GameChanger drug prevention program produces critically acclaimed documentary

When Morgantown businessman Joe Boczek founded GameChanger in 2017, he wasn’t thinking about film critics.

He was focused more on the scourge of drug abuse in West Virginia – which by then had been labeled “the epicenter of the opioid crisis,” by one Columbia University public health dean and researcher in her Capitol Hill testimony against a handful of pharmaceutical makers charged with delivering a deluge of pills to the state.

Boczek was especially thinking about the state’s children and teenagers who were standing, in effect, on the shaky ground of that epicenter.

GameChanger’s goal is to put the light of preventative education on the shadow of drug abuse in the Mountain State.

Flickering lights on a movie screen can help, too, as he happily discovered this month.

Which is why he’s now thinking about film critics after all.

The GameChanger-produced documentary “One Pill Can Kill” is being recognized at film festivals here and across the Atlantic.

“We’re thrilled,” Boczek said, “because it means our message is effective and we’re getting it out there.”

The 34-minute film was narrated by Meg Bulger, the former WVU women’s basketball standout who now handles education and community outreach for GameChanger.

Nick Saban, the head football coach of Alabama and a north-central West Virginia native, appears in the film along with country music star Brad Paisley, who grew up near Wheeling.

Gov. Jim Justice also gets screen time with West Virginia senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito.

Charles Huff, Marshall’s head football coach, is featured, too.

“One Pill Can Kill” has most recently picked up first-place honors in the Best Short Documentary category at the Voices Rising Film Festival on Long Island, N.Y.; the Impact Docs Awards in La Jolla, Calif.; and the Oniros Film Festival in New York City.

It also earned an honorable mention for Best Short Documentary at the Red Movie Awards in Reims, France – and was an official selection at the Reel Recovery Film Festival in Studio City, Calif., and the Lane Doc Festival in Jackson, Tenn.

GameChanger produced it in conjunction with FG/PG of Los Angeles, the Biscuit Factory of Falls Church, Va., and RippleKey of New York.

The film addresses deadly fentanyl, opioid and substance misuse issues with a stark analogy: purchasing counterfeit pills over the Internet and on the street, it warns, is akin to playing a round of Russian roulette.

Middle school students and high school students from across the state also look into the camera lens to deliver messages and guidance – a star-turn move that makes Boczek want to stand up and cheer, he said.

“That’s even more gratifying.”

The documentary was distributed along with a parent toolkit at no cost to all middle and high schools in West Virginia and is also available free of charge online at

Look for a re-release this spring, Boczek said, complete with a teacher lesson plan booklet for a film he estimates has already been viewed by more than 100,000 teenagers and adults.

There’s that, plus the ongoing mission of growing GameChanger, he said.

Images on the screen – boots on the ground

To date, there are 55 schools teaching GameChanger materials across the Mountain State, Boczek said.

That includes Clay-Battelle Middle/High School and Mason-Dixon Elementary, in Mon County.

In neighboring Marion County, North Marion High, Mannington Middle and Blackshere Elementary are also GameChanger schools.

“And we’re talking to schools in Kentucky and Tennessee,” Boczek said. “2024 is going to be busy.”

Older students counseling younger students is a signature piece of the program, which suits Clay-Battelle perfectly, Principal David Cottrell said.

His school is academic home to students in grades 6 through 12.

“We’re uniquely positioned,” he said.

“The younger ages, especially, are the impressionable ages. We could make a difference.”