journey

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT
Te Kuhane o te Tupuna (The Spirit of the Ancestors)

 

Te Kuhane o te Tupuna (The Spirit of the Ancestors)
This documentary film is a journey from Easter Island to London, in search of the lost Moai Hoa Haka Nanaia, a statue of significant cultural importance. It explores the social and political landscape of the island of Rapanui as the people attempt to claim back what is rightfully theirs: their land and a lava-rock image of tremendous presence, representing one of the world’s most extraordinary cosmological views.

 

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Jordan and Aaron Kandell

 

Jordan and Aaron Kandell are twin brothers who are best friends and Mānoa neighbors. As children, they were so close that they would finish each other’s sentences. As young adults, the brothers teamed up in a career in which they completed each other’s creative ideas: screenwriting. The ʻIolani School grads and college poetry majors are best known, so far, for their work as part of the writing team behind Moana, the 2016 Disney animated film. They hit it big after a solid decade of hard work, grinding out script proposals and receiving a litany of rejection letters. Says Jordan: “If you’re gonna take every ‘no’ personally, I don’t know how you move forward.”

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Dec. 15, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Jordan and Aaron Kandell Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

It takes a lot of energy and effort to sail across the vast oceans of life to get to where you want to go, and if your worry and fear are energy trains from the focus that you need for the energy of that voyage, you have to go after what you love.  What your curiosity leads you to, wherever that’s going to take you as courageously as you can. And that’s the only way you give yourself a chance of reaching that goal, even if it seems kind of impossible or not even crystallized for you.

 

Together, these Hawai’i born twin brothers continue to pursue their shared dream of making Hollywood movies. Aaron and Jordan Kandell next on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short, one on one engaging conversations with some of Hawaii’s most intriguing people. Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou I’m Leslie Wilcox. I found it transfixing to listen to twin brothers Aaron and Jordan Kandell of Honolulu when they’re in spirited conversation they are very much in sync and that’s even when they don’t completely agree. You don’t know which one is going to finish the sentence. The brothers are almost inseparable in both their professional and personal lives. They joined the screenwriting team for the 2016 hit Disney animated film Moana, which features the voice of Dwayne The Rock Johnson. And they continue to write together as a dynamic duo and have recently begun producing Hollywood movies such as Adrift, which was released in 2018. Both twins have young families and they even live next door to each other in Mānoa Valley. Aaron and Jordan say their parents, Lloyd and Sherri Kandell, were hippies, originally from the U.S. mainland who once lived on the north shore of Kaua‘i, a near Taylor camp, which was a clothing optional alternative community of people living in tree houses. The couple later moved to O‘ahu and settled down in Kaimuki, and they were surprised when not one baby, but two babies arrived.

 

Being the hippie parents, they didn’t do an ultrasound. They had sort of a natural doctor who just did a stethoscope, and Aaron, had we found out later he’d gotten sort of pushed up, probably kicked by me under my mom’s rib. So that when they did the stethoscope, her heartbeat overpowered the sound of his. It was so close that they only heard one here and one here. So the doctor for her entire pregnancy said, you’ve got one.

 

But everybody, she was huge. I mean, we were like six pounds each. So she had this giant beach ball belly. And their joke was everybody but them and their doctor knew that they had twins.

 

Like, you know, o-

 

Aunties would come up to her at the beach or in the market and touch her belly and go twin when they actually had the births. She tried to do a home birth and it turned into an emergency. Rushed to C-section. And they pulled him out first. And their doctors were getting ready to stitch her back. They said, wait, we have another pair of feet in here.

 

Ohh…

 

Imagine not knowing that there is suddenly the doctor saying we see an extra pair of feet in there after they pulled me out. And so fortunately, it was him and he was healthy and they pulled him out. And for the first two weeks, we were baby A and baby B because they didn’t know that, they didn’t have names picked out. They had to get all of these se- new crib, new sets of clothes. It was just all a surprise.

 

Are you identical twins?

 

We don’t know-

 

–Because of the surprise birth.

 

Yeah.

 

We never had the all of the you know, there’s varying kinds of tests that you can do with the placenta or DNA when you’re born that identify if you’re identical or fraternal that we never had done in the rush of the emergency uhh, delivery. So we never actually verified-

 

Yeah, we don’t know.

 

-to confirm if we’re identical or fraternal. I assume we’re identical.

 

Well, how do the dynamics work between the two of you? Was there a time when you didn’t get along or that you I mean, how-

 

I mean, we’re kind-

 

-has your relationship evolved?

 

I mean we’re kind of Peter Pan and his shadow. Like if one of us gets too far away, the other chases them down and stitches them back to their feet. Uhh, we’ve always been that way. I mean, we’ve- We- all we know is collaboration. We’ve just had to share everything from the same room until we were 18. I think, you know, we were roommates in college. Uhh, we wished we had been able to take the same classes in school. Umm, and the first chance we got, we did. We’ve always been interested in the same everything. Same sports, same books, same girls, same career.

 

Ohh that sounds dangerous.

 

That was dangerous.

 

Same girls.

 

Yeah.

 

Sounds like that’s the real story.

 

Yeah, well we had a- we’ve been, because everything’s been collaborative. We’ve never really fought. It’s just been like having a best friend all the time who thinks like you and looks like you, which you know could be narcissistic, but-

 

Yeah.

 

it’s outside of you. So it’s not.

 

And interestingly, the two girls I think we weren’t both interested in at the same time became our wives like-.

 

Thats right.

 

His high school sweetheart is who he married. And I had a high school girlfriend. So I was never interested in her, any other girls at that time. And so that one ended up working out. But before he met his wife in senior year of high school-

 

Yeah.

 

Umm, one of our good friends set him up on a date in high school with, who became my wife. And they did not hit it off at all.

 

No.

 

They had like the worst date of each of their lives.

 

So this is good right?

 

Well, it’d worked out. Yeah-

 

This is a good thing.

 

Well, then two years later, when the same friends tried to set him up, I was like, its- whats- it’s oil and vinegar. It’s not going to work. What are you thinking? And then they just sparked-

 

Instantly.

 

-instantly.

 

Wow, who would’ve guessed that.

 

So it was a weird.

 

Yeah.

 

You know, a weird dynamic, how that worked.

 

This has been such a strength for you to have your friends, your family, you’re professional collaborators. Is it ever a weakness?

