In All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, Academy Award-winning director Laura Poitras shines a light on the life of legendary artist/activist Nan Goldin and her crusade against both the opioid overdose crisis and the family who manufactured and profited from it. The film arrived at a time when the U.S. was in the throes of an unprecedented and worsening opioid overdose crisis — one that has claimed more than one million lives since its onset.
As a producer of the film and a key architect of its campaign (with partners NEON and HBO Max), Participant’s goal was to elevate and strengthen Goldin’s activism by securing prestige awards recognition for the film while meaningfully supporting the work of Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (PAIN), Goldin’s non-profit organization at its center.
Participant recognized that PAIN’s most immediate need for more effectively engaging the public in advocacy was expanding its digital organizing presence and capacity. The film brought attention to PAIN and Participant sought first to revamp PAIN’s digital presence to more seamlessly forge the connection between the film and PAIN’s ongoing work. The campaign rebuilt PAIN’s website and created tools for contacting legislators for harm reduction advocacy; launched PAIN’s inaugural email newsletter; rebuilt PAIN’s donation-intake functionality: and produced and released an impact video highlighting PAIN’s work, to use for future fundraising efforts.
And as the film campaign progressed so too did the harm reduction movement, leveraging the groundswell of interest in Goldin’s story and building an onramp to harm reduction activism.
With the film landing amidst a tipping point for the harm reduction movement and opioid overdose crisis, many policymakers were forced to rethink their approach to the issue — and the way out. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed was significant in not just calling for change, but showing through an emotional, compelling lens how the opioid overdose crisis and those who profited off of it were actively perpetuating a cycle of harm.
The early acclaim the film earned (winning the Golden Lion at Venice) underscored the importance of maximizing the film’s reach in order to maximize impact, and the campaign team worked to leverage a sea change in public opinion surrounding the opioid overdose crisis to ensure the success of not just the film campaign but also the ongoing harm reduction movement.
In practice, the campaign elevated PAIN’s harm reduction activism in tandem with the film, tracking and amplifying them within key movement moments in the newscycle to ensure PAIN could use the film’s platform to continue harm reduction advocacy on a bigger stage. This included the campaign facilitating interviews and introductions for PAIN with mainstream outlets like the New York Times, the Associated Press, and NPR, and strategic op-eds placed in the Harvard Crimson (a critical institutional holdout still bearing the Sackler name in the university art museums) and The Guardian.
The campaign also helped to establish PAIN as a trusted information source for the harm reduction movement, including news of the over-the-counter approval of overdose-reversal drug Narcan, President Biden’s unexpected mention of harm reduction in his State Of The Union address, and the Biden administration’s passage of the MAT Act, a law that allows doctors to more easily prescribe lifesaving treatment for addiction and overdose.
Additionally, Participant sought to support PAIN’s broader community of partners, including supporting PAIN’s fundraising efforts to ensure the future sustainability of their work. This included supporting a limited sale of a previously unreleased Nan Goldin print with all the proceeds going to PAIN and OnPoint, their key harm reduction partner that operates the nation’s only two Overdose Prevention Centers. The print sold out in 72 hours and raised more than $125,000 for the two organizations. The campaign also facilitated a PAIN-hosted impact screening for their community of activists—significantly, building a direct bridge between the AIDS activism of the 1980s to harm reductionists today—and also supported NEON in a major screening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Such exposure to the issues of opioid overdose and addiction continue to make waves today, as harm reductionist policies (like Overdose Prevention Centers) continue to gain mainstream attention.
Our prevailing strategy was to use the power and emotionality of the film to show how the harm reduction movement was no longer a “fringe” issue — indeed, the opioid overdose crisis is impossible to ignore — and snowball the positive momentum the film brought to create lasting impact in the way people think about the crisis, and the role of art in harm reduction activism.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed earned 80 award nominations and 32 wins over the course of the campaign, including a Spirit Award for Best Documentary and an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature. Concurrently, the film’s prominence raised awareness of the opioid overdose crisis and the power of art and activism to hold accountable those responsible for it and mitigate harm for those suffering from it.
Participant facilitated several key press wins, including an op-ed in Harvard Crimson from a Harvard Law student questioning the University’s ongoing relationship with the Sackler family and an op-ed in The Guardian from director Laura Poitras calling out the Sackler family’s lack of accountability.
PAIN’s advocacy community grew in several ways, including more than $130,000 raised in two fundraising activations for PAIN and their harm reduction partners, as well as a more than 10% increase in PAIN’s followers across social platforms throughout the campaign.
In the time since the campaign began and the film bolstered a cultural conversation around harm reduction, the movement saw a handful of impactful wins, including: