This post is part of the “Coming Home” series, profiling members of the military who have successfully transitioned from active duty to civilian lives. “Coming Home” is sponsored by USAA. Read more posts in the series »
Anton Sattler says he could not have made his award-winning CHOSIN documentary or its spin-off graphic novels without what he learned in the Marine Corps.
The Marines taught him how to thrive under stress with limited resources — and how to make order out of chaos.
“Filmmaking is very much that,” Sattler told Business Insider. “You need to be able to make quick decisions, especially while making a documentary. You need to be able to make changes and manage the chaos to get the job done.”
In the Marines he learned of a story so powerful that he felt compelled to tell it to a wider audience: the 1950 Chosin Reservoir Campaign, in which 15,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines were surrounded by 120,000 Chinese soldiers in Korea. They fought their way 78 miles to the sea, and rescued 98,000 refugees in the process.
“If you aren’t into the Marine Corps or aren’t a military history buff it’s not really well known,” Sattler said. For the Marine Corps, though, the Chosin campaign is the stuff of legend. This sense of tradition has always played a large part in Sattler’s life.
Sattler graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2002 with a B.A. in film studies and English. Driven by a sense of duty, he immediately enlisted with the Marines.
“I have a pretty long history of military service in my family. They have served in every military conflict since pretty much the turn of the last century, so after 9/11 it felt like my time to enlist,” he said.
Sattler served two tours in Iraq, first as an infantry platoon commander in Al Qa’im and then as a company executive officer in Ramadi. Once he returned to America, Sattler served as an operations officer on recruiting duty in Baltimore. After six years of active duty, Anton transferred to the reserves with a dream of breaking into the film industry.
“I left the Marines in 2008, moved to New York, had a film degree, and I knew I wanted to make movies,” he said.
Through a mutual friend, Sattler met fellow Marine Corps veteran Brian Iglesias, who had also served in Ramadi and was interested in making films. They joined together to form Veterans Expeditionary Media.
“I walked out of the military with enough money to survive for a year, in one of the most expensive cities in the world, and I cashed it all in to make a movie,” Sattler said.
To put together their documentary, CHOSIN, Sattler and Iglesias traveled across the country and interviewed 186 veterans in 27 cities across 14 states. Along this journey the overwhelming kindness of the veterans’ families reinforced the idea that familial-type bonds percolate through the military, even after active service is over.
“You’re not alone,” Sattler said. “You have an extended family of people in the military, or families of people who served in the military, who are happy to help you.”
CHOSIN went on to win best documentary at the 2010 GI Film Festival. It has spawned two graphic novels, Chosin: Hold the Line and Chosin: To the Sea. An animated short film, CHOSIN: Baptized by Fire, is due to be released in May 2014.
After CHOSIN premiered in 2010, Sattler decided to return to school for a degree in marketing. He is set to graduate from Baruch College in New York in May 2014.
“Marketing for me seems like a weird arc, but for me it’s where creativity and business meet,” Sattler said. “Making the film helped me learn how to wear both hats.”
Below is a trailer for CHOSIN:
CHOSIN will be making its cable premier this Memorial Day, Monday, May 26, on the American Heroes Channel at 9pm/8pm Central Time.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.