Co-writers Scott Cornfield and Erik Colandone, who met when working at the San Jose Police Department, were planning an independent short film showing one night in an interrogation room. But during the writing, "In the Box" developed into a story about a suspect, back from multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, who the detectives begin to realize is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
It's being produced by Reel Good Pictures, a production company owned by Cornfield and his partner John Reinert.
"We discovered that our real theme -- more important than our original story -- was that PTSD is another reminder that perhaps we train our warriors for battle but not for peace," Cornfield said.
Police, especially in larger cities, run into a lot of PTSD, he explained.
"It's a form of mental illness, and we deal with a lot of mental illness," Cornfield said.
The movie ends with information on where sufferers can get help.
The script for "In the Box" took two years to complete and the men wrote and rewrote as the characters grew.
"In screenwriting it can take a long time to figure out what your story is," Cornfield said.
Then it was more months finding the crew and actors, meanwhile working on funding.
Cornfield, Colandone and Reinert -- three guys with a combined 60 years of law enforcement -- sought support for "In the Box" via Kickstarters.com, a website that posts art projects for funding, after reviewing the applications. The deadline to contribute was July 7, and their goal was $3,750.
Funds will go mostly toward feeding the 15-member cast and crew, which is also about 15, Cornfield said with a laugh. "Everybody's a volunteer."
Cornfield, who lives in Pleasanton with his wife Sandi, joined the San Jose Police Department in 1980 and two years later was making videos. Throughout the years he has shot everything from weddings to travel films.
"It started as a hobby, then became a job," he said.
He also enrolled in the UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting to hone those skills and wrote two scripts during the course of study.
"In the Box," at 31 minutes, is long for a short film, Cornfield noted. And there aren't many venues for short films except festivals.
"There are tons of film fests," he said. "We'll pick and choose which to enter."
His "Children of Alcatraz," a one-hour film that combines interviews with subjects who grew up on the prison island with footage from news reels, won Best Documentary of 2005 in the Danville International Children's Film Festival.
Cornfield also placed first a few years ago in the California Independent Film Festival's Iron Filmmaker Contest, where he had to create a three-minute film in 24 hours.
Although that was fun, said Cornfield, it is frustrating to create a film that is good but could have been great. He had the luxury of time with "In the Box."
Although this project is serious, Cornfield says his first love is comedy. He did standup while in college and is in an improv troupe called Freedom of Espresso.
"In the Box" will begin shooting July 31 with an Army base scene at Ford Ord, where his son attends CSU Monterey Bay and whose condo was once base housing. Then it's on to Dublin, where the India Spice House will serve as a convenience store for the film. Bar scenes will be shot at Gallagher's in Dublin for the exterior and the Blue Bar in Livermore for the interior. Goodwill offices in San Jose will serve as the police department set.
"I'm very excited," Cornfield said. "The scariest part was, can we get good actors? We got really good people."
They plan to finish shooting in September. Then there will be the editing and adding original music. His sons Clint and Ty, 23 and 22, are musicians so they may help.
"We're so lucky we can do this. It's an important subject and fun to do," Cornfield said.
He is hoping that someone will pick up the short film and expand it so the message will reach a larger audience. The government is doing more than it's ever done to help those suffering from PTSD, Cornfield said, after statistics showed the rising suicide rate of returning GIs.
"So many people are coming back now after multiple tours," he commented. "We're hoping the movie will make PTSD more known and lead people to get help."