The ABR Trust puts its faith in Feral Youth
Russell Brand and the late Harry Dean Stanton lend their voices to this new campaign for the ABR Trust, while director Anyrin discusses the film's inception and ultimate goal.
With the tagline, 'we fund hope', the ABR Trust is a registered charity that finances people with addictions as they embark on an abstinence based recovery.
This new campaign from director Arran Anyrin Bowyn, called Feral Youth and produced through PRETTYBIRD, is a powerful and affecting film that examines the life trajectory of those struggling with addictions but who were never able to beat them.
The 110-second film features the voice of the late actor Harry Dean Stanton, who narrates the opening monologue, before actor and comedian Russell Brand takes over with a version of We Could Have Been Anything, from the musical Bugsy Malone. The film portrays those living through desperate circumstances, something Anyrin has explored before in previous projects such as the short film 63lbs, staring Michael Madsen.
Below, Anyrin reveals the motivation for the campaign and the challenge of bringing it to life.
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- Production Company PRETTYBIRD/UK
- Director Anyrin
- Executive Producer Juliette Larthe
- Sound Design Wave Studios/London
- Sound Designer Johnnie Burn
- Costume Designer Emily Rose Yiaxis
- Casting Director Des Hamilton
- Colorist Matthieu Toullet
- Sound Designer Joe Mount
Above: Feral Youth, the new campaign for the ABR Trust.
What was the motivation behind Feral Youth?
A family tragedy motivated me to help other families not have to live through a similar experience. I already had a relationship with Russell and [ABR Trust Founder] Chip Somers, having worked closely with them on a prior campaign for Focus 12. I approached them with a new idea about providing help to people whose loved ones have shared a similar tragedy.
A family tragedy motivated me to help other families not have to live through a similar experience.
Chip (formerly the CEO of Focus 12) is one of the world's most celebrated practitioners in ABR treatment and contributed greatly in Russell’s recovery. As Russell said; “addiction is an illness, not a criminality, as some perceive it to be. There is hope for those desperately in need… however, no funding to support it. Our campaign for the ABR Trust was established to alleviate this issue”.
Above [clockwise from top left]: Russell Brand with ABR Trust Founder Chip Somers; Actors Nick Nolte, Charlie Sheen and Mickey Rourke, all of whom have leant their support to the ABR Trust and the campaign to promote it.
Can you tell us a bit about the inception of this campaign and the idea behind it?
The idea is simple really. We depict a gang of euphoric geriatrics dressed as - and behaving like - apathetic youth, leading to the tagline, 'No young adult dreams of being an old junkie'. There is built-in humour and irony in that image, but that was because we didn’t want to simply create some didactic, rote message with the piece. A message kids have already heard shouted at them thousands of times.
We didn’t want to simply create some didactic, rote message. A message kids have already heard shouted at them thousands of times.
Instead, the goal was to engage them in thought. Put that vivid idea in their head. Make them think about what being addicted means to the full scope of a human life. When we decided to use Paul Williams' iconic We Could Have Been Anything, the hope was that the humour and irony would provoke thought and, at the same time, convey the kind of positive message that ABR is known for. Having Russell, a successful former participant of ABR, sing the vocal was just a perfect fit.
Above: Director Anyrin.
The voice of Harry Dean Stanton opens the film; how did you get him involved with this?
'Come see dignity flush life away...' was penned by Harry when we met and discussed the idea. I spend a lot of time in LA and I met Harry there through an actor we are both close with. Harry loved the ethos of this project, so he invited me to his home to record him.
Like all successful casting, this process took a very long time.
Russell Brand sings the soundtrack to the spot; was he immediately won over by the campaign's approach, and what came first, the song or the end line?
Russell's been involved this campaign since day one. He supports ABR passionately and knew the song well from his childhood. The song came first, in fact.
The actors in the film are all incredibly striking; where did you find them and how hard was the casting process?
Like all successful casting, this process took a very long time. It was close to a year to cast effectively, and then to have all seven actors available and scheduled for the same day was extremely tough due to issues around the pandemic. Praise to [casting director] Des Hamilton and his fantastic team.
Above: Anyrin rehearsing with Harry Dean Stanton, plus behind the scenes images of the cast on location.
What was the most challenging aspect to this campaign?
Finding its true voice, to be honest, as well as securing support from those people who believed both in this cause and the message it is sending. Overcoming the casting/Covid challenges, of course, was going to be tough. It was important to recruit the right people who believed in the ultimate goal of this campaign and its beneficial objective.
It was important to recruit the right people who believed in the ultimate goal of this campaign.
This was also the biggest challenge. To that end, PRETTYBIRD producer Juliette Larthe supported me through this entire process. I am eternally in her debt.
And the most rewarding?
Going live with the campaign in the hope of helping young adults who are in active addiction or recovery see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Life doesn’t have just one preordained outcome for them, and recovery is possible.
What do you hope the campaign achieves?
A raised awareness of the positive benefits of Abstinence Based Recovery, and to help young adults achieve a full and balanced life beyond their addiction.