The Filmmaker, Donna Musil
The idea for a non-fiction film about military children took root back in 1998. I was a labor-lawyer-turned-writer feeling a bit out of sorts and "different" from my fellow Americans, but didn't know why. Then one day I discovered I was not alone. There are literally millions of us military BRATS scattered around the world and more are being born every day. We are raised in a separate and distinct culture that affects us deeply in both positive and painful ways. Making this connection to my culture gave me a sense of belonging I had never experienced. This was empowering to a "little girl" who had moved twelve times on three continents, attended three high schools, and lost her father, an Army officer, by the time she was sixteen years old.
Today, I have a film about a group of people whose only "hometowns" are each other. We have more in common with the military children and "global nomads" of other countries than with our fellow citizens. And that is my vision - that this film might be a spark in a global fire of self-awareness and belonging - that from the ashes of war might rise a nation of children committed to peace.
Donna Musil, Writer-Director
BRATS: Our Journey Home
Donna Musil (JD, ABJ) is a writer-director, lawyer, and proud Army Brat. In 1999, she founded Brats Without Borders, the only 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the country that provides educational outreach, support, materials, and research to Military Brats and “Third Culture Kids” of all ages. Through its documentary films like BRATS: Our Journey Home, and programs such as UNCLASSIFIED: The Military Kid Art Show, BRATS Clubs, and BRAT Cultural Competency and Teen Transition Workshops at Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program weekends, BWB raises awareness of the culture, contributions, and challenges of military brats and TCKs everywhere.
Donna wrote and directed BRATS: Our Journey Home, the first feature-length documentary about growing up military and the powerful effect it has on one’s adult life. The film is narrated by singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson, and features the late Commander-in-Chief, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, author Mary Edwards Wertsch, and other brats from all ages, races, and branches of service. The film has been broadcast on Armed Forces Network Television in 178 countries and was featured on CNN's This Week at War and NPR's All Things Considered. It won numerous awards, including Best Documentary, Best First Time Director, and the G.I. Film Festival’s Founder’s Choice Award.
UNCLASSIFIED: The Military Kid Art Show unveils powerful and poignant clips from Donna’s newest documentary-in-progress, Our Own Private Battlefield, about one Marine family’s struggle to heal the wounds of war through art, scheduled for release in 2015. Donna is also developing a documentary about the impact of modern brain science on the “nature vs. nurture” debate.
The daughter of an Army judge and lawyer, Donna moved twelve times on three continents (Germany, Korea, San Francisco, GA, NC, VA, KY) before her father died of a service-related illness when she was sixteen. She attended three high schools in three years (Korea, KY, and GA). She received an ABJ (magna cum laude) and JD from the University of Georgia, then worked as a labor lawyer for the AFL-CIO and IBEW in Washington, DC and Atlanta, before quitting to pursue a writing career. She worked at Castle Rock Entertainment and Sony Pictures in Los Angeles to "learn the ropes" of the film business, then continued writing in Dublin, Ireland; Copenhagen, Denmark; Paris, France; and Lake Sinclair, Georgia.
Other writing credits include a memoir chapter in Writing Out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids, published in London in 2012; Ananse, a children’s animated film based on African folktales in development with Visionex/Ghana and Melendez Films/London (Charles Schulz’s Peanut animators); and Rebuilding America’s Communities for the Carter Center (PBS) about inner-city poverty. She co-directed a staged reading of her original feature, To Kingdom Come, with Producer Judith Pearlman, in NY Women in Film & TV's Screenplay Reading Series, representing "some of the best developing women screenwriters." Cypress Gardens, an updated version of the screenplay about a modern-day union campaign, was a finalist in 7 international screenplay competitions, including winning Best Feature Drama. She has also written numerous educational and industrial films for Coca-Cola, BellSouth, M&M Mars/Snickers, and the like.
Donna has won a number of fellowships over the years, including the Henry Clews Art Fellowship in La Napoule, France; Ragdale in Chicago; Djerassi in San Francisco; Fundacion Valparaiso in Spain; Hambidge Center in Georgia; Centrum Arts in Washington; and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico. She currently lives in Colorado.