There were more than 6000 veteran suicides each year from 2008-2016 alone.
In contrast, the total number of fatal casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 is 6,995.
Suicide is a threat to our nation's service members — and in U.S. Army Paratrooper and creator Jordan Martinez's words, "Now, more than ever, we must tell stories about their experiences and remind others how important it is to never give up on the battle at home."
His passion for this topic is what inspired the USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate student to create The Gatekeeper, a psychological thriller that accurately, artistically, and authentically highlights the real struggles veterans face with PTSD and suicide.
This ain't no ordinary student film:
'The Gatekeeper' cast and crew filming on location at the Los Angeles National Cemetery.
The Gatekeeper will be the first film in USC history to use motion capture technology for pre-visualization. Martinez has invested state of the art technology and equipment, incredible production locations, and professional cast and crew for this film, including Navy veteran and Stranger Things actress Jennifer Marshall and Christopher Loverro, an Army veteran and the founder of non-profit Warriors for Peace Theater.
Martinez is a combat veteran who saw first-hand the psychological effects war has on returning service members — and decided to do something about it.
"I knew I had to make this movie last year when I learned two of my military friends had decided to take their own life," said Martinez.
For more and more veterans, losing friends to suicide is becoming a reality. For the rest, it's a deep fear, and one we must respond to.
U.S. Army veteran Christopher Loverro in 'The Gatekeeper.'
"This is the war they are fighting — and this is the war they are losing," said Loverro, who has been open about sharing his own struggles after returning from combat.
Martinez's film reflects a growing trend among veterans in the film industry to tell their own stories, both as a form of catharsis and also to ensure authenticity in the work.
This set was not cheap.
The Gatekeeper is currently in production. If anyone wants to help bring the film to life, there are a few ways to do it.
Southern California locals can become part of the cast and crew in a Mojave Desert shoot the weekend of May 11-12.
Or you can contribute to their Indiegogo campaign, which will directly pay for authentic looking military grade equipment, wardrobe, weaponry, and locations, as well as daily expenses for the crew. Student films rarely yield a return on the financial investment of the students who create them, so supporting a campaign like this will go directly to helping a veteran tell a critical military story — the first of many, unless I've read Martinez's tenacity, vision, and drive wrong.