NAUGATUCK — Students at Naugatuck High School took home an award for helping a veteran preserve his history.
Naugatuck High School’s Preserving Our Histories Club won first place in the Best Historical Short category at the Connecticut Student Film Festival in May.
The school’s submission, a 4-minute documentary called “PTSD: Let’s Talk About It,” focused on Brookfield resident Brian Barkman, who served in the U.S. Army National Guard from 1998 until 2008.
“He had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). He talked a lot about the stigma behind PTSD,” Naugatuck High senior Mukti Miha, one of the students worked on the film, said. “He talked a lot about how society thinks anyone with this disorder is crazy and can’t lead a normal life. He talked about how he leads a normal life day to day.”
Naugatuck High senior Harmony Sturdivant, who also worked on the film, said the club members chose to feature Barkman after they saw him give a talk about on PTSD at a digital media summit at Wesleyan University.
“It’s something we haven’t really seen about on the news or heard about too much, so we thought it would be a good topic to bring to the public,” Sturdivant said.
The purpose of the Preserving Our Histories Club is to help tell a veteran’s story and preserve the history of that veteran, said social studies teacher John Tenney, who is the advisor for the club.
“The whole purpose of the program is to connect students with veterans and history and to incorporate technology as well,” Tenney said.
Miha said the preparation for the film was the most difficult and crucial part.
“I think the hardest part about filming is what you should be asking because that’s your only chance to get everything on camera. You don’t want to just keep calling him back to get more information. So it’s all about the questions you come up with to ask,” Miha said.
After the interview was shot, Sturdivant worked as the editor for the film.
“You have the 45-minute video of the whole interview and you have to figure out what you want to tell the audience and the story you want to tell. When I figured out what I wanted to tell, it was just crafting it all together into that 4-minute period,” Sturdivant said.
When the judges announced Naugatuck High had won, Miha knew the preparations had paid off.
“I was in shock because, amazingly, another school had Brian Barkman as well. They talked about PTSD as well,” Miha said. “It all came down to how you told the story.”
Miha said the key was the questions the students asked Barkman.
“It really matters because it’s the way he answers. His answers are what you have on film and that’s how you put your story together,” Miha said.
Making “PTSD: Let’s Talk About It” offered students more than the chance to win an award.
Sturdivant said the project taught her about the stigma that goes with PTSD.
“When you see ‘PTSD,’ you see crazy, suicide, and all this negative stuff,” Sturdivant said.
However, there is a side of PTSD that drives people like Barkman to share his story and continue to work to help people, Sturdivant said.
Miha said the fact that stuck with her after working on the film was that every day 22 veterans take their own lives.
“That statistic really got to me because I never knew that many veterans, or people still in the military, commit suicide,” Miha said.