|Jim Kevlin/HOMETOWN ONEONTA|
Since researching the movie, Joel Plue can recognize signs of drug dealing locally.
By JIM KEVLIN
Life may be just one thing after another, but for some people – Joel Plue, for instance – it’s even moreso.
He was born in the late 1980s in Oneonta. His mom is Lori Kelly-Bailey. His grandfather, Richard Kelly, founded Mold-A-Matic.
He suffered from juvenile arthritis, so his mother moved him down to Pleasantville, in Westchester County, to be near his specialist.
Soon, the National Arthritis Foundation had embraced him as its “national hero,” and he was doing promotional work.
At 9, his mom enrolled him in the American Comedy Institute, a boot camp in Manhattan for aspiring comics.
By age 11, he’d parlayed that into an audition at Caroline’s Comedy Club, and before long he was performing with the likes of Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg.
By 15, he’d tired of the fast lane and he and his mother moved back to Oneonta to finish school.
“I wanted to be a normal person for a little bit, which I regretted,” he said, sipping on an ice tea at the Latte Lounge the other week.
But he wasn’t there to talk about all that.
Since returning home, he sometimes works at Mold-A-Matic. And other times, he makes movies.
Tuesday, April 26, Joel Plue began filming “The Cure,” which he intends to be an exploration of the heroin problem in, not just Oneonta, but towns like Oneonta, and how to overcome it.
In his late 20s, Plue nonetheless has credentials.
In 2001, he and his mother were co-producers of “Switchback,” starring Paul Sorvino and filmed in the Adirondack mining towns near Ticonderoga. It was released as “Mineville,” and will be screened in the Oneonta Theater later this month to generate interest in the new venture.
In 2007, he collaborated with Jason Mewes on “Silent But Deadly.”
During this period, a cousin of his who lived in Oneonta, a college student, died of a heroin overdose, a family trauma.
“He only did it three times. The last time was fatal,” said Plue. “He was very good guy, always jovial and friendly. He wanted to be a doctor.”
About this time, he went to see “American Gangster,” Ridley Scott’s celebrated movie about Frank Lucas, a black gangster played by Denzel Washington who, collaborating with a GI cousin in Vietnam, was able to cut out the middleman in importing heroin from Southeast Asia.
A true story. Lucas was convicted in 1975 and sentenced to 70 years in jail, but was released in 1991 and founded the Frank Lucas Foundation, dedicated to showing inner-city youth a better way.
Joel Plue tracked down Lucas, who is now wheel-chair bound, and convinced him to be interviewed for “The Cure.”
The first interview, however, conducted the other day, was with Korey Rowe, the Oneonta filmmaker – “Loose Change,” (2007) – who was charged in January with selling heroin locally. Plue said Rowe has come to grips with his problem and has a positive outcome to talk about.
“It’s not about Oneonta,” Joel said of heroin. “It’s everywhere. It’s all over the world.”
Nonetheless, the director said he’s found local law-enforcement officials reluctant to talk about the problem here, which was highlighted in January by county Judge Brian Burns, when he was sworn in for a second term.
“There are hundreds of thousands of dollars of heroin here in Otsego County,” Burns told a surprised crowd that filled the Otsego County Courthouse’s main courtroom on New Year’s Day.
For his part, Plue said, since he’s become acquainted with the scene while researching this film, he can’t walk down Main Street without observing people he believes are selling the drug.
“We’re not going to take it,” he said of his film’s approach. “We’re going to do something about it.”
IF YOU GO: “Mineville,” starring Paul Sorvino, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 14, Oneonta Theater, followed by Q&A with writer/director/producer Lori Kelly-Bailey and special guests. Tickets $10.