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.

Bowling with Bewley

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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.

What Do You Do Nicole?

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When I started helping to promote Thunder Road I never expected to meet as many amazing people who have been moved to aid this campaign after being inspired by the actions of Astoria Entertainment: Charlie Bewley, Matt Dallas & Steven Grayhm. One of these amazing contributors is Nicole Ross, who kindly shared her experiences of her first convention TVD Dallas and why she is supporting Thunder Road.

Having never attended any convention let alone a TVD Convention Nicole was apprehensive when her husband Jason approached her with the idea, she was still reluctant up until the day of the convention. She was concerned about the last-minute scheduling changes but like all of us was pleasantly surprised by the new guests and welcoming atmosphere of the TVD fandom. Favorite aspects of the convention were listening to the panels where the guests discussed not only working on TVD but also their own lives and challenges they have faced. Nicole and her husband Jason were the lucky winners of a dinner with Charlie Bewley in support of Thunder Road that Creation Entertainment so kindly auctioned off at the end of his panel with Todd Williams on Day 1 of the convention. Nicole was motivated to bid on the auction after hearing Charlie speak about Thunder Road’s mission to help raise awareness of PTSD and the overall struggles faced by Veterans when trying to reintegrate themselves into civilian life.

“PTSD can effect anyone when an individual is in a dangerous situation. The trauma lies within the body of the individual and not the actual event. Often times people can exit an event and never show signs of PTSD, while others, may develop PTSD from an incident other’s may perceive as mild. It all depends on how our bodies respond in our Threat Response Cycle. Our troops are returning home as heroes, but often times, with the vision of a hero we do not expect any weaknesses.  In reality our troops are pushed to the edge of their Threat Response Cycles, creating a constant state of alert, scanning the environment, and acting on the natural response of flight or flight.  PTSD develops when an individual is unable to properly discharge the flight or fight response, creating a freeze state. These freeze states are triggered in individuals with PTSD through sights, sounds, smells, tastes, etc, thus keeping the individual in a constant state of hypervigilance. By getting involved in the Thunder Road project, I am hoping even more of our population can begin to understand the depth of trauma through the use of the film. PTSD effects more of our population than we believe.  Understanding the signs, symptoms, and ways we can help can assist in prevention of suicide, mental health barriers, and offering appropriate services to people who need access to them.”   – Nicole Ross

As the owner and clinic director of The Creative Therapy Center Nicole’s practice focuses on dealing with PTSD. NIcole has over 13 years of experience as a mental health therapist and employs a variety of therapeutic techniques to work with trauma such as Play Therapy, sand tray therapy, and Somatic Experiencing at the center. The center focuses on working with children who have PTSD and other mental health disorders. “Play therapy is an opportunity for an individual to use play techniques to address difficult mental health issues.  Play therapy can be adapted to work with all age groups from small children to adults.  I use a non-directive play therapy model with children ages 2 – 12, a directive play therapy approach with children struggling with cognitive skills, and sand tray therapy with adolescents and adults.” explains Nicole “Anyone can benefit from play therapy techniques.  Even when I am having a difficult day or looking for some clarity I will enter my sand tray room and create a sand tray.  So much information can be gathered through unspoken words, metaphors, and ideas.  The journey is in the hands of the client.  It is their story to tell, and it is my job to be present to hear and honor their story.” Nicole also travels around the United States presenting on trauma, the effects of trauma, and how we can all work to prevent, reduce, and treat trauma symptoms.

Inspired by her personal work with PTSD to aid the campaign; Nicole and her husband Jason have been diligently fundraising for the campaign. They teamed up with Modify Tattoo and raised $1000, they also held a drink tab night at The Other Bar in Foley MN where they raised $300 and gave away a $100 gift card that was won by a lucky Veteran. Jason and Nicole have also created a wonderful fundraiser in support of Thunder Road. On September 22, 2013 Jason will be “Breaking Boards for PTSD” with all proceeds going to the Thunder Road campaign.
For more about Nicole’s work visit The Creative Therapy Center’s FB page: https://www.facebook.com/CreativeTherapyCenter and for more about Nicole visit her blog.
You can also donate directly to Thunder Road on Indiegogo.

Thunder Road Film: Movie With A Message

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When Steven Grayhm, Charlie Bewley and Matt Dallas of Astoria Entertainment approached mainstream Hollywood to pitch their film Thunder Road they were met with a less-than-stellar reception. Hollywood wasn’t interested in a gritty, honest tale of the human condition and the epidemic of PTSD among our returning veterans. Taking their story to the public they launched a crowdfund campaign originally on Kickstarter.com to raise funds to produce their movie their way. With two weeks left to reach their goal on Kickstarter they have now changed platforms to Indiegogo which allows more freedom for people donating, there’s been an outpouring of public support but much more is needed, please consider supporting this campaign which will create awareness of this important issue.
Throughout the campaign I have been fortunate enough to meet people who have been personally affected by PTSD and wanted to share why they support and want others to support Thunder Road.