 

Being twins?

 

The way you are twins,-

 

-okay, that’s a good question. I-

 

–Because not all twins are as close.

 

I- I don’t want to speak for other people that I would say it’s probably more of a weakness, for everybody outside of the weird lynchian twin bubble that is our existence, because for us it’s all we know. So anything that’s not sharing and having it- like us going to a movie theater by ourselves to watch a movie feels weird. There was a moment, I think, when I was twenty seven where Jordan moved back here with his wife and I was still living in L.A. and I had uhh, and it was a year and I had a year of oh, this is what the human condition is, is being by yourself and having to find community. And like a deep sense of loneliness because I didn’t have this like shadow attachment to me that I’d always had of everything is a shared experience. So anytime you’re sitting and eating a meal, that’s with somebody else.

 

Right.

 

Umm, And- and so I think for other people to- Not y’know for our wives at first, like dating and having to get used to the fact that we were already born with our soulmates, so finding a second soulmate and bringing that into the mix is a weird alchemy. Uhh, that becomes, I think, challenging.

 

They’re probably cringing hearing you call me your soulmate

 

Probably.

 

From a young age. Aaron and Jordan Kandell were very close and shared friends, sports and activities. But what influenced them the most was their shared love of reading and writing.

 

Whenever we had free time, whether it was at recess or a lunch or a soon as-

 

-eating-

 

we got home after school, we were just like this.

 

Yeah. Umm, We- I think we read a book a day and-

 

-And did ‘Iolani homework?

 

Well, we didn’t have homework until like fourth, fifth grade.

 

Yeah.

 

So those first y’know four grades was just our bookshelf literally collapsed from the weight of all the blocks we were reading. It was a lo-

 

Yeah, we’d read like 300 bucks a year.

 

It was crazy.

 

So you spent your early years reading, reading, reading, reading. At what point did that turn to writing?

 

Early too. Yeah.

 

Pretty early, I think from like second, third grade.

 

We have- I have a memory of getting an assignment that was write a three page, double spaced, huge kid print story that would take, you know, 15 minutes when you got home. And we each separate of each other went and just started writing and both turned in like a 30 page single spaced story the next day, because we just got lost in the world that we started to-

 

-And also we couldn’t charge. So it was easier for words.

 

We still can draw. But umm, and so I have a very distinct memory of going, oh, like that was fun. And I just go where did the time go? And that was second or third grade. And ever since then, we-

 

What did your teacher say?

 

They were like, oh, wow, cool.

 

Future screenwriters and film producers Jordan and Aaron Kandell of Honolulu both pursued their love of literature and studied creative writing at the University of Southern California. However, they did not start off working together on screenplays.

 

Over the course of college, we discovered uhh, something you would think you would have known right off the bat, which is we loved writing- both of us. We wanted to work together. We both majored in poetry.

 

Which is not very collaborative.

 

No it is not.

 

We discovered very quickly that poetry is probably really the least collaborative form-

 

Right.

 

-of poetry you can do unless you’re like- your entire [INDISTINCT] of work is Renzos. Which is a form training lines back and forth. Uhh, but there’s very limited styles of poetry that are collaborative.

 

Right.

 

Screenwriting and TV writing especially are the most collaborative form of writing I can think of. Umm, and so we were studying those as well and started to write our first screenplay in college together and thought, this is- this is so much fun and this is so natural-

 

Yeah.

 

-and combines kind of the best of what we loved in reading growing up. All these novels and these long form umm, stories-

 

Mhmm.

 

-with what we’ve been trained and are pulled towards in poetry, which is saying as much as you can in as few words as possible, which is very much the limitations uhh, that the screenplay form has about things with which words often are, you know, struggle to capture. And that’s the visual medium of- of film and TV.

 

Yeah.

 

And so it kind of combined everything we loved into one form.

 

What did you do after you left USC? Having decided to become screenwriters, which is an almost impossible job-

 

Yeah.

 

–to get in Hollywood if that’s where you’re heading.

 

We ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches.

 

Yeah. No. We came straight home and became teachers. Yeah.

 

That is true.

 

It is what we did. Umm, so we taught at Punahou and ‘Iolani. Umm-

 

What did you teach?

 

I taught tenth grade English uhh, for a year.

 

And I taught ninth grade Spanish.

 

And then in the summers we taught and- and that was the first year. And then we started substitute teaching pretty much every subject you can think of.

 

Every grade, everything from kindergarten to like conducting the full orchestra without any orchestra experience.

 

And- but a lot of moviemaking and a lot of S.A.T. prep.

 

Yeah.

 

You’re saving money, I’m taking it with all these teaching jobs.

 

Yeah. So we were- We- We would teach all day that first year and then write all afternoon when we were done grading and lesson planning and all weekend. Uhh, and then when we went to substitute teaching, we would try to maybe-

 

Just enough to survive. So like teach one or two days a week and then write the rest of it.

 

So we very much saw from the beginning writing as our full time job and teaching was something we loved and we’re very passionate about. But our first and foremost uhh, pursuit was writing, and so that was allowing us to do the writing.

 

And were you also looking for those all important contacts to get you to the screen?

 

No.

 

No.

 

-Because we were here. I mean, there wasn’t- We didn’t- We were not guys born into it, connected in any way, had any uhh, knowledge or access for who to talk to to get there.

 

Even USC couldn’t say, hey, lets- lets-

 

-I mean, USC was-

 

–Lets reach out for you.

 

-USC was great in giving us sort of the launch pad for what the screen writing format looked like. Umm, you know, but most of your teachers at USC were like, don’t become screenwriters because that’s what we want to do-

 

It’s so hard. Yeah.

 

–And it’s so hard. And, you know, if you love anything else and do that. That was their advice. Umm, so you- you had a sense of how daunting the mountain you had to climb was ahead. But you also, you know when you’re 22 to 26, you have that sort of naive, I’m going to climb Everest and I can do it without oxygen or ropes. And here we go, which you need. And it’s important to have that. And if we knew better, looking back, you know, in the 10 year climb, it took us to get to the top of Everest uhh, and the frostbite fingers that we have as a result. Like, we probably wouldn’t have done it. But, you know, it’s good to have that.

 

How many years exactly, teaching and writing?

