I spent the last 9 days in Israel (Tel Aviv working & then sightseeing in Jerusalem the final couple days) as an instructor for I Was There film workshops in our first International workshop, partnered with Natal, a private Israeli trauma center for victims of Terror & War.
This was my 13th workshop (out of the 16 there's been in total). I've been doing it about once a month for the past year, though first got involved in September 2012. I've done more workshops than any other instructor aside from the founder himself, Ben Patton, and helped develop the current curriculum with Ben & another Senior Instructor Sean Mannion. So I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in our first workshop overseas. It has been truly wonderful helping people tell their stories & inspiring them to bring those stories to life through a filmic lens. Most of the films are private, as it is therapy at its core, but you can see some of them on the site at IWasTherefilms.org.
Israel was a whole new experience for me and for I Was There. The end results were very similar but the environment was different. War and the Military is much more part of the people's lives over there than here in the States. The military is 1% of the population here, while everyone is part of the military at some point in their lives over there. I found that those veterans have similar traumas but maybe for different reasons. It was wonderful to not only meet new people and help them in some way, but also hear new & different kinds of stories. The language barrier at first posed some obstacles, but we quickly overcame them and managed to produce 9 films that I'm incredibly impressed with and moved by. I believe this is just the beginning of I Was There's relationship with Natal. The plan is that Ben would go back for a 2nd workshop, but maybe from that point forward Natal would do workshops of their own with our innovative therapeutic model.
The main concern of I Was There is of course helping our US veterans struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress. But a longterm goal for the workshop is to get video/film production recognized as a valid and important form of art therapy and allow our model to be kind of franchised and used to help anyone and everyone suffering from any form of trauma. (I know that I personally would be interested in broadening out and specifically working with victims of domestic & sexual violence.) So, in order for us to grow, we need more awareness & more funding. Natal was our first step in that direction. I don’t believe that I’ll be going on any future Israeli workshop trips (to allow other instructors the opportunity) but we are possibly planning a combined US-Israeli family workshop here at home that would allow Israeli alumni to visit the States. So I do hope that my goodbye to the people I met over there, especially our co-instructors who are indie filmmakers themselves, is not forever. I also hope we'll be able to visit other countries where there are wounded individuals in need of a new way of expressing themselves & feeling empowered. For the time being, we'll be sticking to our usual workshops at Military Bases in the US. At the end of this month, I'll be back at Fort Hood in Texas, and will possibly be making stops back at Fort Bragg & Fort Drum over the summer.
P.S. Channel 10 in Tel Aviv covered our workshop. If you speak Hebrew, it’s worth watching. Otherwise, you’ll only understand the moments when Ben speaks. ( I am in 2 very quick shots of the 8-minute piece.) I was told that it was a very positive portrayal of the veterans; for the first time they are feeling heard. And it will hopefully bring awareness to what we’re doing with video technology & narrative therapy. Click below to watch (you can convert the article itself to English).