Rachell Shapiro is the talented director and producer of the up-coming independent short film “From Hell to Here”. Shapiro fell in love with production of film and television in middle school while attending the Eastern Magnet school in Silver Spring, Maryland. The magnet school is one of a few in the Maryland public school system offering an exclusive education in media production to the students who are accepted through its admission evaluation. While attending middle school, Shapiro honed her skills in the basics and participated in all aspects of the production of a student talk show called “Personal profiles”. She was hooked and graduated high school with an eye towards pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications at Towson University in Maryland. www.towson.edu.
After graduation, Shapiro was challenged by the difficulties most people experience breaking into the entertainment industry, and volunteered on many sets, often working for free. Her goal was to build her resume, and learn more about the business by doing internships and working as a freelance production assistant. Her break into the industry came after a family friend recommended she join the organization, Women in Film and Video. www.wifv.org
Upon joining the well known and respected industry organization, she found out about an opening in a local production company. She applied and was hired by Rock Creek Productions, Inc. www.rock-creek.com. After working her way up in the company, she was elevated to senior producer and director of development. Shapiro’s involvement has earned her productions with the company many Telly Awards, Communicator Awards, and a CINE Golden Eagle Award for the film “Better Built Together” for Habitat for Humanity of Washington DC.
Coming off of these accomplishments, Shapiro was continually looking for the next project. Inspired, she suggested to the company that they hold a script writing contest, and whoever won would have their film produced for free. Rock Creek Productions received hundreds of submissions, and the script selected was what has evolved in her latest endeavor, “From Hell to Here”. “From Hell to Here” is a dramatic short film taking an abstract journey through the mind of an aging war veteran grappling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Shapiro explains the evolution of the winning script, “It was a very different script when we got it, but it had the loose themes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in it. Around that same time I picked the script, I heard a National Public Radio (NPR) story about how suicide deaths in the military were outpacing combat deaths. This was with two wars going on. So at that time that statistic blew my mind. I didn’t understand why I hadn’t heard it before. I didn’t know why people weren’t talking about it. There are two wars going on and suicides in the military out-numbering combat deaths?”
“So I had this script, and I just realized we can make a film that has more meaning behind it than just a piece of entertainment. So I went and started to do research and read as much as I could about veteran issues, and read some books, read numerous accounts of what veterans were facing in combat. Also, what they (the soldiers) were facing when they came home, which was not only mental healthcare issues, but with healthcare in general.”
“I started doing a lot of re-writes of the script and I found some veterans who were willing to be consultants, and I had them give me their feedback. I continued to revise and revise. I think finally there were 27 versions of the script before I found it to be where it needed to be, and the veterans who were the script consultants said, ‘Yes, this rings true. This feels right.’”
Shapiro struggled to find an actor for the lead male role in the film that could give authenticity to the role, as well as the emotional background and insight. It was extremely important to her and for the film that there be an actor who could be authentic in this pivotal role. She finally found her male lead in Vietnam War veteran, Robert Mitchell.
Shapiro commends Mitchell, “I just went with my heart, which was to choose Robert Mitchell, who’s a real Vietnam veteran. He really worked so hard, and I worked with him one-on-one a lot. The fact that he was able to show so much of a range of emotion in the film was just (pause) it’s more than I could have asked for. I thought he did an amazing job for someone who had never really acted before. It was his real experience. He did suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after the Vietnam War. When he came home from the war, he went on this international traveling journey to find himself again. He was really able to bring a lot of himself to the role, which I know was hard for him, because he got really emotional many times during the shooting.”
Shapiro profusely thanks all those involved in production and creative development because without all of them the project would not have come to fruition.
Rachell Shapiro has certainly followed her inspiration. She intends to have the film be viewed in conjunction with a discussion guide, which was co-written by Veterans Affairs (VA) psychologist, Dr. John Mundt of Chicago, Illinois, who was also a consultant on the film. The discussion guide is designed to aid educators, mental health practitioners, community leaders, veterans, and family members in discussion and understanding of the issues related to the invisible wounds of war (PTSD).
The film will be premiered at the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago, Illinois on January 26th, 2013 at 1pm. The premier will be followed by a panel discussion with Rachell Shapiro, and Dr. John Mundt. Rachell Shapiro will also have additional speaking engagements in 2013. Tickets may be purchased from the library. Go to www.pritzkermilitarylibrary.org/Home/Upcoming-Events.aspx for more information.To find out more about the film visit the film’s website at www.FromHelltoHereFilm.com or the film’s Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/HelltoHere
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