 

The first screenplay we sold was after four years of writing and we sold it, like we got the call. We just started an S.A.T. quiz and there was a summer course we were teaching at Punahou. And we gave the kids the quiz and then we got a phone call and it was Fox and Disney were both bidding on our first screenplay and we had to go out and close the deal in the 15 minutes they were taking this quiz and come back in feeling like very both excited and like we were maybe going to throw up-

 

-Panicked. Panicked.

 

–And then had to run the class as though nothing had happened and finish out the day.

 

After four years of working as teachers in Honolulu and writing screenplays eight to ten hours a day, Aaron and Jordan Kandell sold their first screenplay to a Hollywood studio. But that show was never produced and it would be another six years and several other un-produced screenplays before the Kandell twins finally saw their work on the big screen with the 2016 release of Disney’s Moana.

 

As anyone who’s done anything creative, countless rejection for years and years, thousands of no’s before someone says yes. And if you’re gonna take every no personally, it’s how- I don’t know how you move forward.

 

How many rejections did you receive?

 

So many.

 

A lot. It was so- It took four years to sell our first thing. We’re like we made it. And then it took another four years till we sold anything else. Umm, and it took ten till Moana, which was the first thing that actually got produced and made, umm, came onto the screen. And so all of that, that whole ten year journey uhh, was informative and challenging, umm, before you kind of figure out how to read the swells and- and steer the canoe. Umm, it took that long to figure that out.

 

Do you think that that period of discipline and- and without a lot of- uhh, a lot of inst- no instant gratification there right?

 

Yeah.

 

Do you think that helped you make it for the long term?

 

I think we would have honestly-

 

-Preferred getting instant gratification.

 

Yeah, I wouldn’t care. I would’ve loved-

 

And you can still do-

 

I would’ve loved the rocket launch straight into-

 

–I-

 

–the stratosphere.

 

Yeah. That would have been great. I think we would have done it anyway. I think we were succ- The success or financial success or any kind of recognition was never our motivation. Uhh, getting it is nice because it allows us to continue to do what we loved and not have to second guess and question how are we going to feed our families? Umm, because we are now getting paid to do what we always loved and were doing since second or third grade. Umm, but we would have done it anyway. For Moana we felt uhh, as fortunate to be called to it because it was not our idea. It was a project that existed for years, three years before we got the call to come and be a part of it.

 

Were you- Were you there to rescue it, to do trouble fixing?

 

Yes. So they had and it’s not just the- it’s typical of the Disney Pixar process, is that over the course of three to five years, usually four to five, they’ll put the movie together anywhere from eight to ten times internally before it’s shown to an audience, and-

 

All hand drawn.

 

-Hand drawn and all, you know, every- every three months. They’re basically rewriting, re scoring, rerecording, redrawing and editing up a version of the film, not as animated as you see. It’s sort of your old school sketch, flip book animation where Mickey’s hand will move like this as you put the pages, but a whole rough cut of the movie. And so they’ve done that for three years and the story had lost its way. And so they needed to find new writers to help them steer a course towards what the story was. And they had a lot of the tent poles- we’ll call ’em- of the story. They had the girl named Moana. They knew that she lived on Motu Nui. They had all the characters kind of drawn and animated. Umm, so we knew that cast. Uhh, she was going to meet Maui. She was going to sail out and try to restore- Spoiler alert- Teka, Teka into Tefiti. But they didn’t know why she wanted to leave. They didn’t know why Tefiti had become Teka, and what would turn her back? They didn’t know what the relationship with Moana would- and Maui would be or where she would find him or what they were sailing out to do. All of that was up in the air. And so we had to come in and help create all the story to connect those dots.

 

Isn’t it interesting the storyline got lost along the way?

 

Mhmm.

 

Yeah.

 

After all that technical work and artistic work?

 

Well, a lot of animation is that same- They’re all amazing artists, like the best artists you’ve seen. You’ll be sitting talking story like this and they’ll be drawing a caricature of you and showing it to you or you’ll be talking about we’ll say, well, what if they encounter these little coconut pirates? We’ll call them the Kakamora and they’ll be like, well, will they look like this? We’re like, uhh maybe a..

 

Wow.

 

-And they’ll, more like this? Yes. And they’ll just be tossing photos behind them. They’ll be just sheets of paper-

 

Drawing. Drawing.

 

–and drawing. And throwing, which is amazing because we can’t draw. So for us. That was like magic of Disney come true before our eyes. Uhh, but-

 

-But yeah it’s [INDISTINCT]-

 

–they start- they start with the visuals because they’re all artists. So they get really excited about visual ideas. And then it’s trying to find… We almost had to come in and be the story way finders and the navigators of the story to connect what these visual motifs and ideas could be through the character work, through the thematics and through the values of the experiences that we had growing up on the islands.

 

And this wasn’t a Hawaiian movie.

 

No.

 

It’s Polynesian.

 

[Both]Yeah.

 

But you really had a role to play in terms of making it authentic and not putting in the wicky, wacky cellophane hula skirts and- and language.

 

We tried. Umm, yeah. Uhh, we came in hoping to- There were characters that existed in earlier versions that we will not mention uhh, that were culturally insensitive, if not offensive, that we- we threw out. We said, you- you can’t do this for- for these specific reasons. Umm, and we then tried to bring in kupuna and advisers like Nainoa Thompson to make the way finding elements as accurate as possible uhh, and to speak towards some of the cultural values we just grew up with that might drive Moana through her journey and in her interactions with Maui. And so, yeah, we played that small part as- as we weren’t the only ones. They had uhh, a board, an oceanic adviser trust from all different island cultures of professors and performers who helped advise. But we did come in as-

 

-We banged the cultural-

 

–story tellers, yes.

 

We banged the cultural drums very loudly.

 

Do you think in words or pictures when you’re a screenwriter?

 

That’s a-

 

–That’s a really good question. Uhh, both. I mean, I think-

 

-It starts with pictures.

 

It starts with pictures-

 

We have to see the movie in our head in order to put it on the page. And then basically the process of writing for us-

 

–Is recording. It’s almost, you have to visual- you almost have to sit in the audience. You have to direct the movie and then you have to be able to edit it, and watch it. And once you can see a whole sequence or a scene, then you’re just essentially reporting what you’re seeing. But you have to go through that process-

 

So you have a story that you-

 

-Then you have to visualize it.

 

–But the pictures have to- you have to lead with pictures.

