Area filmmaker’s documentary focuses on addiction

When Kaitlin Lunger took her first multimedia class at Hughesville High School several years ago, she didn’t immediately fall in love with the art of making movies. In fact, she didn’t really like the class that much at all. But after taking the course again in a later semester, something clicked for Lunger that ignited a new passion within her.

“Our teacher let me be more creative than I was used to and that was when I discovered that I like making film,” Lunger said.

In the years since taking that course, Lunger has further pursued a life in filmmaking by earning a degree in Film and Video Arts from Lycoming College, where she recently graduated. It was there that Lunger created the documentary “No Limits, No Boundaries” for her capstone project.

Though the 13-minute movie, which explores opioid addiction from three different perspectives, was filmed locally, it has seen success on the festival circuit and has been shown in cities like Los Angeles and New York. It also earned Lunger the Tom Woodruff Jr. Grand Jury Prize at the Pennsylvania College Film and Video Festival, which is hosted by Lycoming College.

“The idea really came in my senior year of high school. I had never really had too much experience with addiction at that point, but there was a friend of mine who ended up becoming one of my best friends, and he had struggled with addiction prior to knowing me,” said Lunger. “Once we met, I really got to see that addicts are more than just addicts — they are human beings.

“We talked about the idea a little bit, but I didn’t have the right equipment or the right people at that time,” she added. “In college, I decided to finally pursue it.”

The documentary itself focuses on three different individuals: Taylor Falk, who talks about his personal struggles with addiction; Mikaila Wells, who shares her experiences on growing up with a drug-addicted mother; and Officer Brittany Alexander of the Williamsport Bureau of Police, who speaks on the dangers facing first responders who come in contact with drug addicts on a daily basis.

At first, Lunger said that she intended the film to only explore its topic from the perspective of a recovering addict — Falk — but she later decided to ask Alexander to come onto the project, after meeting her at Camp Cadet while working on a different film.

“I have gotten to know (Alexander) a little bit and gotten to know her story, and how addiction has affected her as an officer who has to go to scenes where there may be uncapped needles and exposure to heroin and Fentanyl or any other drug that is on the street,” said Lunger. “I added her in as well, originally intending for her to just play a small part, but she ended up being a third of the film.”

Then a friend of Lunger’s suggested that she also bring Wells into the documentary to gain more perspective on how addiction affects all members of a family, and not just the addict.

“It was really great to work with three different individuals with three very different perspectives,” she said. “In the end, I think it was more of not trying to persuade anyone to either side — I know there are a lot of arguments about if it is a choice or a disease — but I really just wanted people to see three different sides of addiction and make their own opinion from seeing the stories.”

Though a project like this may seem like a tough one to get participants for, Lunger said that each of the subjects in her film were excited to tell their stories.

“They were all very, very helpful and eager to tell their stories,” said Lunger. “They went above and beyond, and I couldn’t have asked for better participants. They gave so much time and were willing to talk about their stories even though it may be a tough subject for them to talk about.”

She made the film to help open up the eyes of other people, but working on the project also helped Lunger realize how far-reaching the opioid crisis is.

“I realized that I can walk down the street and the large majority of people I would run into are addicted or know someone who is,” she said. “I realized how big of a problem it is. But more than anything, I realized that it needs to be humanized. Everyone has this stigma against addiction and addicts, and I just think people aren’t properly informed or they don’t know the full story.”

After premiering the film last summer, “No Limits, No Boundaries” has resonated with a lot people. Aside from winning an award at Lycoming’s film festival, it was also chosen to be screened in Los Angeles and New York at the REEL Recovery Film Festival & Symposium, as well as the California International Film Festival and Davis Chinese Film Festival, which only chooses 10 films for each genre with over 3,000 submissions.

“It is amazing and I am truly honored for every film festival I have been able to be a part of, and every opportunity I have had to get my work out there,” Lunger said. “I think that it is a really great feeling when people recognize how much work you put into something. There is a lot of time and money; people don’t understand how much work it actually is. It is only a 13-minute film but it took close to a year (to make) — nine months just for filming and editing. So, it is really great to see that there is positive feedback and it is truly an honor.”

Currently, Lunger is working to extend the documentary by roughly seven minutes by adding in footage of an undercover police officer with the Pennsylvania State Police. She then hopes to upload the new version and sell it.

But selling the film isn’t Lunger’s biggest goal.

“If the film doesn’t go anywhere — I’m not expecting it to be picked up by Netflix or anything — I just hope it reaches the people it needs to reach,” she said. “I just want people to see not only what addicts experience, but also their families and the first responders.”

Those interested can watch “No Limits, No Boundaries” at vimeo.com/kaitlinlunger.

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