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Net Branch Filmmaker

Curtis Elliott wins award for documentary

September 6, 2005


photo of Paula Parisot
Paula Parisot

The owner of a Missouri net branch has won awards for his documentary film about a friend's drug withdrawal.

Growing up on the south side of St. Louis, Curtis Elliott described the neighborhood as one with drugs on every corner.

Elliott told MortgageDaily.com he set out to defy the odds of becoming a drug addict or dealer. He began taking communications courses in college, he said, but then went on to earn an accounting degree.

He has owned a Sunset Mortgage branch office in Florissant, Mo. for five years.

Sunset, he said, is second in the country in terms of the number of branch offices.

With ten employees, including six originators, Elliot said his branch closes around $1.5 million a month.

"We do a lot of small loans," he explained. "About 75 percent are subprime."

Elliot is also a filmmaker.

A childhood friend, "HairKutt," agreed to experience a traumatic six-day heroin withdrawal on film. "He has always wanted to be a barber, ever since he was a kid."

With cameras rolling 24/7, Elliott and three friends journeyed up into the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with the intention of breaking HairKutt's heroin addiction for good.

As HairKutt's withdrawal progressed, the group witnessed the physical torture and sickness heroin withdrawal causes. Hours passed, then days, and HairKutt wouldn't eat, his body was shutting down; he got weak and angry. Finally, his friends rushed him to the hospital for the necessary care to keep HairKutt from dying from dehydration and internal hemorrhaging.

The friends' goodwill efforts were thwarted as soon as HairKutt returned to the city that provided him with what he described as the relief to his pain.

"He is still battling his addiction, but I want the world to focus on his contribution," Elliot said. "Just allowing us to film his detoxification, the fact that he did will undoubtedly help others to not make that mistake."

The documentary, sold online at ItsToughToGetOffDrugs.com, reportedly won Best Social Documentary at the New York International Independent Video and Film Festival in Los Angeles, and Best Feature Documentary at the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase.

Elliott, 38, said he wanted to make the film to show the world -- including his 7-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son -- what drugs can do to a person.

"Here is a person that should have been a productive member of society," Elliott said.

After experiencing the horrific effects of the attempted withdrawal, Elliott concluded, "You can't save someone who doesn't want to be saved."

Paula Parisot is a MortgageDaily.com feature reporter and a blogger at CloserBlog.com who has also worked in the mortgage industry.

Email Paula at: [email protected]

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