Film on Oprah network documents GI’s recovery

By Rose Schneider

From one Manhattan to another, Chad Ostrom, a Kansas native and now a film director and executive producer for TBG Studios in New York, has produced a show called “In Deep Shift with Jonas Elrod.” It will air as part of Oprah Winfrey’s Emmy-winning series, “Super Soul Sunday,” on her network, OWN, Sunday.

Ostrom moved to New York nearly nine years ago to pursue his dreams of filmmaking after graduating from the University of Kansas in 2005.

“I moved out there with $300 in my pocket into a sketchy neighborhood in deep Brooklyn,” Ostrom said. “From there, it was a combination of hard work and being in the right place at the right time.”

Ostrom started out working with playwright Danny Schluck, also a Manhattan High School graduate. After severing ties, Ostrom started his own studio called TBG Studios with another Manhattan native, Tobey Keller, in 2010.

TBG Studios started in commercials, quickly developing into larger-scale projects. Last year TBG produced its first feature film with the Black Eyed Peas’ in Los Angeles.

Ostrom met filmmaker Jonas Elrod in Philadelphia in 2011 when they teamed up to work on a piece about a firefighter. According to Ostrom, the two became fast friends.

Their second documentary together is intended to be the pilot episode of a TV series, In Deep Shift with Jonas Elrod.

The pilot follows Brian Mancini, an Iraqi War veteran, who served two tours before being honorably discharged in 2011 after an IED injury in Baghdad. He dedicated more than 12 years of his life to the U.S. Army and was awarded two Purple Hearts, the Combat Action Badge, Combat Medical Badge, Air Assault Badge and Flight Medic Badge. Mancini was stationed as a combat medic with the Big Red One at Fort Riley and suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In the documentary, Ostrom and Elrod meet up with Mancini in Phoenix, Ariz., to follow his physical and emotional recovery.

The drive behind their documentary is to follow people who are waking up spiritually and getting in touch with something bigger than themselves.

“Everyone will have trauma at some point or another,” Elrod said. “‘Deep Shift’ documents the hardships people go through — specifically, what their shifting moment was that made them turn their lives around…I’m a storyteller; no topic is off limits.”

As Elrod explains, the word “spiritual” means to break down, break through and integrate a person’s life and struggles to move forward.

“The term ‘spiritual’ is tricky for some people,” Elrod said. “It is walking the path, whatever it is —- whatever works for you — whatever you believe you need in order to get yourself out of the ditch.”

The documentary joins Mancini after his skull reconstruction and in the midst of his struggle with PTSD. At his lowest point, Mancini put a gun in his own mouth.

“It doesn’t get much lower than that,” Ostrom said. “Veterans account for 20 percent of all suicides; there is a stoic nature of people who put their lives on the line…this is a way for us to say thanks.”

According to Ostrom, Mancini needed to find a different way to get through his challenges. Since his discharge, he has adapted many alternative-healing methods to rehabilitate his mind and body, including acupuncture, fly-fishing, meditation and equine therapy.

Equine therapy, which is highlighted in the show, uses horses to develop growth and aid recovery in people suffering from all sorts of pain. In the program, an individual works to train a horse, building up a relationship between the animal and human with the goal of riding the horse bareback by the end of therapy.

“For me, watching people walk the path of healing can be difficult and emotional,” Elrod said. “Brian was very inspiring; he flipped over many different rocks to heal his wounds both physically and emotionally…he is a courageous individual.”

Elrod said he believes Mancini’s story and message is invaluable to the nation. In dealing with PTSD very openly, Mancini uses himself as a platform for the silent killer that PTSD typically is.

“Ordinary people have extraordinary events that change them. Sometimes what causes their huge shift is pain and suffering,” Elrod said. “Brian changed his life in an inspiring way and is a role model for those with PTSD and in the bigger picture for people with trauma to shift their lives.”

The first episode of In Deep Shift with Jonas Elrod, which took six months of pitching, a month of shooting and three months of editing, will air at 11 a.m. CST Sunday on OWN as a part of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.

“We try to take the work ethic and good nature from home and apply it here,” Ostrom said. “We’re proud of where we’re from.”

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