The Impact of War on America’s Children and Families.
Interview with Producer and Director: Susan Hackley
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
We made this short film, Veteran Kids, to show how our wars impact children in ways that are invisible to most Americans. Two million American children have a parent who has been to war. In our short film, children speak movingly about what it’s like when dad or mom goes to war. This will be part of a longer documentary film we are making for Public Television about the impact of war on America’s veteran children.
I was motivated to make this film by my own experience. My boyfriend served and died in Vietnam. I felt alone in my grief and unsupported. My son served in and returned home safely from the Iraq war. I vowed to do whatever I could to encourage better, more inclusive conversations about war. War is too important for any of our voices to be silenced.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
You should watch this film because it is honest and emotional. There are no adults – just children talking to each other about war. It’s not like anything you will have seen before. And it’s short – under six minutes!
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
War and peace are universal themes. Everyone knows someone who has gone to war – maybe a great-uncle, brother, neighbor, or friend. And we all know how hard it can be to talk about war. How does someone who has never been to war talk to someone who has? How can a veteran talk to us about some of the awful things he saw in war? In our film, we give children the opportunity to talk about war in a way that models honesty and candor. Even for children whose parents haven’t been to war, our country has been at war their entire lives. What is it like to grow up with that? What are their questions?
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
Our film is unscripted. One way that our project has evolved over the course of its development is that we are learning from people of all ages that war impacted them as a child. A child whose dad fought in Vietnam has a lot in common with a child whose mom is serving in Iraq. Also, we are moving towards making our documentary for Public Television rather than initial release in theatres. We believe that television will be a great way to start spreading our message about the impact of war on children.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Along with film making, we are holding public conversations about war at universities and in communities so we get lots of feedback. Nearly everyone says how moving the children in the film are. Many people come forward and speak about how war has impacted them. The dad with PTSD. The grandfather who only spoke about his war experiences on his deathbed, carrying all that pain for decades. The friend who drinks too much. Also the proud stories of service and heroism. We know that civilians often want to connect with veterans in meaningful ways. We try to model what a loving and respectful conversation can be. There is a kind of taboo against talking about war, and we don’t think that’s healthy for any of us.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
The feedback has pushed us to keep going, even when we are low on funds and tired. No one is doing what our project is doing, and we want to give children and others the opportunity to tell their stories in a nonpartisan way. After we filmed children talking honestly about what it’s like to have dad or mom be off at war, their parents and some grandparents said to us, “We had no idea they felt that way”.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
A goal of our project, A Child’s Guide to War, www.achildsguidetowar.com, is to help Americans have honest and respectful conversations about war without partisanship. The films we are making are a catalyst for that discussion. A child of ten in another ten years can join the military and vote. If we don’t talk to them about war now they will not be prepared to make informed decisions later.
Whom do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We need people who believe in our project and mission who will support the film financially.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
A wide gulf exists in America between those who have served in the military and their families and those who haven’t. We would like viewers to have greater appreciation for the families who have a parent off at war, particularly the children who can be impacted in many different ways. We would like viewers to think about the impact of war on their own children, whether there is a parent away at war or not. Americans often think that war only happens “over there”. We will show you that war affects all of us and particularly our children.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
How are children affected when their mom or dad goes off to war?
Would you like to add anything else?
We want civilians to be included in discussions about military service and war, and we want soldiers, veterans, and their families to feel appreciated and supported by civilians. We believe that every American has an ownership role in our wars and our military.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
We are working on a longer program for Public Television that expands our telling of how our wars impact our children.
Interview: November 2016
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
The Impact of War on America’s Children and Families.
Length: 5:42 minutes
Producer and Director: Susan Hackley
Editor: Julie Lewis
Associate producers: Martha White Jackson and Melissa Dailey
About the director and producer:
Susan Hackley is managing director of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and is the producer and project director of “A Child’s Guide to War”.
Funders: Kickstarter and individual donors
Made in association with:
WFYI - Indianapolis
Release date: November 10, 2015