Soldiers who dream of bringing a military perspective to the screen will get a boost from the new Veteran’s Filmmaking Academy. Created in collaboration with Project Rebirth, the first film produced through the program will premier at this year’s Sarasota Film Festival.
Returning, which will screen April 4 at 6:30pm at the Sarasota Opera House, explores the impact of Veteran’s Treatment Court and counseling on the rehabilitation and reintegration of soldiers into civilian life. The short was directed by the academy’s first class, which included: Eddie Cacciola, who joined the Marine Corps after 9/11 and served as a combat engineer in Iraq; Rae Chapman, a 23-year Marine Corps and Reserves veteran who served in Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom; Mike Scelia, a five-year US Army Forward Observer in the Iraq War; and Jeff Garner, a retired military police soldier who helped train Iraqi police in Baghdad.
The budding filmmakers worked under the tutelage of TriForce Pictures founders Shaun Greenspan and Ed Fagan as well as Suited director Jason Benjamin. “It is clear to me that military veterans excel at teamwork, pay close attention to detail and have a tireless work ethic,” says Benjamin. “These are all qualities essential in filmmaking, but more importantly, these veterans have significant points of view developed as a result of their military experiences. The Veterans Filmmaking Academy is a perfect way for veterans to use their skills and share their voice.”
SFF President Mark Famiglio noted the Gulf Coast serves as home base to many veterans. “We wanted to create a way for them to be involved in the filmmaking process that would teach them a skill and allow them to express themselves creatively,” Famiglio says. “Because of our sponsors and the collaboration with Project Rebirth, we are able to provide this program to local veterans free of charge.”