| Kelly Garner wanted to remember Graduation Day so he kept his video camera running. Commencement exercises were held and the camera ran; at his friend's house he recorded preparations for the big night out. Then onto the party, where liquor ran freely and the camera rolled on.
The kids staggered outside unable to even locate their cars much less drive safely, and the camera caught it all. When Kelly raced through the intersection at 50 mph and his SUV crashed and overturned, the camera recorded the aftermath, albeit through a cracked lens: the overturned car, the screams of the victims, the rescue crews.
This grim 30-minute film is "Graduation Day," the Troy and Alana Pack Foundation's contribution to drum into teenagers' heads: Don't drink and drive. The reality-style film will premiere March 13 at East Bay Fellowship auditorium on Camino Tassajara.
"We're going to distribute it to 20,000 high schools in the U.S. free of charge," said Bob Pack, executive director of the foundation. "I really believe there are so many other messages being bombarded to kids - peer pressure, someone in Hollywood getting a DUI - I really feel strongly there aren't nearly enough positive messages in education being delivered to kids."
Bob Pack and his wife Carmen started the foundation after their children Troy, 10, and Alana, 7, were killed in October 2003 by a driver who was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The organization's goal is to educate the public about traffic safety and responsibility, and to work toward legislation.
Bob and Carmen Pack were speakers a couple of years ago at a Danville high school Every 15 Minutes presentation, an expensive production that replicates a fatal drunken driving accident and the aftermath, with students taking part.
"After coming home, Carmen and I started talking about the idea for the film," Bob Pack recalled. "Every 15 Minutes programs cost about $15,000; very few high schools can afford them, and they are very time-consuming, a two-day event."
Since he is a USC alumnus, Pack approached its graduate school of film and talked to the dean about his proposed project. Two students stepped forward to volunteer - producer Rebecca Brown and director Andrew Gallery. They hired actors to play the teenagers and other characters.
"We shot it reality style so they could see, 'Hey, that's exactly what we do and that could be the consequences,'" said Pack.
They filmed the movie last April in Southern California and edited it during the summer. Because they presented the video documentary style, they knew they needed a host, preferably someone well-known.
"We thought of some names and started making phone calls to New York anchor types," recalled Pack. "Rebecca talked to different people, and we got a call back from the agent for Dan Rather."
They set up a conference call with Rather to explain their idea.
"He said it was a neat project and said, 'I'll jump on board,'" said Pack. "We had to work out a script for him that he could read and approve, and then we set up a date to film."
Pack, the film crew and actors flew to New York, rented a studio and created a set, and had just one day, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., to work with Rather.
"He was helpful and funny," said Pack, who was relieved when Rather arrived 10 minutes early, despite the snow. "He wanted it to turn out good."
The Pack Foundation is partnering with Scholastic, which publishes and distributes children's books and other educational materials, to hand out the film. Bob Pack is working with a Danville company to package it effectively, to tell schools how to use it and why.
The Pack Foundation Web site will have posters that schools can download to promote the film, and Myspace is going to create a "Graduation Day" Web page, said Pack.
"I've been contacted by a bunch of schools in the area and a couple have talked about having evening showings so seniors could come in with their parents," he said.
He noted this would open lines of communications in families.
Pack is pleased with the film, and said he, Carmen and their 21-month-old daughter Noelle will be at the premiere.
"It's been a year-and-a-half project," Pack said. "We're glad to see it come together."
What: Premiere of 'Graduation Day'
Who: Troy and Alana Pack Foundation
Where: East Bay Fellowship auditorium, 2615 Camino Tassajara, Danville
When: 7-8 p.m., Thursday, March 13
To view film trailer: www.troyandalana.org
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