MSU student creates hit documentary
It started off with three friends.
Throughout the spring semester, former Marine Logan Stark and MSU alumnae Lexi Dakin and Rebecca Zantjer worked diligently on their documentary project, editing video into the early morning, eating pizza rolls and enjoying one another’s company.
But since its release on May 5, their finished project, “For the 25,” has gained more than 11,000 views on YouTube, will be featured in The Huffington Post and continues to receive positive feedback.
The 48-minute documentary, which includes actual combat footage, depicts the deployment of the 3rd Battalion, and 5th Marine Regiment, in Sangin, Afghanistan, in 2010. The group named the film for the 25 men in Stark’s battalion who were killed in action during his deployment.
“It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Zantjer said. “It was a long, long haul.”
“For the 25” also addresses post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and how Stark and his friends adjusted to coming back to the United States. The professional writing senior enrolled at MSU in the fall of 2011 after returning from Afghanistan, Afghanistan&ie=UTF-8&authuser=0 that July.
“It’s kind of a culture shock, going from being with your friends all day every day, and then a month later, you’re with none of them,” Stark said of his return home. “You kind of feel alone in the world.”
MSU professor Bump Halbritter, whose class required the group to make the film, said the reason for its success lies in its relatability.
“There are a lot of movies out there that have footage from Afghanistan, and they’re not getting this kind of traffic,” Halbritter said. “People like me, who have never gone to war, can find something in this story. This movie feels welcoming to everyone. It seems to be a movie about
people who just happened to be these superhero Marines.”
Throughout the filmmaking process, Zantjer said the goal was to bring a humanlike aspect to war.
“Even though they’re veterans who have been through incredible experiences, they’re also men, people I can relate to,” she said. “We wanted to rehumanize them a little bit to get to know these people as men first, not just nameless faces.”
Originally, Stark did not want have a role in the film. But once Dakin and Zantjer got him in front of the camera, they knew there was no turning back.
“We felt he had a story to tell,” Dakin said. “I can understand why he was apprehensive about telling his story, but once he was in it for real, it was the best thing in order to tell a well-rounded story.”
Despite his apprehension, Stark said he owed it to his friends to share the same experience.
“I was really hesitant to do it, but I was like, ‘I can’t expect my friends to do this if I’m not willing to do it myself,’” he said. “From there, I just learned so much about myself, and it’s made me more comfortable with who I am.”
Halbritter said he looks back on working with the group as his best experience as a professor.
“You’re telling the story of a kid, and it’s touching people,” he said. “It has 11,000 views, (but) YouTube should change it to say: ‘11,000 changed views.’”