Catie Foertsch’s MEATGRINDER

January 16, 2019

FC member Catie Foertsch is a long-time video producer who has recently expanded into documentary film production. Currently, she is working with Sgt. Travis Weiner and Capt. Tommy Furlong, both combat vets, to create a documentary film that tells the story of the real cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, through the voices of those who fought. Their film is called Meatgrinder. We recently chatted with Catie to discuss it.

 How did the idea for Meatgrinder originate and what has been your involvement with the film?

The idea for Meatgrinder came from two combat veterans who are the film’s exec producers – Travis Weiner, an army vet who fought in the Iraq War, and Tommy Furlong, a Marine vet who fought in Afghanistan. After they left the military, they worked together at a non-profit run by Mass General Hospital and the Red Sox Foundation, which provided help to veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and other mental health issues. Working with many, many veterans who have these issues, they came to realize that so many of the injuries vets suffered in these wars are terrible, invisible, and very hard to come back from. Lives are permanently changed, and in many cases ruined, yet the American public is unaware of what happened, and what continues to happen.  

Soldiers and Marines are more than willing to make these sacrifices if required to defend our country. But when we fight wars of choice that are not truly necessary for our national security and whose goal is to export American-style democracy, and when we fight counter-insurgency wars we cannot win, then we are throwing people into the meatgrinder of war for no good reason.

The administration in Washington has a free pass to send troops wherever they want, and the American public is being misled about the carnage and suffering our tax dollars are supporting.

We believe that what is needed is for veterans to tell the stories of what they saw and what they did, and how they feel about what they saw and did, so the public can begin to understand the reality of what a meatgrinder these wars were, and are.

If veterans talk about whether they believe there were good reasons for their sacrifices, we think more people will demand that our government stop engaging in these gratuitous, pointless wars that devastate countries, and kill and maim the locals and the Americans who fight.

What has been the most challenging aspect of getting the film made?

Coming to terms with how much time the process of fundraising takes, shifting to a more patient mindset, and accepting that while we’re progressing more slowly than we’d like, we are making good progress. We are raising money and awareness. And most importantly, we are connecting with so many combat veterans of both theaters, and all services and specialties, who believe in the message and want to be a part of this film.

What is the current status of the film?

Several months ago we raised seed money from friends and family to create a trailer. Now we are using that trailer to raise money for the film. We have applied for one grant and are working on applying for several more, and we’ve begun to hold events to fundraise and spread the word about what we’re doing, especially in the veteran community.

We just held our first event in Denver, and we’re building our social media presence. We are planning to spend the next few months fundraising, and intend to start filming in the spring.

The story of the Iraq War has largely faded from the public discourse and the war in Afghanistan is almost never spoken of in the media. What role do you see Meatgrinder playing in bringing these wars back to the forefront of Americans’ consideration?

Most Americans don’t know that we are still fighting in Afghanistan, and that we have troops conducting missions in several other countries, including Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, and Niger. War has gone from something we do only when we must defend our country, to something we just do all the time. And the tremendous suffering and carnage war causes is mostly invisible –not by accident but largely by design.

We want Meatgrinder to engage the veteran community, by encouraging combat veterans to start talking about their experiences without euphemisms that shield the public from the horrible truth of war. We also want to engage the civilian community by educating them about how veterans actually feel about what they did and experienced; and how different the “real thing” is from what they’ve been led to believe by movies, books, TV shows, the media, and our political leaders.

We want the American public to wake up to the damage war does to bodies and minds.

And we want the American public to demand that our government stop taking our country to war for the shakiest of reasons. We want people to honor the sacrifices veterans make by demanding that we only go to war as a last resort, and only to defend our country.

What drew you to the world of documentary filmmaking? Were there any documentary films that influenced or inspired you?

I have a background in journalism and video production, and so documentary filmmaking is a natural fit for me. Travis and Tommy both understand the power of documentary films to communicate an important story, and to get people talking.

Documentary films that inspire us include Why We Fight, Vietnam & The Civil War by Ken Burns, The Fog of War, Capturing the Friedmans, Bowling for Columbine, The Keepers, The Kill Team, Restrepo, The Unknown Known, and so many more. What we take from them all is that there are a million different ways to tell a compelling story.

How did you come to find out about FC and what does it mean to you to be a member?

I learned about FC when I saw on Facebook that you were holding a seminar on fundraising strategies, and so I attended. Excellent seminar! The presenter also talked about the different ways FC helps documentary filmmakers get their films made. I was so impressed by all the films that are being made under the FC umbrella, but I think the most important factor for us is how helpful the FC staff is. They really are so dedicated to helping filmmakers succeed.

When you’re working on a doc film, it’s easy to feel like you’re out there all alone in the wilderness, trying to get this really difficult thing done all by yourself. Being a member of FC makes me feel like we’re not alone, like we’ve got support if we need it, from people who want us to succeed.