When shows like Last Week Tonight use our video clips, it reaffirms to us that our efforts are really worth it!
The Drugreporter video team has made hundreds of videos since we started in 2008. Our aim has always been to raise awareness of issues that are abandoned, or highly stigmatised, such as the rights of people who use drugs or sex workers. As filmmakers it is sometimes not that easy to get feedback on your work, or to see the actual impact your work makes. You hear from time to time that your video is used at universities, or that it influenced people to become activists, or that it opened their eyes to social justice issues. You also see your view counts on YouTube or Facebook, but it gets harder and harder to break through the noise of the millions of short videos published every day. But when you see your work on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight show, you know you have been doing something right!
Both Peter Sárosi and myself, the video team of Drugreporter, are great fans of John Oliver’s work. The way he and his team talks about important social issues is a unique blend of humour and compassion. You can imagine how happy we were when they asked permission to use a segment from the USA episode of our documentary film series “TAKING BACK WHAT’S OURS! An Oral History of the Movement of People who Use Drugs.”
We produced the 10 episode series in 2020, in cooperation with INPUD, the International Network of People who Use Drugs. We organised 34 video interviews in 20 countries, to document the oral history of the international rights movement of people who use drugs. They used a part of the film that features Louise Bale Vincent from the North Carolina Survivors Union, where she talks so touchingly about how US policies disconnect people who use drugs in every aspect of their lives. Check out the episode on Harm Reduction here:
The show is once again spot on! They summarise the main message of harm reduction very clearly. They talk about the tragedy of 100 thousand overdose deaths in the USA in 2021, that echoes what harm reduction workers have been saying for so long! John Oliver talks about drug checking, needle exchange, naloxone, and overdose prevention centers! He calls for immediate action to:
- remove naloxone’s prescription only status immediately, including low cost generic versions;
- to re-examine paraphernalia laws, so people can carry drug testing equipment;
- a full endorsement of overdose prevention centers by the Biden administration;
- making sure that people who use drugs have a seat at policy making processes;
- funding of community based services;
- reducing stigma;
- and ending criminalisation.
If you would like to see the whole episode of our series, which features the original interview piece with Louise Vincent, and more excellent activists from the USA, check it out here:
Another great episode in which John Oliver used a segment of our work was the sex work episode. This piece calls for the ending of criminalisation of consensual adult sex work. It properly lists how arrests, police operations, and conflating sex work with trafficking puts sex workers in greater danger. When talking about the so-called Swedish or Nordic model of criminalising the clients – which is in place in Sweden, Finland, Norway and France – the show uses a clip of an interview Peter and I filmed in Stockholm. We were making a film about Sweden’s harsh drug policy and the lack of needle exchange programs, back in 2009, when we had the chance to interview Pye Jacobsson, a well known Swedish sex worker activist, at the office of the Swedish Drug Users Union. We published that film as SWAN/HCLU, and at time of writing it has over 83 thousand views on YouTube. Pye explains very clearly how the Swedish model harms sex workers instead of protecting them. We heard that this short film was successfully used to prevent the Swedish model from being introduced in South Africa for example.
And here you can watch the full interview with Pye:
So when you have doubts as to whether it is worth it to make short or long documentaries, or online videos about the issues that are important for you, do not hesitate! There may be a day when your short little film ends up on John Oliver! Maybe even twice!
István Gábor Takács