Fifty Shades of Grayhm: What do you do Steven?

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In our disposable society it’s refreshing to find someone who’s trying to make a difference and is committed to seeing their project to completion regardless of the obstacles. Steven Grayhm is at the helm of the production company Astoria Entertainment, which is now in pre-production of their first film Thunder Road. Co-founder of Astoria Entertainment, a company he created with Charlie Bewley and Matt Dallas “We saw this great opportunity to be a driving force in cinema and to get behind the projects and the stories that weren’t being told by the studios whether it was because of commerce or lack of mainstream popularity.” 
Inspired by the stories his grandfather, who spent 5 years as a WWII POW, shared with him as a child. “I grew up with his private stories that he only shared with me about dehumanization, sacrifice, evil and triumph in the face of adversity.”  Steven began writing the script for Thunder Road in 2003 at the beginning of the Iraq conflicts.
Thunder Road is the story of returning U.S. soldier SGT. Calvin Cole (played by Steven) whom we meet in present day Detroit as a troubled veteran who suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and tbi (Traumatic Brain Injury) from multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Initially resistant to the VA system Cole must find a way to assimilate back into civilian life before he ends up dead or in prison. This film serves as his way of giving back to this generations soldier. After being met with much opposition in trying to create the film through traditional Hollywood channels, Astoria launched an ambitious crowdfunding campaign. While the campaign was met with many hurdles(including a change in crowdfunding platform) Grayhm never lost his determination, “there was never a plan b. We had a warrior mentality from day one: complete the mission or die trying.” Contrary to some dissenters Astoria didn’t have funding secured for the film prior to launching their campaign. “This is a VERY expensive independent film. To make the version of the film that we had always envisioned is costly.
Wanting to ensure the authenticity of the film Steven set out on a road trip with Charlie and Matt in 2011, “in order to tell an authentic story that we needed to travel across the country and sit in front of the people that are directly affected by war: active duty soldiers, veterans, their families, PTSD clinicians, neuropsychologists.” Being immersed in that world served to motivate Steven and reinforce the importance of getting a movie on this topic made. Two years later the boys again set out on the road to help raise both awareness and funds for their film. While both road trips had their challenges Grayhm admits the second one was more stressful, with a deadline to reach their campaign goal and an extremely tight schedule that had them traveling to different city’s every few days as well as fitting in time for media appearances and fundraising events.
“There’s an art to making people care about an unpopular subject matter. It’s easier to turn a blind eye and with all that is going on in our busy lives – easy to be distracted from important social issues.”
Since the launch of their campaign there’s been an outpouring of support and the creation of a social media community focused on helping raise PTSD awareness in conjunction with Thunder Road, Grayhm credits this to people realizing what a tragic epidemic PTSD is among the veteran community. ” I just think there has been more coverage because more vets are returning home from war and we are starting to see the adverse effects of PTSD in the news. 22 Veterans kill themselves everyday in this country. Statistically, our vets are more in danger of their lives on home soil than at war. I think there are a lot of people out there who want to help, who want to do more and just don’t know how to.”
Not one to be pigeon-holed Grayhm considers himself a writer/actor/director/producer, he likes variety. Though he will be starring in Thunder Road Grayhm will also be involved in all aspects of the film, “There’s still a lot of work to be done so I am involved on a daily basis and will be well until the film lands in theaters.” Choosing locations for the film’s setting was influenced by the experiences of the road trips as well, “Detroit is America’s city. I think it also reflects the current state of much of the country. It is a character unto itself in the film. Texas showed Thunder Road a lot of love and the terrain is perfect for the deployments in the film.”
On his writing process Grayhm has a few basic requirements: “I usually like to know the subject matter inside out, I like to be well informed. A relatively quiet place when writing – though I almost always listen to music. Sometimes a glass of wine helps to open the mind and free myself from editing the idea before it’s even committed to paper. Always edit sober though.”
As the creator of Thunder Road Grayhm understandably feels responsible for making this film a success, “Absolutely! I can say that we all feel a great responsibility to get this right for our veterans, active duty soldiers and Marines, their families and VA staff. We also hope the movie going public connects with the message of the film. Education is power. Compassion will save lives.”
Since the completion of the campaign Astoria Entertainment have partnered with Something Kreative Studios(Geoff Clark and Lisa Lapan), and are currently casting for the film. While the campaign has ended Astoria Entertainment is still offering incentives on their site, which includes the opportunity to be an extra in the film. Thunder Road is set for production in the Fall of 2014. To stay updated on all things Thunder Road ‘Like’ their Facebook page.

