Army Vet’s Film Shows Hopes and Determination of Wounded Soldiers

By Angel Canales

Dec 10, 2013 6:00am

Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Curtis is the oldest in a family of seven siblings. Growing up, a career in Hollywood seemed out of reach.

“When I was young, being a film director was not a legit career. People didn’t understand that being a director was a viable career option and my family was like, ‘You’re going to be a doctor, or you’re going to be in the medical field,’” Curtis said.

His father was in the Army National Guard and it was during one of his father’s weekend drills that Curtis visited him and he ended up enlisting in the Army after taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test.

“I took it on a whim. I was like, this sounds like fun and I can use some adventure in my life,” Curtis said.

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Ryan Curtis on set directing his film "The Dance." Greg Zabilski/ABC

Ryan joined the Army in 2001 and served as a combat engineer for eight years from 2001 until 2009. After leaving the Army, he moved to Las Vegas and started working in the entertainment business as an actor and model doing local commercials. He then realized that he would much rather be on the other side of the camera.

“I didn’t realize what directing was at that point but I knew that I wanted to do something creatively in the other end,” he said, noting he broke into the entertainment industry as a production assistant.

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A scene from "The Dance" by Ryan Curtis. Greg Zabilski/ABC

For Curtis, his big break was a chance to direct a film for ABC’s “Home for the Holidays.”

The campaign selected five U.S. veterans with aspirations to work in the entertainment industry. They created digital short films that are thematically centered on veterans coming home this holiday season. Four of the films are scripted and one is a documentary.

The films also pay tribute to the brave men and women with whom the filmmakers served. Support for the “Home for the Holidays” initiative was provided by the veterans organization, Veterans in Film and Television.

Curtis wrote, directed and produced “The Dance.” The film is about a young soldier who is severely injured at war. The girl that he had a crush on since high school becomes his motivation to get better, and the soldier returns to her to have the dance they never had.
“Seeing soldiers battle back from lost limbs, injuries or burns is awe-inspiring,” Curtis said. “The determination and grit they have is a story worth telling on its own.”

The pre-production was intense and the film was shot in one day.

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Ryan Curtis in 2007 during Operation Sand Castle training mission at the National Training Center in Ft. Irwin, CA / Ryan Curtis

“It feels great to do the whole process and have something that is tangible and that is ready to be shown to the public,” Curtis said. ” I’m so excited and nervous at the same time because I’ve never been in the position like this where so many people are going to see something that creatively was mine.”

For more information about ABC’s “Home for the Holidays” campaign and to see “The Dance” by Ryan Curtis, visit http://abc.go.com/holidays

Curtis has some advice for vets seeking a career in film and television.

“One, you need to educate yourself in the business,” he said. “And you need to find people in the business and find organizations like the Veterans in Film and Television to network, learn and get on set so you can start working towards what you’re trying to do.”

Second Tour is an ABC News digital series profiling the lives of military veterans who are doing unique things in the civilian world. For more stories visit http://abcnews.go.com/US/Second_Tour/.

 

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