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.
While Astoria is still hard at work on Thunder Road a couple of weeks ago they took some time out for a great day of fun and incentive fulfillment. Bowling with Bewley is the first event of the many great incentives available to contributors to Thunder Road. Held at Lucky Strike in Hollywood fans and friends turned out to support a day of bowling and Super Bowl fun. Charlie Bewley had the support of his castmates from the Twilight franchise: Alex Meraz, Gil Birmingham, Erik Odom, Pat Brennan, Bill Tangradi, Justine Wachsberger as well as Matt Dallas, Steven Grayhm, Andy Nguyen and his veteran friends from Honor Courage Commitment.
It was an once in a lifetime opportunity for fans to spend the day with these wonderful actors and even beat some of them at bowling! Charlie generously (and with much pride) lent his ever so stylish bowling shirts to his friends Matt Dallas, Steven Grayhm and Andy Nguyen to wear in honour of the event. The losing team was helmed by Charlie and their punishment involved a whole lot of push-ups. I was thankfully on team werewolf headed by Alex Meraz who was nice enough to offer me some bowling advice, unfortunately for Alex my abysmal bowling was not due to a misunderstanding of bowling techniques, the whole event was very casual and fun was had by all.
After bowling we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the Super Bowl festivities in the VIP room of Lucky Strike. In honour of both the event and the recent birthdays of both Charlie and Steven, a special sweet surprise of custom cupcakes and cake created by Mary’s Cake Shop, was enjoyed along with other delicious goodies provided by the wonderful staff of Lucky Strike. There was another round of punishing push-ups for the losing team during one of the commercials breaks, the half-time show was a roaring success with many of the guests getting up and dancing, including the always entertaining Matt Dallas. All the guests were happy enough to chat and take pictures throughout the event making the atmosphere intimate and unforgettable, some incentive attendees were even lucky enough to get to re-enact Steven Grayhm’s ‘Boy Band’ pose!
If you’re sad you missed out on such a wonderful and unique opportunity don’t despair you can still join in the fun with many other incentives coming up including a BBQ with Matt Dallas and the entire cast of Kyle XY, or for the aspiring actors you can become part of the magic of Thunder Road by being an extra or a cast member, for more on how to contribute visit ThunderRoadFilm.com and their Thunder Road: Feature Film page on Facebook.
Special thanks to Cherish and Sarah for being the unofficial photographers for the event.
It’s almost Christmas so most of us have our gifts all wrapped but if you’re still looking for something unique to give here’s a great suggestion: give the gift of Thunder Road. The hard-working guys of Astoria Entertainment’s Indiegogo campaign to fund their first film Thunder Road may be over but you can still get in on the amazing incentives. Through their Thunder Road site they are still accepting donations, all you have to do is visit the site and follow their instructions. Not only are you helping support a film that could help bring awareness to PTSD, a shocking epidemic that affects not only veterans but many others who endure in relative silence, but you’re also going to get some amazing things back. There are numerous levels of donations with equally awesome incentives.
For any movie lover the chance to attend a private screening of the film with the stars is an opportunity not to be missed. With screenings in various locations, including Los Angeles, Toronto, London, and Dallas, you have your choice of where you want to attend.
If you’re a fan of Twilight or know someone who is then you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to Bowl with Charlie Bewley and a few of his vampire and wolf friends, including Daniel Cudmore and Bronson Pelletier. This event is happening February 2, 2014 so tickets are being offered for a limited time only. Taking place at Lucky Strike in Hollywood you’ll get the opportunity to spend a few hours partying with the stars! Seeing Charlie in bowling shoes more than makes this worth your while. Tickets are $250/each and you can get them by going to the site and specify you want to attend the bowling event.
And if you’re in the extra giving mood you can surprise someone with the gift of visiting the actual Thunder Road set! That’s right for a true supporter or fan they can have a chance to not only visit the set but can also be an extra in the film! And keep watching their site for news and updates on all things Thunder Road.
Incentives still available. Pledge your support for #PTSD awareness http://www.ThunderRoadFilm.com
“Pain is Temporary” Charlie #Sweats4Vets in front of the Alamo to support #ThunderRoad
Steven with SGT. Rick Clement on the Blackpool promenade during his trip to the UK. May/2/2012 – Property of Astoria Entertainment
Property of Astoria Entertainment
Astoria Entertainments has partnered with The Boot Campaign
Charlie Bewley #Sweats4Vets in Texas
Now into its second week the Thunder Road campaign by Astoria Entertainment still has a long road ahead of them. In support of the campaign the founders of Astoria Entertainment: Steven Grayhm, Charlie Bewley and Matt Dallas have headed out on the road with plans to visit cities not only in the United States, but in Canada and the UK as well. Each new day finds them running themselves ragged trying to spread the word through press interviews, corporate meetings, and fundraising events. And let’s not forget the intrepid endeavors of Charlie’s innovative PR stunt #Sweats4Vets, where each day he jumps rope for hours on end in front of national monuments and corporate buildings.
From its inception Thunder Road has truly been a labour of love, when Steven was inspired to create a script that would truly illustrate the realities veterans face when they return from service. After a life changing road trip in 2011 to research veteran issues, which brought them into contact with many veterans and their families, Steven found greater motivation to have his vision come to fruition. Which brings us to the present, after trying to have Thunder Road produced by traditional means Astoria Entertainment is now asking the public to help fund this important film and allow them to produce the film the way they’ve always intended it.
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.
More than your typical war story Thunder Road aims to bring the human side of war to the screen, PTSD and other mental health issues are continually met with stigma in our society and this film would help create a dialogue and focus on such an important issue. Some may argue that you could be putting the money you donate to this campaign into veteran charities, which is valid, however helping to create this film will allow this issue to reach so many people on a global scale. Steven’s vision of creating a war drama with no political agenda is another way Thunder Road stands apart from its cinematic predecessors. Without the support of the public this film won’t get made, “It’s too real, almost uncomfortable.” says Charlie Bewley, in reference to why mainstream Hollywood hasn’t wanted to produce Thunder Road.
Every donation counts and truly no amount is too small, for as little as $10 you can access all the behind-the-scenes videos that are posted almost daily chronicling Astoria’s road trip, for $100 you can attend private screenings of the film once it’s been made. If you’ve been following the campaign but are waiting to donate there’s no time like the present, if you feel like you don’t have enough to make a difference you’re wrong, if each of Matt and Charlie’s current twitter followers donated $10 to the campaign they would have already surpassed their goal. Beyond the incentives you should support this campaign for its message and for the passion of the three men who are at the helm of this inspiring campaign. Hearing them speak about not only the campaign but of how their own lives have been impacted by the experiences of this journey is reason enough to support them.
More than a movie Thunder Road is a movement, please pledge today.