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Films use veterans’ creativity to reimagine ‘transition’

Published: 8 November 2023 at 13:00

Stories in Transition film

Ex-servicepeople and award-winning filmmakers collaborate on insightful short films

Military veterans have collaborated with award-winning filmmakers to help explain the challenges of transitioning back into civilian life.

The Stories in Transition project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, is a two-year project involving military charities and universities to tell veterans’ stories through a series of short films.

The three films, each approximately half an hour long, were co-produced with veterans from three charities, working in front of and behind the cameras to tell their stories, which explore the impact of arts, culture and sport in supporting the transition to civilian life.

The veterans worked closely with filmmaker academics from Storylab, an interdisciplinary research institute within Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) that explores immersive storytelling techniques, and the Sonic Screen Lab (SSL), University of the Arts London, a creative research playground that explores the links between media, culture and social change.

The three films are:
Return Belong Prosper. Displaced from a culture that they can't return to and frustrated with the one they're in, three military veterans imagine, paint and make real, a new world of kindness and compassion for fellow veterans, and their community.
Turn to the Wind. Feeling cut off and cast out from the communities they called home, two crews of veterans sail the coast of the British Isles and navigate the Thames to find peace in being at one with nature and a true sense of belonging and purpose again as part of a team.
Leave No One Behind. Returning to a field of battle, but one that took place over 200 years before they were born, a team of veterans and archaeologists uncover the second skeleton to be found from the Battle of Waterloo. Painstakingly revealing a possible former soldier, they endeavour to piece together his representation, both in solidarity and remembrance.

The project is a partnership between Anglia Ruskin University (the Veterans and Families Institute for Military Social Research and StoryLab), University of Exeter, Manchester Metropolitan University and University of the Arts London. The charities involved in working with veterans on the production were Turn To Starboard (Turn to the Wind), Waterloo Uncovered (Leave No One Behind), and Veterans in Communities (Return, Belong, Prosper).

Project principal investigator, Dr Nick Caddick, Deputy Director of the Veterans and Families Institute for Military Social Research at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“This is the first time veterans have led the way in telling their own stories in research-based film, with filmmaker academics and the wider research team acting in support and teaching key film skills. 
“The project breaks new ground in the veterans’ research space. In the past, the typical dynamic has been research and policy being produced about veterans, without their involvement and therefore occasionally missing the mark. Our methods allowed veterans to control the way their stories were told.”

Co-investigator and filmmaking lead, Professor Shreepali Patel, of the University of the Arts London, said:

“The key to this project was to work completely with the veterans to tell their own stories in their own way from preparation, production, editing, through to screenings. It is a great example of bi-directional knowledge exchange.”

The films were screened to an invited audience of national-level stakeholders at the National Army Museum in June, ahead of their public release this week. Viewers can now watch the films, which are free to access via the following links:

Turn to the Wind: https://vimeo.com/823055314/2c978cd927?share=copy 
Return, Belong, Prosper: https://vimeo.com/819152687/cd673d4490?share=copy 
Leave No One Behind: https://vimeo.com/826927263/f4a0d92e99?share=copy