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JULY 25, 2014
a u s t
i n c h r o n
i c
l e
. c om
8106 Brodie Lane
We’ve been consistent
Critics’ & Readers’ Choice
in the
Chronicle Restaurant Poll
since 2004 for
Best Cajun Food/MusiC
Venue, Best Po’Boys, Best
oyster Po’Boys, Best Cajun/
Creole, Best oysters, Best
sandwiCh, and More!
“One foot in front of the other,” com-
mands physical trainer Jerry Campbell. The
man in the pool heeds the order. His body
seems strong and willing despite involun-
tary tremors. He moves with determination,
the tattoo of his home state Hawaii on his
right pec trembling slightly with each
stride. “Heel-toe!” Campbell barks encour-
agingly, but firmly. “Step! You got it? All
right. Don’t force it, feel it.”
The man in the pool, Dennis Cabanting,
served in Iraq and returned a profoundly
changed person. He came back with PTSD,
courtesy of an IED attack, the blast of
which, he says, “went through my head,
rattled around my brain, and
left.” What was left is a trau-
matic brain injury that may
have triggered multiple sclero-
sis. His homecoming means
completely starting over.
“They trust me with weapons.
They send me to war,” reflects Cabanting.
“And now I’m a little kid. I gotta learn how
to walk. What’s up with that?”
Cabanting’s story is one in a 12-part series
about returning vets facing the harrowing
minefields of medical insurance, social ser-
vices, and the VA. What connects the vari-
ous servicemember stories is the nonprofit
Wounded Warrior Project, and the naviga-
tional help it provides. WWP has produced
the series to air as a part of the MSNBC
cable television show
Taking the Hill
Iraq vet, former member of Congress,
Taking the Hill
host Patrick Murphy
introduces a new episode of
Wounded: The
Battle Back Home
the fourth Sunday of
each month, with segments teased online
Thursday-Sunday. The series launched the
Sunday before Veterans Day 2013, and runs
through October 2014. The upcoming July
installation, “Dennis – Operation:
Independence” is the series’ ninth.
is a collaboration between WWP
and Flow Nonfiction, an Austin production
company that specializes in cause market-
ing and branded film production – a smooth
way to say commissioned content via paid
partnerships in which partner/subjects
actively participate in the messaging.
According to Executive Creative Director
David Modigliani, Flow first met both
WWP’s communications director and Executive Editor/on-air per-
sonality Richard Wolffe at South by South-
west. WWP later followed up, says Modigli-
ani, eager to enlist Flow to produce some-
thing for their 10th anniversary.
Since their formation, Flow Nonfiction
has been hired by Downy, Boys & Girls
Clubs of America, Pantene, Juvenile Dia-
betes Research Foundation, Bing, Tide, and
the Clinton Global Initiative, among other
corporate and nonprofit concerns. Flow
chooses clients based on its own metric of
what constitutes “cause.” This current WWP
gig is unique. Where most projects have
been short campaigns or one-off films, this
is the company’s first full-fledged series.
The series, says Modigliani, “has the big-
gest scope of any project we’ve done. It’s
the most meaningful content that we’ve
worked with to date – this is not an infomer-
cial; these are films about individual veter-
ans.” Flow has creative control within prior
agreed-upon constraints, he says, and con-
fers with the clients about the mission. The
project is unique in another way: “We are
reaching the biggest, broadest audience we
ever have.”
Flow’s other executive creative director,
Matt Naylor, describes the nature of the col-
laboration. They rely on WWP to vet the
vets and other subjects involved in the proj-
ect. “We send the first cut to Wounded
Warrior Project. Once we hear feedback,
we’ll send it to MSNBC’s Standards & Prac-
tices [department].”
Trust is key in these types of relation-
ships. WWP is, says Modigliani, “a trusted
entity within the veteran community. …
Our preproduction needs [necessitate our
asking about] very intimate and personal
subject matters.” Once Flow is in the field
out on a shoot, WWP’s reputation eases the
natural tensions that come with the lumber-
ing presence of a film/TV crew. Subjects are
sharing stories about physical and mental
trauma. “People with cameras,” says Naylor,
“that’s a red flag.” Modigliani interjects,
“Some of [the subjects] have had negative
experiences in the past of feeling exploited.”
In one instance, midshoot, the crew was
interviewing a female vet and victim of
sexual assault. “One of the questions was,
‘Are there things that still trigger you?’”
remembers Naylor. “She listed a couple of
things, including ‘being cornered in a room
with a lot of men.’ And I look, and we’ve
blocked her in – two big German cinema-
tographers and me. And I’m like, ‘Wow this
is it. This is her nightmare.’”
“We were quick to back off,” says Modig-
liani. And there’s no question, he says, that
WWP offers full support in these decisions
– budgets and shooting schedules be
damned. In one other case, Flow was deep
in postproduction with an episode. The sub-
ject “got cold feet about having his story out
there, and Wounded Warrior said, ‘No prob-
lem. It will never be seen again.’”
Interestingly, this vacancy made room to
add one more soldier’s story, and as the
group was producing the episode, “Angie –
Operation: Educate,” they discovered Dennis.
“I wasn’t cool about it at first,” says Den-
nis Cabanting’s mom, Julieann Najar, about
the idea of a film crew plopping into his life
to excavate and possibly stoke further trau-
ma. She spoke to me via phone from her
Even Flow
The Wounded Warrior Project and MSNBC bring the
war home via an Austin connection
B y K a t e X M e s s e r
Matt Naylor (l) and David Modigliani
Iraq war veteran Dennis Cabanting
Trust is key in these types
of relationships.
So are we.
Take us
with you.