University staff member up for National Film Award
Aaron Sayers, manager of Department for Curriculum and Quality Enhancement (DCQE), has been nominated for a National Film Award for his feature-length documentary Chosen Men.
The former soldier-turned-filmmaker is up for Best Documentary and will compete in a public vote against 7 other titles including BBC's wildlife series Dynasties with David Attenborough, ITV's Trevor Macdonald and the Killer Nurse and Amazon's All or Nothing. Toby Meredith, Media Production manager in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, served as associate producer and additional cameraman on the film.
Chosen Men follows a group of army veterans over a 10-year period and their challenges of adapting to civilian life. It includes an interview with SAS veteran and author Andy McNab, and a recreation of the Battle of Waterloo, with filming done in Portsmouth and featuring soldiers from the city.
'Chosen Men' is the veteran story told honestly by a veteran that details the reality of military life and life after service. I hope viewers will gain awareness of the difficulties veterans face and see that soldiers are not broken when they leave the military – far from it. The majority go on to be very successful, but more can be done to support the transition.
The film was inspired by Aaron's own experiences of serving more than 4 years in the Royal Green Jackets Regiment. After leaving the army, Aaron became a BA (Hons) Film Production graduate at the University and has been writing, producing and directing his film during his free time while managing DCQE.
He said, "It's a real honour to have been nominated for an award amongst some of the real heavy hitters from last year; it was a great year for documentary. But most importantly, this nomination will hopefully help to raise awareness of the film. A key reason for taking this project on was to provide a platform for the veteran’s voice to be heard, so I hope this nomination will help get that voice out there and highlight that a soldier’s story does not end on the battlefield.
"A key inspiration for the film was my own experience as a soldier transitioning back to civilian life and the difficulties every soldier faces in creating a new identity for themselves. A lot of military films focus on service and operations; it’s exciting and cinematic, but very few tackle what happens once you leave the gates for the last time, and that is the story I wanted to tell."
I was lucky in that I was accepted into the University as a mature student before I left, so I knew where I was going, and the University helped me with that transition. As a film student, I also revisited my military past with some of my short films and the course was a fantastic way to experiment and learn the craft of filmmaking.