An admission: I began an affair with Aimee Bender… not Aimee herself, but with her writing. If there is something comparable to a writing soulmate, Aimee would be mine. The serendipitous connection I felt with her short story “What You Left in the Ditch” was and continues to be wonderfully overwhelming.
Aimee B. is a master of blending realistic themes with pinches of surrealism and complicating characters with sprinkles of fantasy.
“What You Left in the Ditch” is no exception.
The 1998 short story didn’t just speak to me -- it jumped off the page and assaulted me with its poignancy and authenticity.
The story begins: “Steven returned from the war without lips.” It isn’t just a story about a soldier with a unique battle wound. In fact, the story isn’t told from Steven’s perspective; it’s told from his wife, Mary’s.
Having that “aha! moment” was essential. I immediately reached out to Ms. Bender to ask if she would grant me the rights to adapt this story to the screen. As an educator herself, she supported it, graciously giving me her full blessing.
The process then became one of effectively adapting it and then pitching it to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for the greenlight. In a highly competitive class, to which less than half are approved, “What You Left in the Ditch” gained the full support of Tisch and was moved into production.
Early in the process, a critical decision had to be made: Where do we shoot this? My personal history has enabled me to count the Commonwealth of Virginia as an important location of my life. Many a Christmas has been spent with the entirety of my mother’s family, gobbling down good food, engaging in good stories and lots of good laughter.
The southern landscape of Virginia lends itself perfect to the ambiguous setting of the story. The strong presence of military, in the tidewater region particularly, translates brilliantly to the world of Mary and Steven.
In June 2010, there were 171,423 deployed war veterans diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition resulting from exposure to direct or indirect threat of death, serious injury or a physical threat. This number attempts to encapsulate just a fraction of the soldiers suffering from emotional and physical trauma. Presently, activists for veteran rights are seeking extended benefits and care toward wounded soldiers in a tough economic climate of swift budget cuts. The lack of media attention concerning this difficult plight is significant as soldiers struggle to acclimate to their present circumstances and face the withdrawal of the medical rights they so desperately need. Lost in a media frenzy of gossip and tabloid fodder, the presence and impact of emotionally and physically wounded soldiers remains more important than ever.
By shedding light on both the life of these soldiers and the soldiers' families, we can create more attention for an issue that is critically vital to the country and the world; WHAT YOU LEFT IN THE DITCH will be a solution for doing just that. The project will be launched as a short film that artistically depicts the post-combat life of a soldier and his family. Film and video is a platform with mass appeal that can reach vast numbers of people by informing, entertaining and educating viewers.
What We Need & What You Get
WHAT YOU LEFT IN THE DITCH will operate with the support of New York University’s Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film & Television. If funded, the film will be able to see completion and launch the next stages of post-production. This original film, inspired by a short story of the same name, will illuminate the realistic and modern perspective of a post-combat soldier, which does not exist in the modern slate of cinema.
Additionally, we have gained fiscal sponsorship by From The Heart Productions making WHAT YOU LEFT IN THE DITCH a non-profit film. All donations are tax deductible.
To make this film, raising funds are essential. The costs of movie-making add up! This film tackles a very difficult and current issue and must be made. Supporting this film is not simply supporting the arts, but also supporting American soldiers and their families.
On behalf of myself and our wonderfully talented crew, we thank you for your support and kindness. Any donation helps. I encourage you to not only support this project, but take an exciting journey with us on WHAT YOU LEFT IN THE DITCH.
Joseph P. Gerbino
And now, a brief synopsis of WHAT YOU LEFT IN THE DITCH:
Mary who, while still clinging to hope, had just about come to terms with the idea that her husband may never return home from war. But when he does, though full-bodied, sun-tanned and handsome, Mary struggles to find happiness while coming to terms with the one thing that is still missing: his lips. As Steven re-acclimates to society, Mary faces the idea that though Steven is finally home, he may never be fully present. His plastic prosthetic lips fail to satisfy the shell-shocked Mary, whose attention is slowly diverted to the well-endowed lips of a young store clerk... This is WHAT YOU LEFT IN THE DITCH.
Contact us at email@example.com!