By Chris Hendrickson, Valley News
It started 10 years ago with a song.
Snohomish-resident and musical artist Keith LeVoy wrote a patriotic tune called “For Your Time” in 2003, and it has been gaining momentum ever since.
First it got national airplay, then became a video project. But when it came to the attention Jeremy Staat, a former pro football player who started a foundation to help veterans, it grew to form the foundation of a small feature film, which will support Staat’s work combating veteran suicide.
Part of that short feature film was shot in Sultan in recent weeks.
On Sat. April 27, Sultan residents Tom and Dolly Green watched as their home was transformed into a little slice of Hollywood, complete with lights, cameras, actors, a director and even a classic movie-set clapperboard. Filming of the featurette, also titled “For Your Time,” had officially started. The mini-movie, which is scheduled for release this summer, features several local residents as actors.
The Greens, acquainted with LeVoy through their church, were agreeable to opening up their home to be used for the video shoot.
“They needed a house with a porch on it,” said Tom Green. “I said, ‘Sure!’”
At the center of the shoot was Levoy himself, posing patiently as an assistant daubed makeup on his rugged face.
LeVoy composed his song while living in Bakersfield, Calif., when the pastor at his church asked him to perform a patriotic melody in honor of Memorial Day. After some deliberation over which song to play, LeVoy asked the pastor, “How about I just write something?”
LeVoy was influenced by many things, including a 28-year-old gentleman named Brian Cody Prosser, who died in 2000, one of the first casualties of the war in Afghanistan. Prosser was from Kern County Calif. and had lived just outside of Bakersfield.
“That kind of inspired it,” said LeVoy.
LeVoy wrote the rhythmic country tune, “For Your Time,” in about 15 minutes. The song basically wrote itself, he said.
LeVoy said that, no matter where people are in the political spectrum, when it comes to veterans, they are unified.
“The one thing that everybody shares in common is their love for our veterans,” said LeVoy.
The song received an overwhelming response, said LeVoy. It has since been performed multiple times by LeVoy, including a performance at the 2004 Freedom’s Flame Memorial Concert, and has received national airplay.
Discussions began in February of this year between LeVoy and his friend, local photographer and independent filmmaker Peter Spawn. Spawn, who lives in Tulalip, volunteered to work with LeVoy and direct the music video for his song.
“I always dreamed of it being a video,” said LeVoy.
Shortly thereafter, LeVoy began to consider the idea of adding veteran interviews and creating something more than just a music video. Through LeVoy’s connections in Bakersfield, Calif., former NFL player and United States Marine Jeremy Staat, founder of the Jeremy Staat Foundation, became a significant part of the project.
With the involvement of Staat, a strong advocate for American veterans, the project gained an additional dimension. LeVoy, working with Spawn, decided that they would create a featurette and use it to help support Staat’s organization. Staat agreed to donate his time and his testimony, which will now serve as the beginning of the mini-movie.
“When they asked me to be a part of it, I said, ‘Absolutely,’” said Staat.
Staat, 36, who was at Arizona State University before being drafted into the NFL, was friends with Pat Tillman, the NFL player who left football to enlist in the Army in 2002 as a response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Tillman was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004. Already considering making some changes in his life, this further motivated Staat, who left professional football and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2006.
After his 7-month tour in Iraq, Staat returned and was given a medical discharge from the Marine Corps. He graduated from Arizona State University in 2009, and started his non-profit foundation in Bakersfield in 2011.
Staat’s organization seeks to assist veterans in several different ways, including helping them locate fulfilling employment and helping them gain value in their lives. Staat created his Veterans Speaking Board after being asked to serve as a motivational speaker at a school in Bakersfield. He recognized that this was something any veteran could do; speak of their experiences while educating and inspiring students.
Staat has spoken at over 200 schools across the country.
The organization also focuses on bringing awareness to the hardships that many veterans face as they try to readjust and move forward with their lives after combat.
“The issue that’s close to my heart is veteran suicide,” said Staat. “Most of the public doesn’t realize that right now, we lose 22 veterans a day to suicide.”
A 59-page suicide data report released by the Department of Veterans Affairs in February of this year confirmed that number.
“We’ve already lost more veterans to suicide than we have in combat zones going all the way back to the Korean War,” said Staat.
Staat’s portion of the featurette “For Your Time” was filmed in Bakersfield, Calif. at Clearwest Productions, who donated their studio time and production equipment to capture Staat’s portion of the film.
Spawn is shooting the rest of the featurette using his own equipment and volunteer actors. His job will be to merge the Jeremy Staat section of the project with the rest of the video done in Sultan. He will be obtaining additional sequences of footage at an area chosen to look more like Afghanistan.
The video depicts a marine who has been deployed, forcing him to leave behind his wife and son. The part of the father is being played by Monroe resident Jon Catalini, who has recently retired from the United States Marine Corps after serving for 25 years. Catalini offered his personal memorabilia, such as photographs of himself during deployment, to be used in the shoot.
The family’s son is played by Monroe resident, 11-year-old Jackson Hill, son of Rev. Bruce Hill, who is the pastor at Monroe Foursquare Church. The son serves as the glue that holds his family together, taking on his father’s responsibilities, explained LeVoy.
“He’s the little man of the house, but more importantly, he’s a prayer warrior,” said LeVoy.
Jackson’s mother is being played by local actress Angelique Sullivan, who appeared in a movie called “Bigfoot” which came out on the SyFy channel in 2012.
Spawn and LeVoy’s planned release date for the featurette is July 4, and they hope to have a professional-quality trailer that can be aired on national television by the end of May, and there is a possibility that it could appear on Fox.
LeVoy, Spawn, and the rest of their production crew spent a full day filming in Sultan. The project continues to develop and grow as they work on it, said LeVoy.
He is looking forward to seeing where else it will lead him.
“The sky’s the limit,” said LeVoy.