A few days ago, a plane blew out a tire on the runway in Philly and all the passengers had to evacuate the aircraft. When the news reported it, they showed video a young woman had recorded on her phone of her running from the plane and talking into the phone about what was happening. When I’ve been in dangerous situations, my instinct has never been to record things. But it seems that, more and more, video and digital media are how people process these situations and the stress that comes with them. And this is exactly why I WAS THERE is using film to help veterans and their families cope with PTSD.

Started in 2011, the program was created by Benjamin Patton, grandson of the legendary WWII Third Army Commander General George S. Patton, Jr. Through a series of workshops, the non-profit I WAS THERE teaches veterans and their families the theory and application of filmmaking. The participants then collaborate with other veterans and professional film instructors to “conceive, shoot, and edit short films” about their military experiences and, especially, about their PTSD. (Social workers and medical staff from the military/civilian facilities are also on hand if needed.)

The workshops are available at no cost to servicemembers, veterans, and their families. No prior filmmaking experience is required and all required equipment will be provided. However, since the workshops take place in four, half-day sessions, meals are not provided. At the conclusion of the workshop, there will be a screening of the films, to which participants may bring guests, and each participant gets a copy of his/her film to take home.

Originally started as an Army pilot program at their Warrior Transition Units, the workshops are currently only offered at Army installations. However, thanks to a grant from the Wounded Warrior Program, I WAS THERE is planning to expand to other military bases and civilian facilities later this year. Upcoming workshops include:

– Ft Bragg, NC – 14-17 April 2014

– Ft Stewart, GA – 28 Apr-1 May 2014

– Ft Campbell, TN – Late Spring 2014

– Ft Hood, TX – Late Spring 2014

You can find out more about the I WAS THERE film workshops, including an updated list of workshop dates, POCs for the workshops, and sample films made by previous participants, here.

© 2014 – 2020, Sarah Maples LLC. All rights reserved.

Sarah Maples is a former Air Force intelligence officer and an Afghanistan veteran. She is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in veteran, military, and defense topics.

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