 

Yeah. I mean, it’s such a- we’re such uhh, visual creatures as humans. And the world has become so much more, like visual focus. There’s so much media.

 

You know, you said you’re collaborative. I assume that each of you has a role. Do your roles remain constant in terms of putting together a screenplay?

 

Uhh, it’s pretty fluid. Yin Yang, We have different strengths. I’d say as writers and that depends on the day. Sometimes one of us is stronger at one thing than the other.

 

And you both recognize that that day one is stronger than the other at something?

 

[Both]Yeah.

 

Okay.

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah.

 

And in general, we have different strengths uhh, and- and weaknesses. I think Aaron is stronger with character and dialog and getting into kind of the core of how somebody expresses themself in a unique, interesting, believable… Just getting at who those characters are and what they want. And my strength is sort of seeing the bigger picture of a story and structuring out what’s going to happen and how we get there. And then writing-

 

-He’s more of the architect. I’m more the interior designer.

 

Uhh, sorry, everyone who’s not a twin. But it helps us be objective-

 

-Right.

 

Because we’re constantly questioning each other’s work, uhh, storytelling choices, quality of what we were putting out and just saying, can we make it better. We’re poking at it.

 

And why are we doing this-

 

-That’s right.

 

–And what do we want to get out of it?

 

And if you’re by yourself, it would help to find somebody who can serve that role.

 

We’ll break out a whole story. We’ll sit and we’ll talk or we’ll go hiking through the forest and just talk and talk and talk and talk and figure out how we both see what the grand vision of it is. And then it’ll usually be architecting it out, which he’s very good at in terms of breaking an outline and detail. And then I’ll come in and be, well, let’s make this is kind of a cliché. Let’s make this more original or fresh or have somebody say something in a way you wouldn’t think. And so and then it becomes sort of breaking out and tackling sequences or scenes on the page.

 

Aaron and Jordan Kandell remain close in their everyday lives. If they aren’t working on their next screenplay together, they’re together surfing, hiking, watching a movie. We’re spending time with their extended family.

 

It works. I mean, you both are married. Each of you has a child.

 

Yeah.

 

And then how do you- and you live next door to each other?

 

Yes.

 

Next door.

 

Very close, walking distance of-

 

-Like-

 

-back back fence kind of thing?

 

Yes.

 

Back fence.

 

Share. Share the same boundary line.

 

Okay.

 

Yeah.

 

So how does it work? I mean, because you’re working together every day. And even if you weren’t working, you’d be seeing each other every day.

 

Yeah. We’re together almost all the time.

 

Yeah.

 

All day. We’re usually together most of the day working, writing, meetings. Umm, and then at night we’ll either all go to his house or he’ll come to my house with his family to have dinner. We kind of trade back and forth. We trade taking the kids to school and picking them up.

 

They go to the same schools?

 

They don’t yet because one, his is-

 

-Younger.

 

–too young, umm, but hopefully they will. Umm, and they very much are like sibling-cousins, we call them. They’re so close.

 

And I’ve heard that the children call each of you uncle daddy.

 

Yes.

 

Daddy. And then Uncle Daddy.

 

Yeah.

 

That’s right.

 

That’s funny.

 

Yeah.

 

So what happens when a spouse wants to do something different than what you two want to do?

 

They usually win.

 

They win.

 

Oh they win?

 

Yeah.

 

Oh, yeah.

 

Yeah.

 

You defer.

 

Yes, definitely.

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah. Because we’re together so often-

 

-Yeah.

 

-that it’s only fair.

 

Yeah.

 

So you figured-

 

-Well-

 

–a way to make all of it.

 

Yeah.

 

They’ll win the battle because the war, they already, know is lost.

 

Kind of seems too good to be true that you know, the wives would be happy and- and get this relationship and then- and then you two would get along so well.

 

That we would get along so well?

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah-

 

–Yeah, I mean, I- I don’t know. I would attribute that to nature and nurture. I think-

 

Yeah, ’cause our parents were very uhh, they created an environment. We never really fought with our older brother. He was always super supportive and loving. And we just kind of-

 

-Closed it with him. Yup.

 

They just created a dynamic where it was you were all, y’know, on the same canoe paddling together.

 

As of this conversation in the spring of 2019, Aaron and Jordan Kandell are involved in a multitude of screenplays and film projects, including their dream project called The Golden Record, The True Story of Carl Sagan and his Creation of a Record of Life on Earth for 1976 NASA’s Space Mission. Mahalo to Aaron and Jordan Kandall of Mānoa, O’ahu. And thank you for joining us for this edition of LONG STORY SHORT on PBS Hawai’i. I’m Leslie Wilcox, Aloha Nui.

 

Our mom has just followed her curiosity wherever it’s led her for her entire life. So she’s been really like-

 

The jack of all trades.

 

Yeah.

 

She’s had- she had a different career every three to five years most of our lives.

 

And would you put that under the fearless category?

 

Oh, for sure. Yeah.

 

I think the two things we learned from our mom more than anything, is she always said growing up, the only thing you can control in your life is your attitude. Just everything else is a variable that you can’t predict or control.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit pbshawaii.org to download free podcasts of Long StorySshort with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store or visit pbshawaii.org

 

[END]

 

 

 

8 Days:
To the Moon and Back

 

Join Apollo 11 on its historic journey. The film seamlessly blends mission audio featuring conversations among Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins with new footage, NASA archive and stunning CGI to recreate the first moon landing.

 

 

 

NATURE
Snow Bears

 

Set against the magical backdrop of the Arctic, NATURE “Snow Bears” is a dramatized story based on the extraordinary adventures and life-changing journey of newborn polar bear cubs as they leave the safety of their den for the first time. Bravely led by their mother, the cubs must make the perilous 400-mile voyage to the sea to feed. Encountering many dangers along the way – Arctic foxes, roaming bears ready to kill, extreme weather, snowdrifts and ice cracks – they undertake an epic survival challenge. These cubs are rarely seen in their natural habitat, and “Snow Bears” is a unique glimpse into their world. Kate Winslet narrates.

 

 

 

Jordan and Aaron Kandell
Hollywood Screenwriters in Honolulu

Cover story by Liberty Peralta, PBS Hawaiʻi

 

The Kandell brothers on the set of Adrift. Photo courtesy of Aaron and Jordan Kandell

 

Twins share DNA, but Jordan and Aaron Kandell share a whole lot more.

