May 17, 2010

Audience Engagement 2.0

Yesterday was an exciting day for TEM as the staff was deployed across the country to support the broadcast and screening of some of our work. (That means we covered 4 major markets). During the KQED broadcast of FIRESTORM, we teamed up with filmmaker/paramedic Thaddeus Setla and hosted a 3-city simulcast Meetup. We connected the screening party at Gordon Biersch in San Francisco with locations in Chicago and Philadelphia through webcams and Ustream.

Our goal was not only to watch the film with pre-hospital professionals, but to gauge their impressions by capturing the ensuing conversations on camera. Some archived video of the webcam can be viewed at the Ustream site. Setla has fully integrated social networking tools into his filmmaking and outreach. He uses twitter and facebook, etc. to galvanize his audience and keep his content fresh. We enjoyed collaborating with him on this process and look forward to sharing the results.

An attendee of the Philadelphia Meetup, dubbed MedicSK, posted this review on his blog. It's gratifying to have the endorsement of EMTs and Paramedics.

Yesterday I was in Washington, D.C. for the GI Film Festival where our short, The Inner Wounds of War, screened with a block of 4 other shorts. Inner Wounds of War traces Retired Sgt. Juan Arredondo's recovery process from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the impact on his family. Festival co-founder, Brandon Millett said that roughly 70 percent of the films in the festival touched on mental illness. Every short in our block featured a story in which PTSD was a major component.

The other films in the block were eye-opening, in-depth examinations of what happens to the warrior on the homefront and explore whether we as a society are prepared to intervene or offer support. A remarkably executed narrative short, "Head in the Sand," directed by David Baldwin, was an alternately gritty and touching portrayal of a young boy whose dreams of being a soldier in battle come true.

After the screening the filmmakers participated in a Q&A where we fielded questions about the inspiration for our work and whether the Veteran's Administration is doing what it can to address the problems.

USA Today has cited a Department of Defense report that says mental health is the leading cause of military hospitalizations, outpacing pregnancy or injuries. As the Department of Defense has opened up to acknowledge the issue and media attention stays focused on the problems and available resources, the VA is also expanding services. But the mounting costs are quickly overwhelming the DoD budget. From the article:

"Four mental health issues — depression, substance abuse, anxiety and adjustment problems such as PTSD — cost the Pentagon 488 years of lost duty in 2009. That's "the equivalent of 488 soldiers spending an entire year in the hospital for mental disorders," said Army Col. Robert DeFraites, director of the office which produced the study."

But as Dr. JJ Garcia says in Inner Wounds, "You can't fix this with just social workers...nurses...or doctors. Everyone in a community has to be involved if we're going to be successful." Next year maybe the festival will receive a slew of films showing the prevalence of community support systems for the wounded warrior.