Harnessing the power of filmmaking to help veterans with posttraumatic stress reduce isolation and build community through:
- Collaborative filmmaking workshops linked to community-wide screenings that validate veterans experiences and extend workshop benefits, and
- Film sharing and community dialogue to educate the public about the mental health challenges facing veterans and military families.
In 2011, having co-led film camps for several summers where teenage boys and girls produced short films largely centering on adolescent identity, Ben Patton wondered whether this same process of collaborating to create visual narratives this way could also benefit veterans returning from combat deployment as they sought to transition home and find their “new norm.” This inspiration led to the inception of the I WAS THERE Film Workshops initiative. In the Spring of 2011, he and a team of professional filmmakers were invited to host their veterans film workshop at the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Carson, CO where hundreds of soldiers were undergoing mental health treatment. Soon afterwards, he formed a non-profit organization, the Patton Veterans Project, to formally house the program.
Since then, the Patton Veterans Project (PVP) has hosted more than 40 film workshops at 8 military bases, VA hospitals, universities, and private clinics both in the US and Israel, enabling nearly 1000 veterans from 18 to 80 to collaborate on more than 300 short films expressing their experiences. Along the way, PVP began conducting pre- and post-workshop surveys of participants, indicating that the workshop results in a significant drop in PTS symptoms, especially among those who report a PTSD diagnosis.