Sox. He founded Findley Films last spring to produce “Sunsets” and his next doc, “What America Wants,” profiling a cross section of Americans whose dreams have failed to materialize.

“Vanishing Sunsets” DP is regular History Channel shooter Ned Miller, who also shot the forthcoming HBO doc “Holy Watergate: Pedophile Priests.” Editor is Jeff Hellyer of Edit House.

Reach Novotny at 630/917-0031 or

? by Ed M. Koziarski,