 

“We’ve always been interested in the same everything: same sports, same books, same careers,” says Aaron. “Anything that’s not sharing and having it, like us going to a movie theater by ourselves to watch a movie, feels weird.”

 

The Kandell brothers as young children. Photo courtesy of Aaron and Jordan KandellTo date, the brothers have never confirmed whether they are fraternal or identical twins, but they suspect they’re the latter. Their parents, the brothers say, were only expecting one child.

 

“The doctors said, ‘Wait, we have another pair of feet in here,’” Aaron says.

 

Jordan and Aaron now have their own young families, and live next door to each other in the Mānoa neighborhood in Honolulu. Despite so many shared interests and so much time spent together, the brothers insist that they never tire of each other’s company.

Jordan and Aaron Kandell on LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX premiering Tuesday, December 10 at 7:30 pm“It was always supportive; we always liked to do the same things,” Jordan says. “It was kind of better together. There was never any other version of it.”

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Jordan and Aaron Kandell

 

Among everything else they share in their lives: Hollywood screenwriting credits. The ʻIolani School grads co-penned the 2018 drama Adrift, based on a true story about a couple stranded in the middle of the Pacific after a hurricane.

 

Disney’s Moana, released in 2016, was co-written by the Kandell brothersThey were also on the screenwriting team behind the 2016 Disney animated film Moana. The project existed for three years before the brothers came into the picture. They say that by then, the story had lost its way. The brothers helped flesh out the storyline and characters, and connect major plot points.

 

Disney’s Moana, released in 2016, was co-written by the Kandell brothers

 

Jordan and Aaron also got rid of previously written characters that Jordan says were “culturally insensitive.” They brought in cultural advisors to provide guidance on the film’s wayfinding elements, and “the cultural values we just grew up with that might drive Moana through her journey,” Jordan says.

 

The Kandells’ journey toward their dream career as screenwriters was not an easy one. “It took four years to sell our first [script],” Aaron says. “It took 10 [years] till Moana. That whole 10-year journey was informative and challenging, before you kind of figure out how to read the swells and steer the canoe.”

 

Says Jordan: “If you’re gonna take every ‘no’ personally, I don’t know how you move forward.”

 

The brothers credit their outlook on life to their mother, Sherri, whose curiosity and fearlessness they admire. Aaron says she would always tell them this when they were kids: “The only thing you can control in your life is your attitude. Everything else is a variable that you can’t predict or control.”

 

 

 

The Chaperone on Masterpiece

 

Journey from Kansas to New York City with the diffident chaperone to uninhibited dancer Louise Brooks in this Jazz Age drama that reunites DOWNTON ABBEY screenwriter Julian Fellowes, actress Elizabeth McGovern and director Michael Engler.

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Tom Vendetti

 

Meet Tom Vendetti, a Maui-based psychologist and filmmaker who has turned a series of unexpected life twists into two intertwined careers. He shares how his unlikely journey has unfolded, all driven by his quest for happiness.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Dec. 1, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Tom Vendetti Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

People often say to me: When you go to Tibet or Nepal, do you have culture shock? I say: No, the shock is coming back here.  And I truly mean that.

 

Meet a man from Maryland who became a mental health professional and advocate on Maui, and also produced about thirty films, so far.  We’ll show you how his unlikely journey unfolded, and what he’s learned along the way about the search for happiness, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing individuals over a period of decades, and I’m still struck by how often the element of chance plays a role in remarkable life stories.  The man you’re about to meet is no exception.  In fact, serendipity is a recurring theme in the story of Dr. Tom Vendetti, of Wailuku, Maui.  This psychologist and Emmy-winning filmmaker turned a series of unexpected twists into two intertwined careers that have enabled him to do good in the world, while pursuing his personal quest for happiness.  On this edition of Long Story Short, we learn how Tom Vendetti’s lifetime of journeys add up to the journey of a lifetime.

 

You were adventurous.  You were hitchhiking far away at age, what, seventeen.  You were heading out with your thumb and friends, and going to rock concerts, and spring break and other experiences.

 

Yeah; I always had this drive to see the world.  And surprisingly, my parents were okay with that.  But it was nothing for me to hitchhike to New York and see the play Hair, or go to a rock concert in Indiana, or even New Orleans to the Mardi Gras.

 

Did you start working early?

 

I started working right out of high school.  Primarily, it was during the Vietnam War days, and I was going to be drafted.  So, I applied for a conscientious objector status, and I only had a couple weeks before I was going to be shipped off, so the clock was ticking; right?  So, anyway, I went in front of this panel, and it was community members, some clergy, and military, and they just interrogated me, this kid, eighteen years old.  You dong love your country?  You don’t want to fight for your country?  And I tried to explain to them that it’s not that I wouldn’t want to fight for my country.  I would; it’s just this particular war that I didn’t believe in.  And within a couple weeks, the letter came, and it said that I was still 1A active, going to be, you know, drafted.  My mother said: I can’t believe that this is happening.  I said: Well, Mom, it’s happening.  She goes: I think it’s a mistake.  I said: Come on, Mom, they don’t make mistakes like that.  She said: Well, I’m gonna call them tomorrow and see.  And I was working construction with my father at the time, so we went to work.  And then when I came home, she took this sheet and put it out in the front of the house, and must have taken a spray can or something, put one, zero on it, which meant conscientious objector.  And I walk in the house and said: Mom, what’s going on? And she said: Well, it was a mistake; they made a typographical error.

 

Wow.  That’s a huge error.

 

That’s a huge error.  And again, I was just elated.  And because of that, though, I still had to serve my country for two years.  So, I had to find a job in the helping field either, you know, doing community service or something.  And that’s where I got a job working at Sheppard Pratt Hospital as a psychiatric aide.  And at the time, I had no interest in psychology.  Which again, it just opened this door up that I’ve been, you know, doing my whole adult life.

 

And you ended up getting a PhD.

 

PhD, and I also got a master’s degree in clinical social work from the University of Maryland.  After that, I decided to move from Maryland to Flagstaff, Arizona.  Back then, there were very few services for the mentally ill, so we created a program for them that got a lot of attention.  And a lot of that attention came from a program called Adventure Discovery, where we would take the mentally ill people hiking and on river trips, and things like that.

