‘American Sniper’ writer directing movie about soldiers suffering with PTSD

Jason Hall talks to Arc Light cinemas about the 'American Sniper' film. Screenshot from interview.

American Sniper writer and first-time director Jason Hall has his work cut out for him as he hashes out the film adaptation of the critically acclaimed book, Thank You For Your Service.

Following the success of American Sniper, Jason Hall was selected to write and direct Thank You For Your Service, a film aimed at using true-accounts of Iraq War veterans to raise awareness towards soldiers who return from combat zones afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

Filming of the movie began in Atlanta earlier this year, with a cast list including Miles Teller, Beluah Koale, Haley Bennett and Amy Schumer.

"Thank You For Your Service" is Amy Schumer's first attempt at acting in a drama after her breakout role in 'Trainwreck'. Photo credit: Facebook (2010)
“Thank You For Your Service” is Amy Schumer’s first attempt at acting in a drama after her breakout role in ‘Trainwreck’. Photo credit: Facebook (2010)

The film is based on the nonfiction work of reporter David Finkel, which goes by the same title.

thankyouforyourservice

The original written work is a sequel to Finkel’s award-winning The Good Soldiers, which follows the members of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment as they struggled to stabilize one of the more violent sections of Baghdad during the infamous “Surge” campaign of the Iraq War.

Unlike The Good Soldiers, which follows the events of the war, Thank You For Your Service documents the effects Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has on soldiers after war.

In an interview with Popular Military, Finkel said that he wrote Thank You For Your Service after he was left wanting following the book’s prequel.

“When I started The Good Soldiers, I didn’t arrive at an answer, I arrived at a question and then stayed long enough until I found how to responsibly answer that question. That was the second book.”

Only a few days after turning in the manuscript for Thank You For Your Service, Finkel was informed that Dreamworks had seen it and wanted the creative rights. “Dreamworks is as good as it gets”, he said. “I thought I couldn’t ask for better.”

However, many from the unit -including those who are featured in the book and film- are a little more apprehensive of the situation.

Tausolo Aieti Sr, a veteran of the Surge and one of the focus players in Finkel’s book-turned screenplay, had mixed feelings when it came to discussing the film.

“I’m not discrediting the book but I never thought the book would get to be a movie.” Aieti said. “David is a good writer and that’s also why I agreed to the book because of the last book he did was good. I thought only the few people who cared about or curious about what some soldiers do or go through after the war would read the book.”

Aieti stated that he didn’t know much about the film, except that Beulah Koale plays a character based in his likeness. While he said that he spoke with Koale and said that “he is a good guy”, Aieti stressed that “the part in the movie is not really about me. The character’s name is not my name.” He went on to say that while he didn’t read the new script and wanted to say no to the movie, he had already talked to (Koale) and didn’t want to put him out of the job.”

Tausolo Aieti during the famous "Surge" campaign of the Iraq war. Photo credit: Facebook
Tausolo Aieti during the famous “Surge” campaign of the Iraq war. Photo credit: Facebook

However, the film is likely the last issue on Aieti’s mind. Later in the conversation, he stated that he was “Too busy taking care of four kids and trying to find a job.”.

“I never wanted to be in a movie”, Aieti lamented. “There wasn’t a lot of money in it for me and I just signed the life rights last week. They were worried if I was going to sign.”

Back in 2007, Aieti saved two soldiers from a burning HMMWV following an IED attack on the violent eastern outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq. Unfortunately, the third man could not be rescued from the blaze- something that has weighed heavily on Aieti and his fellow comrades who were there that day.

“The only thing I care about in this whole is the opinion of the people I served with”, he said. “I hope they don’t take it as me selling my soul for a huge amount of money- there was no money in it from the start. I hope after all this, the people I served with don’t hate me or anything.”

Since the interview, Aieti has recently begun using his GI Bill to pursue an education.

When asked about the circumstances that befell of many of the soldiers who were featured in his books, Finkel stressed that while he cared deeply for the men of 2/16 who trusted him to tell their stories, his sole job was to document the war and how it affects those who participate.

“Of course I care about them’, he said empathetically, ‘but my job is to document their story, not help them individually. That isn’t what I do, I’m not qualified to do that.”

Finkel also stressed that while the books are his, the film -and how it pans out- is the responsibility Dreamworks.

“I hope it’s a good film”, he said. “I hope when they (the men of 2/16) see it, they’ll realize even if isn’t about them specifically, it’s about them anyway.”

The film is currently in production, with a scheduled release date of this year.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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