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Another War Film? 04/17/2010

Posted by landfallprods in Purple Mind.
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Difficult Subjects Often Become Important Films:

Current films such as Body of Lies, Brothers, Green Zone, Hurt Locker, In the Valley of Elah, The Lucky Ones, Men Who Stare at Goats, The Messenger, Redacted, Stop Loss — all excellent films with two things in common – the war and none did great business at the box office – including the two Academy Award winner, “The Hurt Locker.”

We can only speculate why important films like these don’t do better business.  The answers range from the unthinkable – Nobody cares – to the disturbing and more probably – that people are uncomfortable thinking about the war – or it may be that there is simply too large a  gulf between the cultures of America and Iraq.

But one thing about the war – all wars – is that when warriors return home, many suffer mental wounds.  Twenty percent of our returning warriors suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), a condition those concerned with the military care deeply about… (families, loved ones, employers, community leaders).

The most recent film to deal with PTSD as its core subject matter was the John Lithgow film, “Distant Thunder,” released in 1988.  Understanding the mental wounds of our returning veterans must not be denied.  To deny such a condition is to deny the service and sacrifice of our military, no matter how one feels about the current middle-east conflicts.

Oliver Stone’s “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989), and Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” were both powerful stories reflecting on the mental damage suffered by combat veterans.  And, according to experts, the more our veterans are denied the opportunity to purge themselves of what many consider to be the shame of innocent civilian deaths, the greater will be the ongoing suffering of our returning heroes.

Given the difficult subject matter of PTSD and the mainstream’s aversion to embracing the realities of the war, what is the best approach to producing a film about a vet suffering from PTSD?  How much can be spent on such a film based on similar films past performance?  Such a film may be of interest to a cable network with a large subscription base — HBO, SHO, STARZ, TNT, IFC?  In that case a budget in the low seven figures may be justified.

Given the performance of current films dealing with Iraq, financial failure is the norm with moderate success the exception.  “The Hurt Locker” has only returned $40 million worldwide on a budget of $15 million.  And “Brothers” with a “name” cast has returned a similar $40 million worldwide on a budget of $26 million.

Perhaps the best approach to producing SANDBOX – the antithesis of the most popular hard driving action films – is to produce the film as an independent theatrical feature destined for the festival and art house circuit at a very modest budget.    The approach will require participation by a cast and crew passionate about the subject matter and willing to work for less than they might earn on a more mainstream production.

To date (mid-April, 2010), we have commitments from a wonderful principal cast including Emily Bridges, Will Shepherd and Brighid Fleming and look forward to starting production soon.  If you may have an interest in pitching in, we would love to hear from you.


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