 

Why?

 

Well, again, there was some research coming out at the time that it was very therapeutic.  And we actually did some testing to verify it, which started my film career, by the way. We took ten mentally ill people on the San Juan River, and prior to doing that we did some pre and post tests for anxiety and depression.  The filming part came where I asked a friend of mine who bought a new camera back then. We did our testing, and made this documentary film, and the research that we did showed that not only the clients benefited, that the depression dropped and anxiety, but also the staff.

 

That is interesting, because what you’re telling me is that by seeking not to fight in Vietnam, it led you to your career and to your vocational passion.

 

Right; exactly.  So, I came back, and I put this film together.  And then, I became hooked.  So, I was the kid that was very shy in school.  You know.  I would know answers to questions, and wouldn’t raise my hand.  And when I realized through film that I could actually communicate, because I had a lot to say, you know, that this was my ticket for achieving that.

 

At the same time he was building his psychology career and developing his passion for filmmaking, Tom Vendetti yearned to see the world.  And that’s what first brought him to Hawaii, initially drawn to the Big Island of Hawaii because of his fascination with mountains.

 

It gets back to my early hitchhiking days.  I always wanted to see the world.  I had a girlfriend at the time, and we decided that we were going to travel around the world.  The first stop was Hawai‘i. So, we arrived in Hilo, because of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.  We ended up spending two years there, because, you know, we needed to make some money. So we started one of the first halfway houses for the mentally ill over there, which is part of the Mental Health Kokua system right now.  And then after we got the money, we ended up in New Zealand.  And someone at that point said: Where are you going next?  I said: Well, I really love mountains.  They said: Well, you need to go see Mount Everest.  I said: Where is Mount Everest?

 

You didn’t know where Mount Everest was.

 

No; I was so naïve.

 

And look at where much of your life has been focused now.

 

That’s right.  I had clue. And they said: Well, you have to go to Katmandu, and Nepal.  And I said: All right.  And it was May.  The monsoons came in a little early that year, so people were saying: You shouldn’t go up to Mount Everest; you’re not going to see anything.  You know, there’ll be too many clouds, and be socked in. I said: Well, I came all this way; I’m gonna go anyway.  On the plane, there was this man sitting in front of me, and he was in English, kinda broken English, pointing out all of the mountains.  And I noticed a lot of other people were paying attention to him, like he was somewhat knowledgeable.  But I didn’t pay much attention to it.  And then, when we got off the plane, he and his daughter walked up to me and said: Where are you going?  I said: I’m going to Mount Everest.  He said: Well, would you mind if walk with you?  And I thought he just wanted to practice his English, or something. As I look back at it, I am sure he was, you know, trying to protect me and take care of me.  But as we were walking on the trail, people were just going: Namaste!  Almost in reverence to this individual.  And then finally, I heard someone say: That’s Tenzing Norgay.  I went: Tenzing Norgay?

 

He was a Mount Everest rockstar.

 

He was. And in that part of the world, he was a hero, you know.

 

Because he was the Sherpa who went up Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary.

 

Tenzing Norgay and Hillary were the first two people to summit Mount Everest. So, when I heard that, I said: What are you doing here?  He said: Well, I’m on my way to meet Hillary; National Geographic is doing a thirty-year special about us summiting the mountain.  Would you like to be my guest?  And I said: Of course.  For a week, you know, we hung out together.  And then, when we were getting up to Kunjan, where Hillary was, first they walked up and embraced; the cameras were going, and so forth.  And then, he introduced Peter—that’s Hillary’s son, was there and then, Deki, Norgay’s daughter.  And then he said: I want you to meet my friend Tom.  And here I am, shaking hands with Hillary, going: What is this all about? Right?  And then, from that day on, it just changed my whole life, and I’ve been going back now for thirty years.

 

So, you were living on the Big Island, went away to see the world.  And then, what?  How’d you get back?

 

Then, I ended up back in Flagstaff.  And when I returned, I got a job at the Guidance Center again.  My girlfriend and I split up at the time, and my wife Nancy was also getting a divorce from her husband.  She was working there, so, it all seemed to kinda click at the same time.  And then, we fell in love.  And we decided to get married on Maui.  When we got back to Flagstaff, we started contemplating the idea of moving to Hawai‘i.  Before we knew it, we applied for jobs, landed them, and we’ve been living on Maui now for twenty-six years.

 

And did you say she’s in the same …

 

Yeah; she’s a clinical social worker.  We’re very happily married, and it’s been a good thing for me.

 

Among Tom Vendetti’s talents is a background in music.  This expertise serves him well in filmmaking, helping him to craft just the right mood for each project, as well as build bonds with exceptional composers and musicians.

 

In high school, I understand, you were not just a jock; you were a band geek, I think is the expression people use.  You did both.

 

Yeah; I played the trumpet from third grade all the way into college, and was on the Baltimore Colt marching band.  So, I got to see my heroes Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry back in those days, which was quite thrilling for me.

 

And that’s another of the things you discovered early in life, that you continued on.  Music has just been a continuing theme, and you use it in all of your productions.

 

Yes.

 

Original music, too.

 

And in terms of editing, that’s my favorite part; putting the music to the scenery, especially beautiful scenery like, you know, the Himalayas and so forth. And I was so thrilled to have Keola Beamer, you know, work on this latest film.  We went to Katmandu, and he had the opportunity to record original music with seven local Nepalese, you know, musicians.  And it was just fascinating to watch, and also beautiful to listen to.  And it literally brought the film to life, as far as I’m concerned.

 

I wasn’t surprised to find out that they had partnered with you, because when Keola was a guest on this program years ago, he told me that he had become a Buddhist.

 

Right.

 

And that his mother, you know, Auntie Nona Beamer, had become a Buddhist, and they both said it was very Hawaiian in its values.

 

Right. Yeah.  Being around Keola Beamer and Moana as friends, again, that’s such a treasure, something that I, you know, love both of them dearly.

 

[MUSIC]

 

And who’s Paul Horn?

 

Paul Horn is a very famous flautist, flutist.  He’s known as the father of New Age music.  He’s a Grammy Award winner and has probably forty-six albums out. And he passed away not too long ago, but he literally said: Tom, if you ever want to use any of my music, it’s yours. We became that close over the years.

 

You traveled with him quite a bit.

