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Wounded vets find supportive voice with Rocklin filmmakers

Upcoming film shows coming home isn’t easy
By: Matthew Whitley, special to the Placer Herald
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How to help

To help donate to the film “Birthday,” contact Chris and Heather King at 3036 Strand Road, Rocklin, CA 95765, WatermarkFilms.net or use PayPal, heather@watermark films.net. To view the video that inspired the film, visit TaylorMorris.org blog.

 

Each week, soldiers return home from the war in Afghanistan wounded, maimed and crippled by bombs, bullets and explosive road devices

In the Internet age of social media and Twitter, stories of individuals can go viral, such was the case with Kyle Carpenter, who was injured by an enemy grenade trying to protect a fellow Marine, and Taylor Morris, a quadruple amputee also wounded in battle.

Carpenter’s face had been blown off, the surgeries were multiple and the pictures became famous. Morris became a YouTube sensation when a video compilation of him and his wife before and after went the war went viral.

These images did not go unnoticed by Rocklin residents and award-winning filmmakers Chris and Heather King. Carpenter is currently a consultant on a film, now in pre-production, being created by the husband-and-wife team.

Chris King, himself a Gulf War veteran and member of 82nd Airborne Division, and Heather from a family with strong military background, felt compelled to make a film about a returning wounded vet coming home for the first time and how it strains and tests marriages in ways a couple never imagines when they take those vows.

 

‘Birthday’

When asked about the title, “Birthday,” Chris King pointed out that in the military, the term “Alive Day” is used to celebrate the day you got to remain alive.

“Birthday is symbolic of how young he is, in that sense,” Chris King said.

The film focuses on the day the vet, played by Jesse Pepe, 24, returns home to his wife, played by actress Mandy Moody, also 24. Told in the present with flashbacks, the film chronicles how the couple deals with the vet’s return home wounded and traumatized, marital solidarity, the testing of that marriage, rehabilitation, medications, the incredible strain on a marriage, prosthetic devices and trying to convey what families are going through on a daily basis as soldiers return to civilian life.

The couple is doing this as a nonprofit, with monies raised going to the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides services for injured veterans returning home, and The Fisher House, which assists military families with housing next to hospitals where soldiers are receiving care. Additionally, Watermark Films will create public service announcements to be given to TV stations to air free of charge to raise awareness about wounded veterans. Filming is expected to begin in spring 2013.

When asked why the Kings wanted to make the film and accompanying PSA about war vets, Heather explained, “We’ve sacrificed nothing (for the war) … it’s our way of giving thanks ... giving something back. This is something we can do.”

The Kings had similar success with their film “Life,” about the unwanted infant surrender program at hospitals and fire houses. Those PSAs still air in several markets, including LA.

 

90 countries, 130 cities and growing

The Kings and their production company, Watermark Films, have produced one feature and several award-winning short films, playing to acclaim in 90 countries. As a director, King guided a performance from actress Kelly Nixon of the film “Rachel” to a best actress award at the VisionFest in New York, the first time in the festival’s history it went to the lead in a short film.

The Kings are still trying to raise finishing funds for “Birthday;” sadly for them, a recent fundraiser on the media website IndieGoGo didn’t provide the funds needed.

When asked why he shoots in Rocklin rather than Los Angeles, King said he found making films here easier.

“There’s a great talent pool here,” he said. “My family and friends are here, but moreover, everyone is cooperative, they help.”