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.
Writing can be both cathartic and daunting, over the past few months I’ve felt an increasing pressure to create interesting content for this page and continually felt that I was failing at providing. Sadly this has led to far less posts and procrastination. Last month this blog had it’s first anniversary, a milestone that I met with both pride and melancholy, looking back I’ve accomplished so much more than I had imagined for this blog. I’ve made friends, had amazing adventures, and it’s allowed me to enter back into the world of the living. I spent much of my adult years sitting on the sidelines of my own life, never willing to fully take the risk of being present, thanks to my blog and the wonderful experiences it’s brought to me it’s opened me up to an entire world I hadn’t thought existed.
So here’s to another year of madness, and movement, of making new friends and falling more in love with life. Happy Anniversary to my blog and thanks to everyone who’s made it memorable.
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.
‘Tis the season of giving and here are some great gift suggestions if you’re looking for unique gift ideas. This year consider giving the gift of ‘Indie’ or independently made, I’m suggesting that in lieu of the more well-known or more sought after gifts there are some really great gems to be had if you know where to look.
My favorite site for all things independently made is Etsy, which has everything from clothes, crafts and so much more. One of my favorite Etsy store is Chattergold Studios, which features the beautiful photography from Seattle-based photographer Tricia.
Do you know a bookworm? Give the give of these amazing books from so authors I’ve been lucky enough to discover this year. My Heart is an Autumn Garage by Anne Theriault(The Belle Jar) is a heart-breakingly honest account of her battle with depression including her experience with hospitalization. S C Rhyne’s debut The Reporter and The Girl MINUS the Super Man! is (in the author’s own words) not a love story but tales the semi-autobiographical story of an interracial relationship in or modern dating world.
Is it a coincidence that Santa and Satan share all the same letters? Not if you want to give the gift of the Hellbound Trilogy by Tim Hawken including: Hellbound, I Am Satan and the just released finale Deicide.
Angela Kulig’s newest bookPigments of my Imagination(POMI) is a wonderful tale of romance, mixed with adventure and mystery. Savannah Stewart is an up-and-coming author who’s novel Moments of Reckoning should not be missed.
Diana Emuge‘s Seamless is the fictional tale of a women’s struggle against many issues especially within herself.
Not just for actors Anthony Meindl‘s book’s At Left Brain Turn Right and Alphabet Soup for Grown-Ups are informative, enlightening and best of all entertaining!
For the lighter side of things considering giving the gift of laughter courtesy of the hilarious guys from Superego their podcast is gift enough but you can also check out their album Mount Us More by The Journeymen(a fictional band they created).
Give the gift of independent film, consider donating to one of the many great films with crowdfund campaigns, including my personal favorite Thunder Road. There are still incentives available and what movie lover wouldn’t like the opportunity to go to a private screening of the film with the actors in attendance?
For the philanthropic, why not give the gift of a donation to charity or even just offer your time and volunteer? personal favorite of mine is the newly formed Pedal Against PTSD who aim to help suffers of PTSD through cycling as well as raise overall awareness of PTSD to the general public, and you can donate here. The Young family of Hamilton Ontario, has truly found the meaning of the season and are hosting a Boxing day party and have committed to providing a hearty meal and gifts for 50 people who would otherwise be alone on Christmas or unable to provide those things for themselves, anyone interested in helping can donate to them through PayPal firstname.lastname@example.org, your donations will go towards the food and gifts for these families.