Local director Jason Epperson is seeking community support for his latest project.
“We’re trying to get a another grant through Pepsi, called refresheverything.com,” Epperson said.
Filmmakers estimate the project will cost $100,000, and the Pepsi grant would provide $50,000. Currently, Epperson said about $67,000 has been raised through other grants and private donations.
The public can vote for the project, “The Impact,” at www.refresheverything.com/impactmovie or by texting 1098777 to 73774. Only one vote may be cast per day, and voting closes Dec. 1. Each month, the top 10 projects in each voting category receive full grant funding. As of press time, “The Impact” was ranked No. 48.
“It’s going to be tough, unless we get a ton of people to go to this thing (and vote),” Epperson said.
Even if filmmakers do not receive the Pepsi grant money, they plan to continue fundraising until they reach the $100,000 goal, Epperson said.
“There’s other areas for fundraising, and there’s a few organizations we’ve spoke to, and we’re waiting to hear back,” Epperson said. “We’re going to continue to do that until we raise the money. It’s going to get made one way or another, but it’s going to save us a lot of time and stress if we could get it done in one swoop.”
Earlier this fall Epperson, along with Dennis, began interviewing survivors and law enforcement officers who worked on the case.
“It was a great process. The people we interviewed, they’re the people who’s going to be telling the story.
We heard some really incredible stories, some stories you wouldn’t necessarily know unless you know these people. People are still struggling today, and people who have overcome and people who, the accident, it’s changed their life for the better,” Epperson said.
On Saturday, May 14, 1988 a church bus with a youth group from Hardin County was traveling on Interstate 71 after a trip to Kings Island. Drunk driver Larry Mahoney was traveling on the interstate, as well, headed in the wrong direction. His pickup truck collided with the bus, causing an explosion from the gas tank and killing 27 people. He later served 11 years in prison for multiple counts of manslaughter, assault and wanton endangerment.
“It brought up, I’m sure, a lot of memories. I guess after 23 years, people just learn to live their life. Even though he was burned and scarred really bad, it’s not something he thinks about every day. This brought it back,” Epperson said.
There were mixed emotions among survivors. Despite the physical and emotional pain inflicted by the crash, Epperson found survivors who admitted the crash caused them to make changes in their lives, for the better. Several survivors married one another, and some used their trauma to help make a difference in the lives of others, through organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
“I found myself a lot of times just sitting there kind of in awe of the things I was hearing. Over the past couple of months of doing the interviews, I’ve really kind of found myself with a new respect for these people and what they experienced,” Epperson said.
Filmmakers also hope to add another perspective to the documentary — although Larry Mahoney has turned down all interview requests since 1988, Epperson said there are plans to contact him.
“We still don’t know how we want to approach him, whether we want to do it through a phone call or just go to his house, knock on the door and see what happens. That would make for a pretty incredible scene, regardless of what happens. So something’s going to happen, one way or another,” Epperson said.
A detective working on the case earned Mahoney’s trust, and Epperson said contact may be made through him.
“He’s pretty quiet, honestly. He stays hidden, doesn’t get out very often. Truly, that’s about all we know at this point,” Epperson said.
Once the film is completed, Epperson and Dennis hope to use it to educate the public about the dangers of drunk driving. They already have an agreement with the state board of education to show the film in all the middle and high schools in the state.
“This project has just been such a big part of my life, and hearing all the stories. You just take some of that stuff for granted, like the MADD organizations, and the people who worked on changing the laws. Unless it’s part of your life, people tend to be more hands off,” Epperson said.
The film may also become part of DUI classes and AA¿meetings.
“Eventually, our goal is to get it in shows across the country. That’s our big, sky’s the limit type goal. I¿think that would be an awesome opportunity. That’s why we think it’s so important for people to donate. Hopefully we can help save some lives,” Epperson said.