A documentary film about one combat veteran, two titanium legs and 100 chickens.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far. If you haven't yet given, consider joining in. We'll send updates and behind-the-scenes clips to all backers. Every bit helps! Our budget for the film is actually close to double what we have raised here so if you still want to chip in, we can use your support! We'll keep you updated as the Suttons' story progresses.
The Farmer Veteran Project (working title) is an in-progress documentary film about a combat veteran seeking a new way to serve his country after multiple years fighting in America’s longest wars.
Alex Sutton is a combat veteran with six tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2008 an IED explosion ended his military service and destroyed his legs. Back home in North Carolina, medically discharged and standing on new titanium legs, Alex still possesses a strong desire to serve his country. He believes that he can do this best through farming.
WHY WE ARE MAKING THIS FILM
Perhaps there has always been a relationship between war and agriculture. The Book of Isaiah (2:4) declares that after war, soldiers “will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks." This film, this story, is not political. We are documenting the physical transition of a soldier becoming a farmer. The mental and physical challenges of that transition are real and for Alex, they are what gives him the motivation to press on. “Of course it hurts. It hurts my body every damn day that I push it out here,” said Alex during an interview for this film. “But you know what? It’s that pride. It’s worth it all just to see that one little sprout out of the ground, or that one baby chick out of it’s shell. It’s worth every ounce of pain.”
Farmers and Veterans both make up a small percentage of the population, less than 1%, but both carry a heavy burden in service and security to our nation. They are fighting our wars and growing our food. They have the potential to make a powerful alliance, sharing the warrior qualities of vigilance, endurance, resourcefulness and the willingness to take up a challenge. During an interview for this film, Micheal O’Gorman, Executive Director of Farmer Veteran Coalition, points out that, “The challenge, the difficulty of farmer is what makes this a great transformation for them because it fills that void and it gives that sense of service that drove them. It gives them a new place to put that."
We would like to be able to reach out to more farmer veterans and researchers to help give this story context. When you support this film you make it possible for us to commit our time, skills and equipment to creating the best possible film we can on an issue that deserves our nation’s attention. “Some veterans do not cope well with the loss of the structure, social, and financial support available in the military environment,” according to Dr. Sally Johnson, co-author of a study that examined the protective factors important to preventing violence in veterans, including employment, the ability to care for oneself and perceived self-determination. The study surveyed veterans across the country and found that with these factors in place, 92 percent were less likely to report severe violence than veterans who did not endorse these factors.
Alex is one of the 1.6 million veterans from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan trying to make a return to civilian life. In these wars, for the first time in history, an extremely disproportionate number of soldiers are from from rural communities with high unemployment. Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture reports that half of all farmers in the United States will retire in the next decade. By documenting Alex's story, this film explores the formidable challenges we face as a country. How do we support the wounded? Who will continue to work the land responsibly?
After many years of enduring death in war zones, Alex now finds himself surrounded by life. He devotes most of his agrarian aspirations to raising heritage birds, a variety of egg-laying breeds facing extinction. Watching chicks hatch calms him, but his mind and body are still deeply damaged.
He suffers excruciating physical pain and must take a heavy regimen of medications to abate severe PTSD. With the steadfast care of his wife, Jessie, Alex fights for a life of purpose. Their story is about finding possibility in the face of pain and what happens when soliders return home from war.
WHO WE ARE
The Farmer Veteran Project is a work in progress by Vittles Films, a young film collective based in Durham, North Carolina. Vittles makes web-based, character-driven documentaries about people with unique and surprising relationships to food. We’re looking for stories that show why food matters to us. How it shapes our identity and community. Our past projects include a story about two families’ shared history with a Hot and Sour Soup recipe. Another film, Café Sense, examines the global coffee trade by following a visually impaired man who walks to a coffee tasting every Friday morning. All of our soundtracks, illustrations and poster artwork is created locally, by our friends and in the spirit of truly collaborative filmmaking.
Pass the biscuits! Vittles also hosts community dinners and screenings. When this film is complete, we will be taking this film to farms, backyards and roof tops. To pull this off, we will need a portable screen, a top-notch projector and portable sound system to bring a thrilling cinema experience to a wide variety of venues. Hope to see you there.
WHAT YOUR INVESTMENT WILL SUPPORT
• TIME & TOOLS - In early March we began making weekly trips to film Alex’s story. We’ve gotten to know the Suttons well, but there are a many more moments to capture; like their wedding reception and a trip to the doctor’s office. We have pieced together our own equipment to manage a workable production kit, but there are a few tools that would greatly increase our ability to produce high-quality cinema. Your investment in this project will fill our gas tanks and keep the camera’s rolling.
• SPACE - One single minute of filming results in roughly 100MB of converted and ready footage, which must be stored in triplicate on high-quality hard drives. Managing all of this content takes an awful lot of space and worry. Help us safely store the moments we capture and ensure that we can access them quickly.
• SKILLS - The real magic (and bulk of the work) happens in the editing room. We’ve been logging interviews, syncing our audio and cutting sequences with the goal of completing this film in November, just in time for Veteran’s Day. We do most everything in house, but we’ll hopefully have funds for top-notch color-correction, grading and sound mixing to bring it all to a fine polish. We can only do this with your support.
WHAT IF WE REACH OUR GOAL?
Here’s the thing. We need $20,000 just to cover our costs and complete a rough-cut version of this film. If we exceed our goal, we can begin to expand the film to a feature-length production and seek out national distribution and broadcast rights.
We enlisted some very talented and generous local artists to create art inspired by The Farmer Veteran Project exclusively for supporters of the film.
Jeremy M. Lange, the project's Director of Photography, produced these beautiful portraits of Alex Sutton's heritage birds. The series is called Pretty Birds and they are available at various funding levels.
On July 4th we will debut a T-shirt designed by illustrator Emily Henderson. We can't wait to see what she makes!
DINNER & MARKET KITS - For cooking at home or for going to the market. Kits come with our home-made Vittles mason jars, vintage cloth napkins, canvas market bags with the Farmer Veteran logo and other mystery goodies.
GET OUT THE WORD
Tell your friends and family, your co-workers and neighbors! Once you’ve made a donation, send out a message to Facebook friends or on Twitter. Even if you don’t make a donation — if you believe in us — please tweet about it. We have a few ready-made tweets to use:
Turning their swords to plowshares—support this new documentary project #FarmerVeteranProject @vittlesfilms http://kck.st/JMcsuT
Can you recover from PTSD with the help of birds? #FarmerVeteranProject @vittlesfilms http://kck.st/JMcsuT
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.