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The War Comes, Soledad O’Brien Reports, is the result of a special collaboration between MediaStorm and Starfish Media Group. The film takes an intimate look at two veterans and their families as they struggle with the transition from War to Home and their battles within: ranging from alcoholism, drug dependence, and explosions of anger to suicidal and homicidal thoughts. The program follows these wounded warriors to a new program in Malibu, CA that uses a combination of therapies and challenges to help these Vets heal and find peace of mind. It involves transcendental meditation, ropes courses, and equine therapy. The film seeks to explore whether five and a half days on the pacific coast really save soldiers lives.

The War Comes Home premiered to much acclaim on CNN on August 12, 2014. On the night of the premiere, over 700,000 people from across the country tuned in to watch the show, marking this program as one of MediaStorm’s most highly-watched films.

To learn more about the film, you can watch interviews with Soledad O’Brien and her insights on the film on Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, Anderson Cooper 360, New Day, This Hour with Michaela Pereirra and John Berman, as well as Wolf Blitzer Situation Room. Save a Warrior founder Jake Clark also participated in an interview with TheLip.tv.

The film has been shown to private audiences across the country, and in conjunction with concerned individuals and organizations like Eric Garcetti, the Mayor of Los Angeles, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.


Goal
MediaStorm, in partnership with Soledad O’Brien and Starfish Media Group, developed a film that takes an intimate look at two veterans and their families' lives as they struggle with the transition from war to home and their battles within. To truly understand their struggles, MediaStorm would delve into their lives, spending time with both them and their families. We then journey with these wounded warriors to a program in Malibu, California called Save a Warrior, which uses a combination of therapies to help veterans heal and find peace of mind. To answer the question "did the program work" we followed the soldiers home to document the immediate impact of the program on the veterans and their families.

Client: CNN, Starfish Media Group
Published: July 16, 2014
awards

2014
NAACP Image Awards (Nominee)
Outstanding Documentary - Television

Credits

Executive Producer: Soledad O'Brien
Co-Executive Producer: Eric Ortner, Martha Spanninger, Brian Storm
Producer & Director: Soledad O'Brien
Editor and Producer: Tim McLaughlin
Writer: Soledad O'Brien, Rose Marie Arce
Director of Photography: Andrew Michael Ellis, Rick Gershon
Additional Editor and Producer: Joshua Davis
Location Audio: Jonathan Seale
Executive in Charge of Production: Richard J. Paris
Line Producer: Jennie Amias
Research: Juliana Schatz, Julie Levitsky
Production Coordinator: Samia Khan
Motion Graphics: Joe Fuller
Production Associate: Jake Brown, Robert Farfan, Beth Kessenich, Tristan Nash, Erica Ramos
Production Intern: Julia Wall, Cameron O'Brien, Ainara Tiefenthaler
Sound Editor: Sara Stern, Luciano Vignola
Re-Recording Mixer: Luciano Vignola
Executive Producer for CNN: Bud Bultman



The Challenge
Documentation in the field required a sensitivity for the subjects, their families, the organization, and the issue of post-traumatic stress as it relates to veterans.

Because many of the soldiers in the program were openly suicidal, MediaStorm needed to delicately balance the needs of these men, and the needs of a primetime audience on CNN. The last thing MediaStorm and Starfish Media Group wanted to do was to prevent these soldiers access to the healing they so desperately needed while attempting to create a compelling documentary about an important issue.

The project would also be MediaStorm’s first project with an on-camera correspondent. MediaStorm and Soledad O’Brien would need to find a way to balance the correspondent model with a more verité style of documentary.

In the production suite, MediaStorm needed to navigate the often complicated but necessary restrictions of broadcast television, and do so in a compressed amount of time.

The War Comes Home


The War Comes Home

The War Comes Home

The War Comes Home

The Solution
A substantial amount of research was conducted before shooting began, including background information on the issue, the potential subjects, the organization; developing interview questions for each subject; and logistical information. The resulting sixty page document was distributed amongst the crew before production.

MediaStorm and Starfish Media Group spent a substantial amount of time conducting interviews with potential subjects, attempting to find individuals that would be both open to the process, and able to get what they needed from the week of counseling sessions at Save a Warrior. MediaStorm was as open with the soldiers as possible about what the process would look like so that there were very few surprises about what our crew would be asking for once production started.

MediaStorm prides itself in working in small teams. As such, we act as ‘flies on the wall’ letting a process unfold without getting in the way. This approach seemed absolutely essential for this film, which covers so much sensitive ground. MediaStorm hired a small crew for the shoot including Cinematographer Rick Gershon, and Audio Technician Jonathan Seale to work with Director of Photography Andrew Ellis. Doing so allowed MediaStorm a greater opportunity to act as witnesses to the healing and capture intimate moments without interfering in the process.

In post-production, MediaStorm worked closely with Starfish Media Group and CNN to ensure that all broadcast standards were met while maintaining the integrity of the project and it’s sensitive subject matter. It was important for the team to show not only what it is like to live with post-traumatic stress, but to provide a broader context for the issue. MediaStorm and Starfish Media Group decided providing context would best be done by Soledad O’Brien. This allowed for a combination of “fly on the wall” shooting and correspondent centered documentary. The result is a potent combination of actualities and fact-checked context about the issue.

With the exception of several in-person critique sessions, communication between MediaStorm, Starfish Media Group and CNN was done almost entirely through email and google docs. Doing so allowed each company to have a record of what one another was responsible for in the creation of the film.

MediaStorm also collaborated with Downtown Community Television Center and C5 to color correct and mix audio on the project.
The Results
The film was broadcast on CNN August 12th, August 17th, and on Veterans Day 2014. On the night of the premiere, the film was watched by over 700,000 people.

In the days preceding broadcast, Soledad O’Brien promoted the film on Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, Anderson Cooper 360, New Day, This Hour with Michaela Pereirra and John Berman, as well as Wolf Blitzer Situation Room. Save a Warrior founder Jake Clark also participated in an interview with TheLip.tv.

The day of the film’s debut on CNN, O’Brien held a Google Hangout with Jake Clark as well as Delon Beckett, one of the film’s main subjects. She also held an open Ask Me Anything on Reddit.

Over 2,000 tweets using #WarComesHome, a hashtag developed by Starfish Media Group for the film, were sent leading up to and during the television premiere. Statistical analysis of a sample of 2,000 tweets shows the hashtag had over 900 contributors with an estimated reach of 16 million unique users following the first airing of the documentary. Online conversation centered around users sharing similar experiences to the veterans featured, expressions of support for the film and the work of Save A Warrior, as well as calls for more programs to address the needs of returning soldiers. Several veterans reached out to Save A Warrior to participate in the project.

The film has been shown to private audiences across the country, and in conjunction with concerned individuals and organizations like Eric Garcetti, the Mayor of Los Angeles, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

The War Comes Home

The War Comes Home

About the Client
Starfish Media Group is an integrated media production company and distributor, dedicated to uncovering and producing empowering stories. We take a challenging look at often divisive issues of race, class, wealth, opportunity, poverty and personal stories. Founded by award-winning journalist and multifaceted broadcaster Soledad O’Brien, Starfish Media Group uniquely resonates with today’s diverse global audience through impactful topics that define our time. Soledad’s established credibility positions SMG as a mainstream voice with millions of engaged fans that follow her work via major broadcast partners, local appearances and social media channels.

CNN/U.S., the leading 24-hour news and information cable television network and the flagship of all CNN news brands, invented 24-hour television news. CNN/U.S., provides live coverage and analysis of breaking news, as well as a full range of business, weather, entertainment, health and science news programs and topical in-depth interviews.
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