During this past year, I have learned about my power and a power that is greater than myself. Just over a year ago, in tears, I promised my wife I would never touch heroin or any other drug ever again. I meant it with all my heart and soul. A lie detector test would have proven I was telling the truth.
I had just gotten out of a detox and had exchanged numbers with one of the other clients. That same evening, he called and asked me to pick him up for a meeting. So, no problem, right? I tell my wife I’m picking up another addict to go to a meeting. The guy gets in my car with loaded syringes ready and there was no second thought, let alone a first thought. Within moments, I was high – this after truly believing I would never use again. That night, I really learned the definition of my powerlessness.
Subsequently, I had two weeks of cheap hotels and living in my car before I ended up in another detox, then two halfway houses. Many of us have been on this journey; this was definitely not my first time. At one point, I had almost five years clean and sober. However, for the past several years I’d been struggling to put together any clean time despite having been in countless detoxes, halfway houses and rehabs. The obsession for drugs always dogged me. It was the patient devil. I could quit, but I just could not stay clean.
While I was in the second halfway house, something amazing and profound occurred. I had to sleep on the floor with ten other guys, trying to avoid the roaches – there was a lot to complain about. Yet something struck me.
I was in the shower praying because it was the only place I could find some peace and quiet. I suddenly felt peace wash over me, then felt completely broken. I let all my feelings out – all my sorrow, pain and despair. I gave it all over to God. I stepped out of that shower a free man. Everything was not going to be alright. Everything was alright! I felt joy – joy I had not felt in five long years. This was both a cleansing and an awakening. With proper action, to this day, my obsession with drugs is gone.
For the previous two years, I had been working as a film and TV extra. I’d been trying to make it as an actor, but with no luck. As an extra, you are sometimes treated pretty harshly, which can shake your self-esteem, and I was already pretty good at beating myself up. I had to take action if I were to progress in life and in my Twelve Step program. I was at a standstill with acting. I needed to take action – to make a plan.
There is a lot of idle time on set during which extras talk, read or text. I realized I had other options; I could be working while working – progressing in some way. I felt I was capable of writing a good screenplay, so why not write during those long hours on set. I wanted to be an actor, so I could even cast myself!
Thus my plan was born. I learned how to write properly; it was actually quite easy. The only problem was I didn’t have a story. I wanted to write about something that would make a difference. After several ideas didn’t pan out, I decided to write about something near to my heart. Two words stuck out – recovery and redemption.
I started brainstorming my dark comedy, putting characters together while writing both on set and at home. The lead character was easy because he was based on me. The hero would be a guy who had 20 years of addiction and depression and was always getting into some kind of trouble, a man who was always wondering why the hell he was put on this earth during which time he was also numbing himself so as to not have to actually think about it — an existential mid-life crisis.
To make my screenplay more exciting, I added the mob, an execution gone wrong and changing identities; but I remained true to the core principles of recovery and redemption. Much of the story is grounded in the altruistic fundamentals I learned in recovery.
After I finished the screenplay, The Grand Prince of Moscow, I began working with a director. Due to the complexity of the story, we decided it should be a series. To shop the series around to the networks, we shot a full episode for the pilot. Unfortunately, the director wanted the focus to be violence and drug use, not recovery and redemption – more like Breaking Bad. I refused to go along with his idea. He was furious; consequently he kept all the footage, and even hijacked and shut down our Facebook page. I was devastated; I’d put a lot of work and passion into this project.
Despite the director’s actions, I stood my ground. I pieced together a trailer with footage he had shared with me and put it on the web. People loved it. My script had started quite a buzz in my hometown. Those in the local acting community, particularly the extras, were fascinated; it was unheard of for someone to move out of the background into the production section of the industry. All of a sudden, I found myself being invited to private producer parties and show openings.
While working background on a set, I met an amazing guy, Kevin, who agreed to become my coproducer. My new Facebook site was blowing up – hundreds of likes and posts each day. The Grand Prince of Moscow had grabbed people’s attention, and the trailer was quite popular.
Meanwhile, I knew I had to find a new director for the series. Kevin and I began scouting through a production site and set up some interviews. We interviewed several experienced and talented directors – directors who were willing to work without pay, knowing the payoff would be a network pickup. We selected a 30-year veteran director, a four-time Emmy award winner and Telly winner. This man was drawn to the production’s theme of recovery and redemption. If I had not stood behind my convictions, this might never have happened.
We finished an eight-minute episodic teaser with a full crew and with the same kind of cameras used on the film Gravity. I made the mistake of holding the shoot on the lower floor of my Twelve Step clubhouse. Due to the raucous applause upstairs, we could only film between chips being handed out. We have recently begun filming a pilot episode; and when it is finished, we will be able to shop the series to networks.
The Grand Prince of Moscow now has over 25,000 Facebook likes, as well as 20,000 Twitter and 1,200 Instagram followers. We have had over 1,000 audition submissions, and our email is filled with more.
It’s ironic; I’m even getting my own acting auditions and have become quite popular as an extra. Everything is going well, and I’m so grateful to God and the Twelve Step program. For me, the Step Nine promises are coming to fruition in my life. Even if this project doesn’t work out, I am happy I have had this film opportunity. Many people don’t get this far and sadly, some don’t even attempt to start.
Everything is not going to be alright; everything is alright!
Edward R. is currently working in the TV and film industry in Atlanta, Georgia. The Grand Prince of Moscow is his first script. He is the writer, the producer and plays the lead role of Abel Vaslov. He may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, at twitter.com/MoscowPrince, on facebook.com/grandprinceofmoscowtheseries and instagram.com/grandprinceofmoscow. You may view his project’s information at youtube.com/grandprinceofmoscow.