Thomas Griffith began writing and directing politically driven independent movies in the mid-1980s, when he and his wife Jeanne Holland-Griffith created Straightawaymovie.com in Miami, Florida. Wild Sunflowers is his first to tackle the human puzzle from the stand point of service to one’s country, while surviving the elements and type of war that no Americans certainly have dealt with, that equals our current involvement in Iraq.
Tom is a United States Air Force Veteran (1963 through 1967). Although he admits he was lucky enough to not go overseas, he took a job in a VA hospital in 1968, working with patients returning from the Vietnam War.
He originally became interested in this story while following the progress of an ABC News correspondent who came back from Iraq with a head injury caused by an IED. He was impressed with how much the correspondent’s family was affected by the injury, and how drawn-out the rehabilitation process took for both.
According to Griffith, “This is not an anti-war story, but more a story about dedicated professional public servants being let down by a less than optimum support system, left to deal with the results of coming home to immense uncertainty, after being wounded in combat.”
It is unmistakable; servicemen and women in Iraq (and even in Afghanistan) are surviving wounds and coming home broken, that in previous wars would have been fatal. The problem compounds itself, with ill prepared family members to deal with finding help for our wounded heroes, while even barracks for troops in training are making national headlines because of their deplorable conditions.
‘Sunflower’ delves into local rural politics and spirituality, and was shot before the current financial crisis took root in our country. He comments,” The characters in this story were in financial trouble before the sub-prime mess came to town.” It was shot on location in smaller rural communities throughout South Florida, including Clewiston, Lake Worth, and Homestead, Florida.
He even crafted the characters running for political office in the story, to be honorable men. “Both want the best for their constituents, and believe in running a clean campaign, and not throwing their opponent under the bus”, says Griffith, even after one campaign uncovers a messy situation that would certainly sink national office seekers efforts.
Establishing the cast was a combined effort of using former South Florida actors that he was familiar with from earlier productions, and surfing the web using sites like Nowcasting.com and Craig’s List. He also relied upon one of the films co-producers, Rick Michaels to send him talent from the greater Lee/Collier County, Florida area, through an organization, United Film & Television Artists, Inc. (UFTA) Three of the lead actors are from the LA market, including Rick Crawford, who also claims Belfast Ireland as home, and is one of the films co-producers.
A first public viewing is being planned for the Summer of 2008, but the recession that we’re not having, has the editor pulling double shifts, working in a family run machine shop. There is a strong feeling though, that the show must go on, so stay tuned for updates and post production news. The following is a basic short version, a treatment if you will, of Wild Sunflowers.
Bobby Hatcher never considered himself a hero, but he did consider himself a halfway decent bass fisherman, and a pretty good third base player. He married his Dad’s best friend’s daughter. His Dad and his friend were killed in a silo explosion just outside of Wickam, Florida. He and Molly got married and have two children.
Bobby had a good job at one of the local packing houses. Wickam used to on a railroad spur of the FEC Railroad, but a new Florida Turnpike exit made trucking fruits and vegetables cheaper, and provided a few more local jobs. Bumper tomato crops kept a nice Ford crew cab pickup truck in the driveway, Molly and the kids in nice cloths, and a little money in the bank, but good times never last forever. It seems that Murphy’s Law always hits people who can least afford it, and the Hatchers went down in the first wave of financial bad news. Bobby’s job died with the arrival of a machine, and drought took care of the rest.
Joining the Florida National Guard as a part-time soldier seemed like a great idea for guys from a poor rural farming community. “Heck hurricanes don’t come all that often, and getting away from the wife and kids for two weeks every spring, brings in an extra pay check”, Bobby would grin and brag to his buddies on his softball team. But, nobody counted on 9/11 happening, and nobody in town saw an extended stay in Iraq with old outdated trucks and a practice called stop-gap, coming either
When his Company was re-deployed to Iraq, now Sergeant Hatcher was wounded in combat. He returned home to his family with severe PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and physical wounds that he received from an IED (Improvised Explosive Device), to a Veterans System that was not capable of delivering adequate recovery assistance. Unfortunately, the closest help of a concerned listener or conversation came in the form of an old dilapidated VFW Clubhouse, where one or two of the members may have had a bit of a drinking problem.
His wife Molly works in a local farm equipment parts supply store. Bobby is not capable of holding down a job, due to his war wounds. He has frequent 'flash-backs' and is tormented with pain from his injury. He has become a pain pill addict.
Molly had to sell the family truck to help pay the bills while Sergeant Bobby was ‘in country’. The checks were often late, and farming just never really got back to where it was a few years ago. She really couldn’t count of the 1990 Toyota sedan to always be ready to take Bobby to see a VA doctor in Sarasota, so she does what she does best; holding the family together, while Bobby continues to fall apart.
Its election year and Wes Van Hoevan is running for the local Congressional seat which has been held for twelve years by Ed Sutil. Wes is much more liberal than Ed, and believes the troops should be brought home. This does not set well in the local conservative Congressional district. Evan Molly had to take on an extra job, working as a coordinator for the challenging candidate, Van Hoven
Now Molly must try to attain help for her husband through a 'broken' system, while working two jobs and raising the children on her own. Bobby continues to get worse with continuous bouts of war memories, and a growing addiction that has the family going further into debt. Bobby’s coming home, isn’t anything like anyone had planned.