It starts with a newspaper blowing through a cemetery. A skinny teen-ager with ghost-white skin and dark circles under his eyes picks up the paper to read the headline: "Heroin claims local teen."
He drops the paper and as it hits the ground, guitars and drums launch into the powerful and fast-paced music video for "Heroin Kills," the rock 'n' roll diatribe written about two years ago for Residents Attacking Drugs' nationally known and much-used film of the same name.
The MTV-style music video debuted Tuesday night at Carroll County's annual drug summit. A hush fell over the banquet hall as speakers, student groups and community performers finished their presentations and RAD founder Linda Auerback and member Shirley Andrews made their way to the front of the room to introduce the video.
The crowd of more than 175 burst into applause before the last guitar strains faded against the video's final image of the graveyard silhouetted against an orange sunset sinking into the Carroll County hills.
"You guys are so awesome and so inspirational," said an 18-year-old recovering addict from Harford County, who addressed the group after the 4 1/2 -minute video was over. "In the past month and a half, four people have died [in Harford County] of heroin overdoses and three of them I was really close with. ... We don't have anything like this in Harford County."
Within 45 minutes of the music video's premiere, Auerback had orders for 16 copies of the video to be used in Maryland counties that offer the Reality Program. The anti-substance abuse program for first-time youthful offenders delivers an in-your-face look at the dangers of substance abuse, its toll on community and family, and the finality of death.
The Carroll County Sheriff's Office also ordered copies for its Drug Abuse Resistance Education program and health classes, and Maryland State Police Lt. Terry L. Katz said he plans to order several for use in the state police drug outreach programs.
In addition, local cable channels have agreed to show the video and Auerback plans to submit it to MTV and VH-1 for airing as a public service announcement.
"We're going to get it out there," she told the crowd. "We're going to send it everywhere the [`Heroin Kills' mini-drama] video has gone."
Auerback, who started RAD three years ago after a friend's 15-year-old son died of a heroin overdose, and a crew of mostly volunteers have spent the past two months filming scenes for the music video.
Bobby Hird, an Eldersburg guitarist, singer and songwriter who spent 17 years with the rock band Crack the Sky, composed the rock song. Rich Waganer of Waganer Digital Video in Owings Mills was director, cameraman and editor for a fraction of what a typical music video costs. (Auerback gave him $800 toward the cost of videotapes to make copies for distribution. Waganer's two months of filming and editing normally would have cost $18,000 to $20,000, he said.)
Shot in the hallways and a bathroom of Westminster High School, a cemetery, Carroll County Detention Center, a Westminster home and a local hotel, the music video runs through quick scenes that portray paramedics trying to revive an overdose victim, a drugged young man being locked in jail and a young woman prostituting herself to earn drug money.
Auerback said she wanted the video to be striking and real enough that kids would be interested but not so depressing that they would turn away. She mentioned the prostitute scene - in which the image of a young girl with a backpack snaps to a scene of the same girl as a scantily clad hooker at a hotel - as an example.
"That scene has to be in there because our own kids from Carroll County are going into Baltimore City and prostituting themselves to get money for drugs," Auerback said.
Many involved in the video production are familiar with the deadly potential of the highly addictive drug.
The school nurse who assists high school girls who find a classmate slumped over in a bathroom stall in the video is Andrews, a Baltimore County school nurse whose son, Scott Payne, died of an overdose in June 1996.
One of the main characters in the video is played by Erik Yount, 15, whose father is Carroll's substance abuse prevention coordinator.
Dressed and made up to look like a drug addict, he sees the newspaper article about his death and walks past the gravestones on which photos of Carroll's youngest heroin overdose victims - 15-year-old Liam O'Hara, 16-year-old Payne, 18-year-old Brianna Tighe and 18-year-old Elliott Mason - are superimposed. All of their parents attended the premier.
In the video's final scene, Yount's character sees his image on a headstone.