Retired Infantryman writes, directs local movie about PTSD
October 27, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Sometimes people face a turning point -- a choice between heading down a wrong path or looking up for help. That's the central theme of "The Turning Point," a film written and directed by retired Maj. Ty Manns and filmed in the tricommunity over the past six days.
Drawing from 24 years of service as an Infantryman, during which he was always interested in filmmaking, Manns said he knew he wanted to create a movie focused on the military. Two events combined to give him the inspiration for the 40-minute feature, which deals with a sergeant's struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The title of the movie came directly from the title of a sermon preached by Farnsworth Coleman, the pastor of New Birth Outreach Church and executive producer of the film.
"By the time I left church that day, I pretty much had in my head exactly what I wanted to do with this movie," Manns said. "I went home that day and started writing, and it turned out I ended up writing a story about a Soldier who returns home from the war and unbeknownst to him, he's actually suffering from PTSD. And in order to overcome all the things in his life that are starting to crumble apart, he eventually finds his way back to the church."
But the idea of focusing on PTSD came from an earlier encounter between Manns and a Soldier who had served under him when he was a company commander. Manns had run into him many times over the years, and the Soldier always instantly recognized him, he said, but this time was different.
"It took him a few minutes to even figure out who I was," Manns said. "He was just completely different … kind of melancholy. I asked him how he'd been. He told me twice he'd been involved in IED explosions. The last IED blast, he was the only survivor in the Humvee. He was under psychiatric care here at the hospital. He was explaining, and my mind was just thinking he's truly suffering from something. He was one of my better Soldiers in Korea … one of the best young Soldiers I had in that company, and I just saw the complete change in him. He was not himself. Everything about him felt like it was in slow motion. It stuck with me."
Coleman was interested in having a film produced by the church. In cooperation with Creative Minority Entertainment, Manns' faith-based production company, work on the movie began. The script was finished by June and the search for talent began.
The lead roles are played by Micah Andrews and Gwen Rodgers, both professional actors, Manns said. The camera, sound, makeup and other crew leaders were also recruited from the professional arena through Manns' contacts in the film industry. Other cast and crew members came from the community, particularly the church.
"I've worked on movie projects in the past with my friend Rick Bieber," said Manns, who got his start in filmmaking through the help of the former HBO Pictures president.
"Rick kind of pulled me under his wing. He got me on the movie sets to see how movies were created. He worked with me on my writing. He allowed me to work on some of his movies as well."
Manns said the high-definition film is a quality production, down to the sound, camera and lighting equipment used to make it.
"We have the same kind of equipment that would shoot a million dollar or a $5 million or a $20 million movie. We're just renting it," he said.
A director's cut version of the film, which includes bloopers, behind-the-scenes footage and interview, will be on sale at the church. Manns said he wants to keep the cost affordable -- around $15.
The church will sell the first 3,000 to 5,000 special edition copies independently. After that, the film will be licensed to a distributor.
David Britt, a member of New Birth Outreach Church and assistant director, said he hopes the movie gives people a better insight into what Soldiers struggling with PTSD face.
"It's one thing to talk about it," he said. "When you see it in a movie, you're able to actually see the situations.
"You see the background of how it developed and as you travel with the actor, it gives you a glimpse of not just what he's going through but what his wife's going through … and hopefully gives you a better understanding of everything the entire family is dealing with."
Manns said he hopes the ultimate message of the movie -- to turn to God for help -- will encourage people struggling with any issue, whether it's PTSD or something else.
The film is slated for release in January. To keep updated, visit www.newbirthoutreach.com.