 

Yeah. We traveled to Tibet.  I think it was 1992, I asked Paul, because he had played in the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids, if he would like to play in the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.  He said: Man, if you can make that happen, we’re there.  And I said: Okay.  And believe it or not, we pulled it off.  And that was my first documentary film, Journey Inside Tibet, that was picked up by PBS Plus.

 

Which is one of the programming streams on PBS.

 

Yes.

 

[MUSIC]

 

So, I needed to find someone to narrate that; right?  And I always really liked Kris Kristofferson.  He was a person that I looked up to.  And I knew that he lived on Maui.  So, I had a VHS tape of what I shot, and the music, but I didn’t know Kris’ address.  But I, again, knew that he was on Maui.  Put it all in a package, and I wrote: To Kris Kristofferson, Hana, Hawai‘i, without a zip code.   ‘Cause I was fairly new to Maui at the time.  Put it in the mail, and several weeks later, I get this call from this man, Vernon White.  He happened to be Kris’ manager, and he was calling from L.A.  He said: Kris said he’ll do it.  I thought it was a friend joking, or something.

 

 

I said: Do what?  You know. He said: He’ll narrate your your film.  And I said: Really?  And I said: Well, how much will it cost?  ‘Cause Kris Kristofferson.  He says: How much money do you have?  I said: I don’t have anything.

 

He said: That’s what it will cost you.

 

Oh …

 

Yeah. And Kris came over to Kīhei, sat in the recording studio and did that, and was so gracious, and it was humbling for me to be in his presence, that again, it just kept me wanting to make more films, especially after it got on PBS.

 

I think you’re the first filmmaker I’ve ever met who doesn’t raise funds, but who earns the money in another job and pays for it himself.

 

Right.

 

That’s a lot of money, that’s a lot of travel bucks.

 

It is. But I would be doing it anyway. Traveling, doing it my whole life.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

With psychology, of course, I had to go to college and get degrees, and so forth. But I’m self-taught when it comes to filmmaking.  So, put a lot of energy into it, and again, it’s just a passion that I love doing, and it’s become a voice for me.  So, it fills that need, too.  The editing part became more like therapy for me.  It was extremely therapeutic.  Because of the content and the people, you know, that I interviewed and so forth, hearing their words, and then getting to relive it again through the images, you know, that I shot, I never considered it, even to this day, being work.  The bottom line with making the film was, like I said, I would get a bunch of friends and we would make it slash, vacation shoot.  My wife has been very supportive in that too; Nancy.  In fact, she’s gone on all of these journeys with me.  She loves the outdoors, she loves hiking and trekking, and so forth.  So, we invite friends.  And hopefully, you know, I have a plan, an idea in mind in terms of what I was trying to tell, in terms of the story.  In places like Nepal and Tibet, if you go in with a fixed plan, you’re really setting yourself up for disappointment.  You need to be open and just kinda let it all unfold.  And if you do that, it’s amazing; it often turns out better than the original plan.

 

Is that right?

 

At least, that’s been my experience.  Yeah.

 

So, you don’t create at least a Plan B first?

 

In that part of the world, it’s better not to be that attached to anything.

Oh, that’s interesting.  That sounds very Buddhist of you.

 

It’s very Buddhist.  Buddhism and even today’s world of psychology just go hand-in-hand.  If you get into a lot of what the Dalai Lama says about negative thoughts and, you know, and so forth, that’s cognitive behavioral therapy, that’s what therapists do.

 

Training yourself not to have negative thoughts.

 

Exactly.  And reframing things in a positive light, along with the buzzword in psychology now is mindfulness.  It’s a Buddhist term; right?  I could relate to that on both levels.  This last trip that we took with the Beamers in Nepal to film Tibetan Illusion Destroyer was about exactly what I’m talking about.  They have a festival up there every year called the Mani Rimdu Festival with the purpose of destroying illusions, thoughts, or you know, the way you perceive things, that lead to human suffering.

 

Tom Vendetti of Maui has seen plenty of that suffering through several decades practicing psychology, as well as fighting to improve Hawaii’s mental health services. And then, came a time when his own mental and physical health was challenged with a diagnosis of prostate cancer.

 

Basically, when I found out that ninety-nine percent of my prostate had cancer in it, it was like being hit in the head with a two-by-four, a wakeup call.

 

How old were you?

 

Fifty-five.

 

You were fifty-five.

 

So, I went and had the radioactive seeds, a hundred and twenty-two of them, put in my prostate.  And at that time, I got pretty depressed, to be honest with you.  I was lying in bed, and I said: I need to go Nepal—I was talking to my wife, even though I felt kinda weak and so forth.  But I just said I needed to go to there.  When I got up into the mountains, it was that quiet time again, and being able to hike and be into nature that just brought me back to life. In fact, that’s when I made When the Mountain Calls, on that journey, and reflecting on all of these … you know, the thirty years of my travels in Nepal.  I’ll never forget; when I got back from basecamp, I made it all the way there and back.  I was in Lukla again at that airport.  And I called my wife, and she said: I’ve never heard you sound so happy.

 

I felt a true sense of inner peace, true happiness.  I contemplated the meaning behind all the wonderful experiences I’ve had, and of how the mountains kept calling me.  They have taught me that life’s magic is always right here in front of us.

 

Well, there, they base it on four pillars.  One is an honest, transparent government.  Another one is respecting nature.  And they basically say if you get up in an environment where all the trees are cut down, and the rivers are polluted, you’re not going to be happy. The other one is preserving culture. That’s something that they cherish in Bhutan, and they don’t want to lose it with Western influence.  And the other one is economic stability.

 

Stability; not growth, but stability.

 

Yeah. There have been many, many studies saying that above your basic needs being met, happiness improves a little bit above that with income, but beyond that, there’s no correlation at all.

 

Income doesn’t bring you more happiness.

 

Exactly right.  And when I went over to the Bhutan initially, I was very skeptical.  I thought: Is this for real?  But I came back a believer, and I think it could be a model for the world. In different places, like Norway and that part of the world, they’ve embraced it.  But in terms of Western capitalistic types of societies, we have a long way to go if we want to take that on.  But that film won an Emmy too, which was kinda cool, you know.

 

You came home as an Emmy-winning filmmaker.

