By Allison Picurro
Meth Storm Directors: ‘Everyone Defies Stereotypes in This Film’
HBO: How did you first get involved with this project?
Brent Renaud: We embedded in a burn unit near Memphis, TN, and it became obvious once we started filming that most of the people in the unit were kids. In most cases, these kids were burned in meth lab fires. Within a year, state legislators began passing laws to make it so Sudafed — a key ingredient in meth — could no longer be bought over the counter. At the same time, the cops started cracking down. For a while it seemed like there was going to be a positive change.
But then a friend of ours, who is a police officer in Arkansas, told us about a family of former meth cooks who were dealing — but calling it “ice,” and saying it was coming in from the Mexican cartel. We started getting to know the family to see if that led somewhere.
HBO: Why did you decide to split the film’s point of view between the Drug Enforcement Administration and the members of the community?
Brent Renaud: We didn't know exactly where the DEA angle would go, but once we started meeting the officers, and realized they’re from the community, arresting their own friends, we saw how deep the issue was. It affects everybody, and we realized these guys were characters too. This is a story we haven't heard before. You need to know more about cops than the fact they shoot people; and you need to know more about these people who get caught up in the drug life. I think everybody defies stereotypes in this film.
HBO: Can you talk about your experience with Veronica in particular?
Brent Renaud: This documentary was a collaboration between us and the subjects. You have to open your heart and your life, and you have to believe in it. Veronica was a unique character in that she’s had a tough life, but she’s also a super intelligent woman; in a lot of ways she’s a victim of her situation. The newer generations don't remember a time it wasn't like this: They don’t know a world where there were job opportunities or people around them not addicted. You get that perspective with Veronica, she can kind of see the whole picture.
Craig Renaud: She spoke openly and honestly about her kids’ drug abuse. One of the things we talk about a lot with this family is how tightly knit they are — even through the drug addiction. If one of them is getting out of jail, Veronica’s right there with them. She genuinely loves her kids, but there are obviously some things that are problematic with her as a mother.
HBO: What didn’t we get to see that really stuck with you?
Craig Renaud: Veronica’s husband passing away. We were there when he passed, and at the funeral. He was a very tragic character; a salt of the earth kind of person — he’d give you the shirt off his back — but he had a lot of issues. He was also my exact age when he died, and I live 45 minutes from where they live. The socioeconomic difference is so vast — that really struck me.
Brent Renaud: When you go on these busts, you see how these people are often carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars for the cartel but they’re still living in these conditions. Very little actually trickles down to them. It just made me think there's another side of America that people don't know about, and I think it's way bigger than anyone imagined.
Meth Storm is now available on HBO.