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Writer-Director Remy Auberjonois explores the horrors of PTSD in Blood Stripe

September 29, 2017 | By
Director and co-writer of Blood Stripe, Remy Auberjonois.

Director and co-writer of Blood Stripe, Remy Auberjonois.

“There is a crisis of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in America,” said writer-director Remy Auberjonois about the main topic of his directing debut, Blood Stripe. Director Auberjonois co-wrote the film with his wife Kate Nowlin, who plays the lead, known only as ‘Our Sergeant.’ Together the filmmaking couple conceptualized and shot the project in Nowlin’s home state of Minnesota. “The process going from concept to shooting was a fast 9 months, a sprint to shoot, and we intended to self-produce, with Kate as the lead and for me to direct.”

Blood Stripe is a character study of a soldier who comes home after serving abroad in active military and, like many veterans, has trouble adjusting. “It’s not about a person, it’s about a condition,” Auberjonois said. The cast also includes Rusty Schwimmer, Rene Auberjonois and Tom Lipinski.

A portion of the filming takes place at Camp Vermillion, a beautiful retreat along the shoreline of northern Minnesota. Auberjonois noted, “Once we first saw it, we knew we had to film there.” They acquired permission to shoot on location at the camp but there was one caveat…the camp was about to undergo a massive renovation. Knowing the location was pivotal to the project, they sped up the process as much as they could.

Once the project became more of a reality, they made some cuts to the script, knowing  they could not afford elaborate battle sequences, they chose to remove the beginning that referenced “Our Sergeants” tours of duty, resulting in a more mysterious tone. The main focus was on open trauma, not tied to any specific event. Auberjonois stated, “This is the experience of some, not all veterans, for some women in combat. Not about a person, about the condition. PTSD is not just one thing, situational trauma.”

To create the mood and capture the beauty and isolation of the location, Auberjonois wisely chose Director of Photography, Radium Cheung, who would later shoot the gorgeous photography for Tangerine and The Sinner. “Radium helped me as a first time director. It was a perfect relationship, he was an incredible partner to have,” said Auberjonois of discovering Cheung. “He really captured Camp Vermillion.”

Once Key Grip, Peter Clemence (Life of Pi, Interstellar, Drive) joined the crew, others were drawn to the project. Dealing with time and budgetary constraints, they shot the film in an incredibly efficient 16 days. Auberjonois noted that afterward they had the luxury of finding the story during a long editing process, and re-editing until they got everything just right. At screenings, they were flooded with positive comments from Veterans, many whom enjoyed the nuanced portrayal of PTSD.

Auberjonois stated, “Certainly when I first set out to do this, I had no idea the scope of everything that goes into a project, no concept of all the hats I would wear, with the help of many. I learned so much. The energy this project draws is a testament to what it taps into and it’s gratifying, it’s what keeps me going because that’s what matters.”

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