When I last wrote, my lead actor, Michael Cuomo, and I were had just premiered our feature film Happy New Year at this year's SXSW Film Festival. Based on the critically-acclaimed Off-Broadway play and subsequent award-winning short film of the same name, Happy New Year (the feature) tells the story of a war torn Marine returning stateside to face his fiercest battle yet -- the one against himself. It's an entertaining yet hard-hitting look at PTSD/PTS (post-traumatic stress disorder).
The film played like gangbusters. SXSW even added a vets-only screening to accommodate sold-out crowds. We received similar responses at subsequent festivals and screenings in Kansas City, Sarasota, Baltimore, Little Rock and the 2011 Milblog Conference in Arlington, Virginia. Though many vets found the film incredibly difficult to watch, they praised its authenticity, some even calling it a "must see for veterans returning from combat." Many of them praised the music as well.
My interest in the subject of PTSD/PTS began several years ago with the purchase of Nina Berman's Purple Hearts Back From Iraq, a series of photographic portraits and interviews with American soldiers who were gravely wounded in Iraq. I wasn't really following the war effort at that time, but this book changed that. Because neither Michael nor I were vets, we wanted to ensure as much accuracy as possible in telling this story, interviewing over 80 veterans from various wars (from Iraq to Desert Storm to Vietnam to WWII) about their post-combat experiences, even allowing many of them to make comments on the script. The stories were haunting, and they began to permeate every aspect of my life, including my music.
When it came time to shoot a music video for "This Road," one of many songs written and performed by my band La Res for the Happy New Year soundtrack, I knew I wasn't done with the subject. Instead of simply interspersing shots of the band with scenes from the film, I wanted to take it a step further. Here was another chance to shed light on this incredibly important issue.
Thus, I decided to tell another story, one that was also inspired ny the dozens of stories that inspired the Happy New Year script. Like with Happy New Year, the story in "This Road" is not meant to be a representation of every veteran's experience coming home, but it's certainly the story of many. And these brave men and women need our help now more than ever.
"This Road" by La Res
(Song featured on the CD Revolution and in the upcoming feature film Happy New Year .)
Written & Directed by K. Lorrel Manning; Produced by K. Lorrel Manning & Larry Mitchell; Starring Joseph Harrell, Teresa Stephenson, Larry Mitchell, & La Res; Additional Direction by Patrick Blumer; Editor -- Eric Wise; Associate Editor -- Patrick Blumer; Cinematography -- Patrick Blumer & Matthew Cecchini
Happy New Year will receive its Northeast premiere at the Rhode Island International Film Festival on 8/12 at 5pm. We will continue our grassroots campaign towards a theatrical release on 11.11.11 across the USA. For more info about Happy New Year, click here.
La Res is K. Lorrel Manning (lead vocals, bass), David Riccardi (guitar) & John Morris (drums). Their debut CD Revolution (containing music featured in Happy New Year) is available now. For more info about La Res, click here.