“Help make an impact on this nation’s understanding of PTSD by supporting this film. Our hearts’ break because we have lost our sons and daughters in this war. Our brave young men and women are coming home with so many problems due to the sights and experience of war. With the loss of friends, brothers and sisters, they need to know that this nation understands the silent pain that they bear. No one who has served this country like our Heroes have should ever be in a place where they feel alone, misunderstood, or just unloved because of where they have been or what they have seen. Please help me in supporting this project, odds are that you have someone in your family or neighborhood who has come home from war and is “just not the same”. We need to embrace them, stand with them, and let them know they are not forgotten. We are thankful for their service and for having stood in the gap of FREEDOM for the citizens of this grateful nation. The young men that were with my son, Shawn Hefner, while he served in Afghanistan are now suffering from PTSD because of the sights of war and witnessing their brother in arms die by stepping on an IED. It is very important to me to help these brave young men know that they are loved by Shawn’s family. Each and every one of these young men have told me stories in which they feel they are responsible for Shawn’s death. The survivors’ guilt is so strong that some of them have had a hard time spending time with me. I feel like they relive Shawn’s death when they talk to or see me. I have made it my mission to reach out to them all. I want them to understand that I know what they had to do, I know the condition his body was in and that it no longer had to be “the silent memory” when they interacted with Shawn’s family. This last visual memory can be released, and they can remember Shawn laughing, telling jokes and just being a positive force in a place of war. I have heard amazing stories of the things my son did that saved the lives of many in this group. They hold his memory so dear, that we have become a part of their family as they are a part of ours. My marine sons are a very special group of men, they have my respect for their choice to serve this country and I am honored that my son touched their lives as he served and died for this great country. Helping to promote this movie “Thunder Road”, to educate America about PTSD and an understanding of just what war does to the hearts of these heroes, is so dear to me. We need to stand with my marine sons and all of our heroes, those who have stood in the gap for our freedoms, and help them to find peace, understanding, and a desire to go forth and live a long, happy and productive life. That is truly the way to honor Shawn and all of our fallen heroes” – Robin Hefner founder of Hico’s Hero her son Shawn P Hefner was KIA 11-13-09

“Woke up a 0300 to get a glass of water. I was extremely sore like most mornings but this was much worse. I pulled myself outta my bed using my attached bed-cane and walked about three steps and made it too the hallway when OH SHIT! My legs went out. I laid there for a moment, thinking what the hell. I tried to get back up but my legs were to sore. So I used my arms to drag myself to the kitchen sink to get water. Then proceeded to low crawl and drag my noodle legs to the recliner chair. It took everything I had to pull myself up. A while went by and eventually Dani (my wife) came out to see what I was doing. I told her “I can’t walk, everything I do to try and stand I fall.” I thought that the epidural I had from the VA went wrong or something. She call for an ambulance while I flopped on the floor with determination to somehow get the hell up using my canes the wall and anything around that was vertical. I know I have problems with my back and left legs after acquiring injuries in Afghanistan. But this was something new. I just seem to get worse as days go by.

Now imagine this is your everyday, pain and worsening pain. Your 29 and can’t hold a job and the government wants to take back some of your 100% disability check to save them money. What you do get does not add up in today’s economy and you still have the rest of your life to live..

The foundation for PTSD is set in stone for this young marine. What are we going to do to make sure he never feels like he’s better off dead? Suicide is a real problem with our young war vets, coping with a life that is nothing like he dreamed of just a few short years ago. Living with physical and mental hardship is something our grandparents deal with not a 20 something your old man with a family to support. Supporting this project to educate America is one the most important thing we can do as free American’s. Learn what PTSD is and lets stop this epidemic of suicide running through our young war HEROES lives.” -Chris O. –Wounded Warrior, Marine – served Afghanistan 2009 – served with Shawn P Hefner

“I just hope they depict PTSD & Veteran issues better than they do currently in the movies. Shit doesn’t end when they come home and attend therapy. The world they live in, we live in, is not the same. You can’t see it with the same eyes. Can’t judge their reactions by what is expected from society. Many have seen things that no human being should be exposed to, many have had to make choices that in a “normal” environment they would never make. And above all…they went to bed not knowing if they would wake up. The effects of PTSD on family members is almost as bad as the PTSD itself… and it is the number one reason for suicide among soldiers. The process of reintegration is too short and soon enough there is another deployment knocking at your door. No time to truly recover and try and pick up the pieces of what once was that person.” – Misplaced Soldier(currently enlisted so anonymity is required)

I’m grateful for these wonderful people for sharing their experiences and I’m hopeful that the public will respond in kind and prove to Hollywood that we as a society care about more than the next big blockbuster and want films to not only entertain but to educate. Pledge your support: www.ThunderRoadFilm.com