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Kyle Hausmann-Stokes: A Soldier and Filmmaker Part 2

February 3, 2012 | By | Add a Comment

Jordan Poast

Kyle Hausmann-Stokes, directing

Wisconsin-born filmmaker Kyle Hausmann-Stokes’ path towards becoming a professional director and producer was an exceptionally long and tortuous one, yet one that inevitably shaped his future. Filled with challenges and trials that threatened to derail his life’s ambition, Kyle’s course tested his personal spirit and passion. In 2006, with his dream of attending University of Southern California’s film school finally coming to fruition, Stokes was called to duty in Iraq, where his journey would reach its harrowing zenith.

Recognized as an astute soldier by his commanders, Kyle’s early efforts in Iraq found him rewarded with a quick promotion to Staff Sergeant, which placed him in command of a military convoy tasked with shepherding tanks and armored vehicles along the country’s main highway. Stokes’ troop had the perilous assignment of defending these vehicles, which transported water, food and supplies to Iraqi civilians, from roadside bombs and unexpected enemy fire.  The duty became an unrelenting source of anxiety and fear for Kyle, manifesting itself in the filmmaker’s post-traumatic stress disorder which he still suffers from today.

As it was in Fort Polk, Stokes’ method of mitigating the gravity of his circumstances was to document his experiences through film, which found him capturing footage of gunfights, explosions and mutilations along his journeys. Striving to fulfill his goal of chronicling the soldier’s story, Kyle soon found that the one he was telling was his own.

At the completion of his yearlong tour of duty, the 25-year old was abruptly sent back home.  Within 48 hours, Staff Sergeant Stokes, commander of a military convoy consistently under the threat of attack, became Kyle, civilian with no real obligations or responsibilities. The lack of healthy transition became toxic for Stokes, as his two worlds began to blur.  Suffering from PTSD, Kyle had trouble with daily tasks such as driving, often seeing groups of youngsters as potential threats and billowing plastic bags as explosives.  In addition, his newly-acquired fear of large groups proved nearly debilitating to his life as a student. Encountering a lack of support from both peers and the Veterans Affairs program, Stokes found solace in his calling, his storytelling.

Kyle Hausmann-Stokes on the set

As a class assignment, Kyle produced a semi-autobiographical account of his daily struggle with PTSD, called Now After. Immediately becoming a hit in the classroom, Stokes watched his pet project evolve into a viral sensation, as it began making its ways through military and civilian channels alike. Attracting the attention of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Kyle was soon commissioned to produce public service announcements.  With a steady and viable stream of military clients, Stokes was able to establish his own production company, which he appropriately named Blue Three after his call sign in Iraq.

In a few short years, Blue Three Productions has become Kyle’s vehicle for achieving his ultimate aspiration.  His company uses Hollywood-trained personnel to provide attention to military issues for veterans and civilians alike.  Incorporating cast and crew members with military backgrounds, Blue Three Productions has become a successful company that, among its many projects, has produced commercial spots for ESPN.  As a personal achievement, a film of Kyle’s was also recently screened for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Kyle Hausmann-Stokes at work on a PSA

While Stokes believes the work that Blue Three Productions does is a step in the right direction toward alerting the public to the plight of the soldier, his ultimate dream is significantly loftier. Kyle hopes to convey these themes into a full-length feature that would encompass the varied array of experiences for all those affected by war, which he calls his “Platoon: Iraq Version.”  “I want people to see that each person in war has a story that’s unique, and that story often continues long after they return home.”

Stokes’ personal tale is still an unsettled one.  While managing his PTSD continues to be a struggle at times, his unique method of therapy has set him down a healthy road towards normalcy.  Through his work, Kyle hopes to provide a voice for his forgotten brothers in order to help them, and himself, recover.

 

Read part one on Hausmann-Stokes here, and watch “Now, After” here.

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