 

Yeah, yeah.  That was surreal.  You know, when you’re sitting in the audience and you’re thinking: Well, I didn’t have anything really prepared.  But when the spotlight hit me, I thought: Oh, my god.  I walked up, and there were these two big, giant television screens; right? And I looked up and saw myself up there.

 

I just kind of focused on one person in front of me and started talking.

 

Because you’re the filmmaker who wants to be on the other side of the camera.

 

Exactly right.  Here’s the kid who didn’t want to put his hand up in school, you know.

 

You know, I know that that airport that you went to at Everest is very small.  But what are the chances, you know, that you’d get together with the Sherpa who summited Everest with Sir Hillary?

 

See, that’s really an interesting question.  I wasn’t one of those people that just thought things happened by chance. But I’ve come to the conclusion, and it took me a long time to get here, that things do happen.  Again, it can be on a spiritual level, or it can be on a different plane than this objective level.  And that was a real awakening for me.  And that’s the only way I can explain meeting, you know, Norgay up there, and Hillary.  You know, when I walked away from that experience, I was thinking again, you can’t explain these things.  You know, you just gotta be open to ‘em.

 

What do you make of it?  Because you know, we hear stories that appear to be accidents and random chance all the time.  But these happenings take people to places they otherwise never would have gone.

 

Part of what I learned is that, number one, you need to show up.  Just simply put yourself in a situation to allow things to happen.  And if you do that, they often do.  It’s something that, you know, you can’t necessarily measure.  It’s got to be probably more on a spiritual level that I’m trying to get in tune with.

 

Have you found a spiritual path?  Are you still deciding?

 

I’m always going to be on that path.  I’d be the first to say that I really don’t know what’s going on.  I’m still working towards that so-called enlightenment or nirvana, or whatever, however, whatever term you want to put it in.

 

Have you stopped going back there now?

 

To uh …

 

To the Himalayas.

 

No; in fact, I just got back.

 

Oh; okay, then. 

 

When I had the opportunity to film His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, a few years back, I asked him what the significance of Mount Kailash was.  So, I’m making a film right now that’s focusing on three areas—preserving the Tibetan culture in China was the first question, the second one was the significance of Mount Kailash, and the third one was happiness. In fact, I’m almost finished that one.

 

Well, what does he say about happiness?

 

Well, he said he has no way in the world to know how to fix happiness on a global level, but on an individual level, it’s possible.  And it gets back to what we were talking about; calming you mind, again, ridding yourself of negative emotions or thoughts that create negative emotions, and back to that kind of basic Buddhist teachings.

 

Did you see your Sherpa friend again?

 

I asked him; I said: Is there any place in the world that you would like to see or to hike or trek?  And he said: The Grand Canyon.  I said: Well, that’s where I’m from; when I get back, I will write to you and we’ll hike the Grand Canyon together.  And by the time I got back, he had passed away.

 

Oh …

 

Yeah.

 

Too bad.

 

Yeah. But I was thinking, you know, here I am, traveling all the way to Nepal to find happiness, and he’s saying the Grand Canyon.  Is it right in my backyard?  You know.

 

Do you think that both your career—your dual careers, really; do you think those were all about finding happiness?  Or defining it?

 

Well, it certainly ended up that way.  Initially, like I said, I had no desire at all in psychology.  And I always wanted to see the world, but I really didn’t even know about Buddhism or, you know, the teaching of Buddhism or the philosophy behind it.  But that’s really what has impacted my life in terms of the way I see the world now.

 

At the time of this conversation in 2019, Tom Vendetti has retired from fulltime psychology practice, and devotes most of his time to filmmaking.  He’s working on new projects, and we’re proud to give some of his films a home here on PBS Hawaii.  Tom Vendetti has learned from prominent people in different parts of the world.  He says he’s also gained insight from the years with his Maui patients, whom he admires and respects for their strength and intelligence.  We want to thank Tom Vendetti of Wailuku, Maui for sharing his search for happiness.  Perhaps he’s inspired you to focus on what’s truly important in your own life, and to show up in life, because that’s where chance, serendipity, can take you on an unexpected, life-changing journey.  For Long Story Short and PBS Hawaii, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha nui.

 

I’ve been asked by Keola to make a film about Auntie Nona Beamer.  And it’s something that I’m really looking forward to. That’ll be my next film.  So, I feel honored to make the film.  She’s had other films made about her, but it’s been primarily, you know, talking heads, people talking about her.  The goal of this film would be to capture her spirit, and to capture it through her words, through her, you know, hula and chants, and the songs that she’s written, and the beauty of the islands.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.  To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

[END]

 

 

 

ROAD TRIP NATION
Rerouting

 

Meet three adults at a crossroads: Dana, a grandmother who’s worried the workforce has passed her by; Jeremy, a military veteran eyeing a new career path; and Bernita, a mother who feels boxed in by her lack of a degree. With all of those experiences under their belts, they’re ready to tackle what’s next. Follow their journey as they learn it’s never too late to change your life for the better.

 

 

 

NEW LEASH ON LIFE:
The K9s for Warriors Story

 

A NEW LEASH ON LIFE: THE K9s FOR WARRIORS STORY highlights the journeys of three United States veterans struggling to adapt to life back home. All three suffered from PTSD after returning from serving overseas, and each has found hope and new ways to handle their stress and emotional challenges through the aid of a companion dog. Throughout the documentary, Adam, Shilo and Louis recount their years of service and discuss the PTSD symptoms they faced while trying to re-acclimate to civilian life. Like many veterans, they had trouble managing their flashbacks and hypervigilance, among other issues. Each ended up looking into K9s for Warriors for help. K9s for Warriors was founded in 2010 by Shari Duval who, at the time, was desperate to help her son Brett, a veteran suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injury after serving two tours in Iraq. She stumbled upon a story about a service dog that had helped another veteran cope and that inspired her to start a service dog agency for vets. Shari’s idea gave her son new purpose. Shari and Brett’s organization pairs veterans with certified service canines. All the dogs are trained by Shari and her team and each dog is rescued from a shelter. They work with 10 to 12 veterans a month, and the veterans go through a weeks-long orientation program where they learn training tools and bond with their new companions. Weaving together the story of Shari and her son’s work with service dogs and the intimate experiences of three U.S. military members in the aftermath of their service, A NEW LEASH ON LIFE shows a unique way suffering veterans are mitigating symptoms and returning to a more regular life.

 

 

 

1 2 3 9