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This project was successfully funded on January 1, 2015

The Tankchair Project

by Julie Cohen

NY

Download Video: Closed Format: MP4 Open Format: OGG / WebM

The Tankchair Project (wt) will be a feature length documentary telling the story of an Arizona plumber named Brad Soden who created an all terrain wheelchair that is a game changer for scores of veterans paralyzed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The "TankChair" can drive up a rugged hillside or into a muddy riverbed, allowing a new generation of active paraplegics to camp, hunt, fish or toss a ball on a football field. With tank treads instead of wheels, the vehicle looks so cool that it breaks down the awkwardness many people feel approaching someone in a wheelchair. (The animators at Pixar used Brad's chair as a model when they designed "WALL-E"). 

Brad created the first TankChair after his then girlfriend - now wife - Liz was paralyzed in a car crash. Frustrated that she was unable to explore the wilderness as they once had, Brad used his savant-like mechanical skills to design a solution.

Since creating that first TankChair in 2005, Brad has built dozens more, working with Liz, his parents and his three teenaged sons in a Phoenix industrial garage.  Now, with funding from charity groups and the NFL players Hall of Fame, he’s building chairs for veterans paralyzed in Iraq and Afghanistan, custom designing them with features like fishing poles, drum kits or lawn mowers. 

The Tankchair Project will explore the experiences of military veterans who return disabled from Iraq and Afghanistan -- a film that gives an honest, head on depiction of their lives and challenges, without falling into sappiness. 

Our film will follow several distinct narrative arcs: the Sodens' and those of two or three veterans. Each veteran’s narrative will take us through his or her wartime experience and injury, and then show the particular constraints he/she faces in a wheelchair. We’ll follow the process from design to delivery and beyond, showing how one incremental improvement can make a huge difference.   

We plan to tell the stories of our disabled characters largely through their own eyes, showing the viewer what's especially frustrating, motivating, or even funny when you're in a wheelchair. Visually, we'll create a "through their eyes" effect by giving our disabled characters Google Glasses - donated by Google. Shooting at eye-line, and moving as the shooter turns her head, the Glasses create especially arresting, intimate POV footage. A graphic artist (himself an Iraq war Marine Corps veteran) is creating animated collages to represent the moments of injury - both of Liz and the veteran characters.

About me, director and producer Julie Cohen: I spent thirteen years in cable and network news, mostly at NBC, producing longform stories where I covered crime, breaking news, and pop culture. I left in 2007 to found my own production company and create documentaries about topics a little closer to my heart. Since then, I've directed and produced eleven documentaries that have aired on PBS stations. Three of them have won New York Emmy Awards since 2012. The two most recent have also screened at numerous festivals and theaters. On the surface, my films are pretty diverse; the last two were about singers from black townships in South Africa who aspired to classical opera careers, and the owners and customers of a century-old smoked fish store on the Lower East Side. But my films all try to illuminate the warm, tragic and funny experiences of human beings in all their flawed glory.

This campaign is to fund shooting and preliminary editing. Please make your tax deductible contribution. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your support.

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    • January 02, 2015 Bette Scaife Community Member

      Wonderful news!! I would be miserable without my Tankchair. Brad and Liz are lovely, funny friends and those of us lucky enough to have a "Tank" are made to feel like part of their family.

    • January 02, 2015 Ford Giesbrecht Artist

      way to go and best wishes in the success of your video and the tankchair. happy new year.

    • December 25, 2014 Ford Giesbrecht Artist

      Merry Christmas, best wishes for a successful project and thanks for sharing this story. Ford