By Richard Rhinehart
Redlands, California, October 2, 2012: Director Austin Smithard’s feature film documenting the 2010 Sea to Shining Sea cross-country ride with disabled veterans will see its national public premiere at southern California’s Inland Empire Biking Alliance Film Fest October 13.
“Two Shining Seas” follows the 18 riders of World T.E.A.M. Sports’ 2010 bicycle ride across America from the ride’s beginning in San Francisco to the triumphant conclusion in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Riding bicycles, hand cycles and recumbent bicycles, the participating veterans overcame snow in California’s Sierra Mountains, heat in the deserts of the West and thunderstorms in the Great Plains on their two month journey. They met with challenges and difficulties and learned to support their colleagues as a team.
Smithard accompanied the veterans on their 64 day journey beginning in May, 2010. His film is the result of hundreds of hours of cinematography in all weather conditions as the team passed through 12 states and the District of Columbia. A member of Santa Monica-based Aero Film, the Isle of Wight native learned his craft from director Stephen Spielberg. Following the release of his first picture, “The Scream,” Smithard worked with Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope Company as a writer. Later, he launched a successful career as a director and cinematographer for numerous television commercials.
The Inland Empire Biking Alliance Film Fest features three feature bicycling-related documentaries on three evenings, and several short films. Held at the Fox Theater in downtown Redlands, the program will support several local cycling non-profit organizations. Two and three day festival passes are available online, as are tickets for specific showings.
“Two Shining Seas” will premiere on October 13 at 6 p.m. An encore showing will be held the following afternoon at 3 p.m. For the Saturday evening premiere, director Smithard is scheduled to attend, as is Sea to Shining Sea 2010 rider Kevin Sullivan, who is featured in the film.
A six year Air Force veteran, Sullivan participated in numerous combat missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa. Medically retired from the Air Force in 2007, Sullivan discovered through treatment that he was suffering from severe PTSD. “War brings on a whole set of unseen injuries that are not talked about,” Sullivan said. “Seeking mental health assistance in the military is viewed as a weakness and the stigma is hard to shake.”
“The truth is that I felt ashamed for being diagnosed with a disorder and guilty for not being able to continue my military career,” Sullivan said. Participating in the 2010 ride from World T.E.A.M. Sports was a way he could reach out to other veterans who may also be suffering.
Through treatment from the Air Force/VA medical staff, and the support of his family, Sullivan has brought his PTSD under control. The North Carolina resident is currently studying to become a physician’s assistant.