In Support Of Thunder Road

Crowdfunding has been a hot topic in the media recently; commonly employed by independent filmmakers, crowdfunded campaigns allow the creators to maintain creative control through generous support of backers. As a supporter of independent film, I’ve backed projects on Kickstarter before and wanted to bring attention to an upcoming campaign.

On July 31 Astoria Entertainment launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund their very first film Thunder Road. The film is “a no holds barred account of post war life” as described by Astoria co-founder and writer, Steven Grayhm. Grayhm was inspired to create the film because he felt that there was no current films that spoke to the issue of veterans acclimating themselves back into civilian life as well as their issues with mental health including PTSD. “We will work hard everyday to do everything humanly possible to make sure that Thunder Road gives a voice to the ghosts who walk amongst us.”

“There is no movie out there for this generation’s soldier which truly explores the psychological repercussions of life after war.” says Grayhm.
Grayhm was further motivated to create the film after going across the USA with Astoria co-founders Charlie Bewley and Matt Dallas, to speak with veterans and other people affected by the experiences of those who have served. Grayhm has taken first hand accounts of these struggles and used them to create the script, allowing Thunder Road to serve as a voice to millions who have a very important story to be told. “We will be the messengers for those who need to be heard. This we believe in and will keep alive.” says Dallas.

“We pledge to make an honest and authentic film that represents the true struggles and triumphs of the brave men and women around the world who have written a blank check to their god and government with their lives to uphold and fight for our freedoms…” — Matt Dallas, Steven Grayhm and Charlie Bewley.

More than a soldier’s story Thunder Road is a human story; it speaks to the greater issues of the stigma of mental health in society. Regardless of your personal stance on war this is a story that deserves to be heard. There are millions of men and women who have for various reasons chosen to serve their countries only to return irrevocably changed and struggling to find a semblance of their old lives. Many of these veterans feel isolated and unsure of what if any support systems are available to them. “Thunder Road is ultimately a story about a guy who’s trying to get his life back, the life that he left before he was deployed. But he never will…and the question is, can he adapt?”

In support of their campaign Astoria will be heading out on a nationwide media tour through August and September, and some incentives that backers of the campaign could receive include: commemorative coins, a BBQ with Matt Dallas and the cast of Kyle XY, bowling night with Charlie Bewley and members of the Twilight cast and the chance to be in the actual film Thunder Road.
Regardless of the prizes people should support this campaign because of the message the film intends to convey. “Thunder Road will unveil the hidden truths and unanswered questions for the masses” says Grayhm, in regards to the psychological repercussions of life after war. “Ultimately, we are all affected. We just don’t see it. This is why Thunder Road, as educational as it is entertaining, is so important.” Bewley adds, “We pledge to do our utmost to shift the consciousness of our audience towards the further integration of veterans and their families into our society. We pledge to do this without political agenda, bringing only the truth of what we have learned through extensive research into the public forum.

For more information and to support Astoria Entertainment follow them at Thunder Road FilmTwitter, Instagram, their official Facebook page: Thunder Road: Feature Film, their official Thunder Road campaign page, and live streaming video from their road trip.
Not sure how to start supporting Thunder Road, read this helpful article.
Beautiful video made in support of Thunder Road.
Great interview with Astoria Entertainment from About.com

All quotes and photos are property of Astoria Entertainment and used with their permission.