Documentary: Veterans with PTSD Returning to College

Front Range Community College students are finishing production on a documentary about veterans meeting the challenges of returning to college and dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD).

This is the second year that students in the FRCC digital media program are creating a documentary about veterans. Last year’s effort – “Women Warriors: A Vision of Valor” – was presented to the Library of Congress in March.

This year, the students decided to document the challenges of recent veterans returning to college. “Bridges: Transitioning to Civilian Life” is about the transitions they and their families have to make.

Inside look at challenges for returning veterans

“Returning from war should be a joyous occasion, but for those with PTSD, coming home is difficult,” says Brandon Berman, digital media faculty and executive producer and director of the documentary. “PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or seeing a terrifying event, such as the aftermath of war. ‘Bridges’ takes you into the lives of some returning veterans and gives you an inside look at some of the personal obstacles each has faced. The documentary also focuses on solutions as it explores ways that veterans and their loved ones can identify these obstacles.”

The documentary’s subjects are a married couple who are veterans and another couple where the husband is a veteran. The husbands are FRCC students.

Documentary premieres May 9 at VFW Post 1

The premiere showing of “Bridges” will take place at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 9, at VFW Post 1, 841 Santa Fe Drive in Denver, as part of the Santa Fe Arts District Art Walk. Admission is free.

Watch the trailer.

Classroom transformed into a studio

The digital media classroom had been transformed into Storage Room Productions. Yes, this is being run as a studio. Students were working on animation. Others were working on audio and other duties to bring the project to fruition. The clock on hours spent in excess of actual class time had been thrown away. The only clock that matters is the deadline.

The story never ends with PTSD

With interviews done, scripting is next.

“You can’t write the script until you see the storyline,” says Tricia Mentor, student director and co-producer. “It was clear how to write the first part, but for the middle and the end we’re looking at how to tell their story. In a documentary you don’t know if it will end well or end at all. The story never ends with PTSD. They just cope with it. We’re trying to represent it so civilians can see the transitions veterans make.”

Tricia came to FRCC for a degree in video production. She has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and economics from American International College in Massachusetts.

“We have a lot of talented people working on this project,” says Katelyn LaGrega, an editor and student co-producer. “We have everything from animators to artists, illustrators, cinematographers. It’s really cool to use everybody’s expertise.”

Like Tricia, Katelyn had a bachelor’s degree before coming to FRCC. Hers is in sociology and journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her career-change interest is to become a documentary filmmaker.

Help for veterans

Tricia says one important message of the documentary is that “there are people to help veterans, not necessarily a government program, but groups that will band together for change. Treatment is not a cookie cutter. A combination of Veterans Administration and outside, non-traditional therapies are helpful to transitioning veterans.” See Veteran Services available at FRCC.

After the premiere, the documentary will be available to colleges and universities, libraries, and interested organizations. Check here for other screenings.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Feeley is director of public relations at Front Range Community College.