New film ‘Blood on the Risers’ shot in Arkansas explores themes of war, pain, PTSD

A new film produced in Fayetteville is complete, and ready to hit the festival circuit in 2021.

The short film, produced locally by Fayetteville-based Rockhill Studios, is called Blood on the Risers, and was written and directed by NWA native Caleb Fanning and stars local actors Chuck Meré, Cassie Self, and Scott McLean Harrison.

Fanning’s film is set in the aftermath of WWII, and explores the pain experienced by soldiers who have seen the horrors of war.

Still image from Blood on the Risers / Courtesy

“During World War II, PTSD was just referred to as ‘battle-fatigue’. Most cases were left undiagnosed and untreated. We wanted to help make the viewers aware that PTSD isn’t just acurrent issue, but it has existed for many generations.” Fanning said.

According to the filmmakers, PTSD (Post Traumatic stress disorder), was often referred to as “combat stress” or “shell shock” during the first and second World Wars. In World War 1 alone, there were over 80,000 cases in just the British Army by the end of the war. At the time, there was very little information into the causes leading to many various treatments including hydrotherapy and electrotherapy.

The new film runs about 19 minutes, and opens at the train station as Charles, a paratrooper who jumped into Normandy on D-Day, is arriving home. Charles is greeted by his wife, Afton, who has no idea the burdens and trauma her husband is bringing home.

“We were committed to producing this with an attention to detail. With the awesome resources around us, we had the opportunity to replicate an era that the audience could be immersed in,” said producer Blake Elder. “Thanks to our great locations and partnerships, Railroad, and the Arkansas Air and Military
Museum, we had a jumpstart to our goal of period accuracy. Coupled with an experienced art and wardrobe department, we’re very proud of the authenticity we achieved.”

Still image from Blood on the Risers / Courtesy

Blood on the Risers was filmed in July of 2020, amidst all the challenges provided by the pandemic at a time when, frankly, not a lot of films were being created.

“We were at a spot where we felt we had enough information to move forward safely. It took courage, and everyone being on board with an abundance of caution”, said Dan Robinson, a producer on the film. “We referenced all the materials from the CDC and the industry leaders, and then we created our own playbook scaled to the production. It was still early in the pandemic, so we were creating solutions for our situation with the common goal of being as safe as possible. Thanks to those efforts, the production wrapped safely with no infections.”

“It was important to us to find a way to continue working safely”, he said. “We knew the content here in Arkansas had not changed. With a cast and crew of over 30 and multiple locations, this production served as an early example of how we can move forward safely through these challenging times”.

Rockhill Studios’ Kerri Elder served as executive producer on the film.

Still image from Blood on the Risers / Courtesy

“We look forward to sharing this ambitious project as an example of what we can accomplish here in Arkansas.” Elder said. “This film serves as another example of the way that Rockhill Studios is leading the film industry in Arkansas.”

The new film will be submitted to all major film festivals in 2021, with official premier information to be announced at a later date.

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