First and foremost I want to thank you for stopping by this Feature Article because it really is worth the time. During our last tour in Kuwait and Iraq the Men of Bad Voodoo worked on a great film with Deborah Scranton, Bad Voodoo's War. So for many the faces of Bad Voodoo have become quite familiar. I want to introduce to you a great film that touches on a topic that is very dear to my heart as well as several of our guys. Who Will Stand is a film about the personal journey to enlightenment that a couple of "Hollywood" guys made in an effort to better understand veterans. Being that this is a relevant topic and many are concerned about returning Veterans they were commissioned to make a film. These guys are not DOCUMENTARY guys! Now one of my Best Friends proudly claims that "if you want to make a real film make a Documentary" and I tend to agree. Phil Valentine and Michael Bedik typically are not these guys, so I was curious to see what they would come up with. Being familiar with Phil's background working with people of Red Agency I was truly interested in the product that might come out. "Hollywood" for the most part have done no more than insult Soldiers and Veterans with sorry offerings like Redacted (DePalma) and Stoploss. The people that put these films out all say there film is the voice of the service member but I have yet to meet a service member that would agree, to include the several Stoploss soldiers I have led to include my friend that gave his life while stoplossed. However, I digress, I sat impatiently awaiting my advance copy of WHO WILL STAND because it has Bad Voodoo Members in it.
This Project obviously started as one thing then morphed into a great piece. The personal journey that Phil and Micheal take to find and film footage leads them around the country into Doctor offices, into Therapy clinics, to War Memorials and Protests. The deep impact of the film however comes from the frank and candid words of Soldiers, Marines and Airmen that have suffered the wounds of War. These testimonies sometime impromptu and unsolicited bleed through the screen as you see how dire some situations can be. In the film you meet a soldier and his wife talking about his struggles as well as his wife's in her roll and life supporting him to find out that this guy has stepped up to create a program that helps others more than it is obviously helping him. Creating a Canine Support Program for wounded and disabled veterans to get by in life. During the film, Phil and Michael actually fly across country to find a suicidal soldier who is in desperate need of this assistance and bring him back to Vegas to get a dog. Its these stories and situations that bring you deep into this film, but the hard impact of the statistics are made through the actual faces of people behind them. The mainstream media spew endless statistics about the war and its effects with their political agenda attached but are not able to connect the face behind it in the manner that WHO WILL STAND does. So, as this film progresses you grow with the makers in learning about some of these external struggles as well as the internal ones.
Of course the fact that I am personally touched by the impact that Jason Shaw has had in my life and all the members of Bad Voodoo it reminds me of how fragile the human mind is and how precious these young soldiers are. I usually correspond via email but while out in Vegas for the Milblog Conference and Blog World Expo I took the opportunity to check in on Jason and visit. Phil and Jason have a family connection and so I was able to meet Phil too which made it a double pleasure. We hung out and talked about a plethora of things but nothing to specific just a couple of guys. When I finally got to see the complete film I sat for a few minutes floored by the experience and unsure of how to proceed. I started to write Phil an email but then had to stop because I was unable to get the words to the page so I called him up and again we talked for some time and his passion and concern oozed through my earpiece. This is a truly remarkable piece that could end up on TV or the Big Screen. If it goes to TV though there will undoubtably be some editing for time so get the complete DVD for sure. Below is the press release for the film!
Thanks Phil and Micheal and everyone involved in this project especially from the "Big Las Vegas Ranch" that made it all possible!
Las Vegas Filmmakers Bravely Tackle Wounded Soldier Issues
There are many films about the war in Iraq, but a small team of Las Vegas filmmakers decided that the soldiers would be better served by addressing the issues they deal with after they return home.
Las Vegas, Nevada (PRWEB) July 9, 2008 – More American soldiers kill themselves than are killed by the enemy. As many as eighteen soldiers a day are committing suicide and most of those soldiers kill themselves after they return home. Their divorce rate has tripled since the beginning of the war and substance abuse among veterans is 4 times the national average. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg according to “Who Will Stand” producer/director Phil Valentine, www.whowillstand4us.com
The two hour documentary covers, in detail, the plights of more than a dozen soldiers who have returned either physically or psychologically wounded. “Nobody is surprised that war creates amputees, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, but very few people are aware of the enormous rates of these issues.” Said Valentine. “And almost no one is aware of the psychological issues that nearly 100% of combat soldiers suffer with, namely Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.”
Now most films cover the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and take sides on whether we should have gone in there, whether we should still be there, when we should leave. “Who Will Stand” covers none of these issues. “Going back and forth on whether or not we should be in this war is like arguing over whether the Giants should have won the last Superbowl. What’s done is done. We’re there.” explains Valentine. Then he adds, “What we can and should do something about is how we take care of these men and women after they return.”
Phil Valentine and Director of Photography Michael Bedik began in September, 2007 travelling anywhere they could to find soldiers who were in trouble and were willing to talk. “We were first hired to do a documentary on amputees returning from the war. But shortly into our research we found that the problem was much bigger than even we thought.” Bedik said. “The funny thing is that everyone in the military thinks that everyone knows what they’re going through but the truth is we don’t.”
A few months into filming Valentine and Bedik went back to Executive Producer Gerald Gillock, a Las Vegas Attorney, and told him that the only way we could do this story justice was to only interview soldiers, families of soldiers and the doctors who take care of them. Gillock told them to do whatever they had to do to find the truth.
Valentine notes, “We discovered that the biggest problem was a soldier’s willingness to seek help for psychological issues. Amputations can be fixed with prosthetics but mental problems lead to a myriad of other, more severe, issues like unemployment, homelessness, divorce, substance abuse, child and spousal abuse and suicide.”
The film also addresses why the military and the VA is not doing enough to combat these problems. “Look, we’re not out to bash the military or the VA.” Bedik says, “We ourselves are patriotic individuals. But being patriotic doesn’t mean turning your back on an issue because you don’t want anyone to know that the U.S. military is hurting. It means just the opposite. It means we care about those who risk their lives to protect us and we will do what we have to in order to protect them.”
“Who Will Stand” not only addresses the problem of our wounded warriors but also uncovered solutions to the problem. “We found organizations that will help these guys at no cost and without the red tape and bureaucracy they often experience with the VA.” Explained Valentine. “We also found out that the VA thinks they can’t afford to help 100% of soldiers suffering from PTSD but we proved that treating them is actually cheaper than not treating them! Treatment would pay for itself in two years.”
The Dish Network has shown interest in the film for its new Documentary Channel but Executive Producer, Gerald Gillock and the filmmakers Phil Valentine and Michael Bedik may go the grass root internet route again avoiding any politics or corporate opinion that might dilute the message. As attorney Gerald Gillock stated, “The jury is still out on that one!”
Contact Phil Valentine is a film maker and screenwriter. His credits are listed on IMDB.com
Phil Valentine, Producer
Red Live Productions