Tour of duty ... Geoff Evans on patrol with his unit in Afghanistan. Photo: David Clemson
When filmmaker Jennifer Perrott first pitched her idea for a film about post-traumatic stress disorder to a group of veterans at Auburn RSL, their response told her immediately that she had a powerful and important story to tell.
"Several of the old diggers stood up and were incredibly emotional," she says. "Their voices were shaking and they were nearly crying.
"It made my heart thump and I thought, 'These people drink with each other each week and they can't even talk about this thing that they have'."
Profits from Jennifer Perrott's film go to RSL charity Defencecare.
Perrott was seeking funding to make for The Ravens, a short film that tells of a veteran returning to his young family and struggling with the aftermath of battle.
Auburn RSL put up cash as did the members of dozens of other sub branches, who were equally impressed by the concept.
Perrott, who comes from a military family, was originally researching PTSD for a character in a feature film when she decided to make a short film concentrating solely on the issue.
As well as being entered into film festivals, The Ravens, which has yet to receive its premiere, will be screened to groups of veterans as an "icebreaker" and to get them talking about their own feelings.
"They can safely enter into a discussion about the characters in that film and before they know it they are talking and the discourse might steer towards their own personal situation," says Perrott.
Jeremy Lindsay Taylor – a familiar figure from series such as Sea Patrol, Puberty Blues and Home and Away – plays the lead character.
He says he "opened his heart and soul" for the part.
"I did more [preparation] work than I've ever done on anything before," he says. "It stretched me more than I've been stretched before in any role."
Part of that rigorous preparation and research involved long discussions with Geoff Evans. Evans completed two tours of Afghanistan, where he suffered massive injuries in a blast and witnessed the deaths of several of his mates. Only after returning did he recognise and seek help for his PTSD.
"The more Jeremy learnt about PTSD and the war and what we had been through and what we came home to and how it affected us, the more he became passionate about telling the story," he says. "I know he felt a real intense pressure to get it right."
Evans believes the movie, which also stars Sarah Snook (The Dressmaker, The Beautiful Lie), captures perfectly his own experience of the dislocating effects of returning from battle.
"I think it's brilliant," he says. "It's art imitating life. It tells the story exactly how it is. Jeremy's character is perfect. There is so much subtext and subtlety."
Evans now works for the RSL helping PTSD sufferers get treatment. According to the Department of Veterans' Affairs up to 30 per cent of veterans have some form of mental health disability, including PTSD.
"You can get better if you get good treatment and early intervention," he says. "There are support agencies out there to help you.
"I guarantee there will be people who will watch that movie and the penny will drop for them. They will have no idea that they are suffering PTSD until they see it and go, 'Wow, that's me'."
Perrott is donating profits from the film to the RSL charity Defencecare.
"I'll be giving the film to anyone to use who needs it," she says. "It's still a very hopeful film. I wanted it to be hopeful but not completely happily ever after because life isn't really like that once you've been to war."