Student, Professor Team for Documentary Depicting Veteran's Battle with PTSD

When Jason Edwards chose his brother, Joe, as the subject of his internship project at Eastern Kentucky University last summer, he hoped to gain more than a good grade.

He wanted to tell the story of his youngest brother’s struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder in hopes of helping Joe while giving the veteran a chance to help others who have struggled after returning home from a war zone.

“We want to show people that PTSD is not a bad word,” Jason told the Richmond Register last year. “Most people with PTSD are very normal people who are more anxious and afraid than you realize.”

What started as a student internship for Jason turned into a professional, collaborative project with filmmaker and EKU associate professor of communications John Fitch III.

The resulting documentary, “Two Brothers,” which Jason, 33, co-directed and co-produced with Fitch, will be shown on KET this summer and is slated to be screened at two national film festivals in May: the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Film Festival and the Sunset Film Festival of Los Angeles (where it has been awarded honorable mention).

The story of the 27-year-old Kentucky National Guardsman who served two tours of combat duty in Iraq before returning to Harlan, Ky., is told from the perspective of Jason, a sophomore broadcast and electronic media major at EKU and the eldest of three brothers, who said that the brother who returned in 2008 was not the same brother he had known before – which gave him the film’s title.

In video clips of interviews, Joe tells of the nightmares, anxiety, depression and drinking that came with PTSD. Participating in making the documentary has been part of Joe’s exposure therapy, which involves talking about all of one’s issues. But Joe told the Richmond Register he also wants it to be an example for other veterans to see there is help and hope for them.

Jason and Fitch accumulated more than eight hours of interviews with Joe, his parents, his VA therapist and his fiancée, which was used to create the 30-minute documentary. They began work on the project in June 2012 and the final version was finished in March. The project was funded by EKU and private donors through the fundraising website, Kickstarter.

The short film features original music composed by Emmy Award-nominated recording artist Rench, who composed the theme song music for the FX network show, “Justified.”

“When I first agreed to work with Jason on this project, I had no idea that it would turn into a personal and professional labor of love,” Fitch said. “I usually just supervise EKU film projects, but this time I decided to take a hands-on approach as a director and producer. I feel that this story is important.

“With almost a million vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s now essential to talk about taking care of those who’ve sacrificed so much for us,” he continued. “It’s an honor to have worked on this project, and I’m proud of EKU for being such a supportive community for veterans. The Kentucky National Guard, the Veterans Administration, and GotYour6.org have also been extremely supportive of this project.”

Published on April 26, 2013