Royal Navy: Gritty action series starring Royal Marines to shine an 'uncomfortable' light on trauma of war

FORMER Royal Marines have banded together to shine an ‘uncomfortable’ light on the grim realities of war – and its traumatic after-effects – as part of a gritty new thriller, shot entirely by military personnel.

Monday, 23rd November 2020, 6:16 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th November 2020, 9:38 am

Sam Seeley has joined forces with pals Dan Shepherd and James Clarke to film a five-part web series, entitled Sunray.

The trio, who are now serving as photographers for the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, are using their experiences as Commandos to shape the action-packed show, and their talent behind the lens to film it.

They have already recorded the trailer for the project, having pumped in about £6,000 of their own money to fund it during lockdown.

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Some of the cast pictured filming during a scene in Portsmouth.

Now they have launched a crowdfunding effort to raise £60,000 to fund the filming of five full episodes – a plea already answered by hundreds of people, raising almost £24,000 in a matter of days.

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The former green berets hope to use the show as a unique platform to bring veterans together and come to terms with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the guilt of losing friends.

Afghanistan veteran Sam, who served nine years with the Marines, came up with the idea as a way to deal with his own mental health problems a year ago.

A promotional image of the film Sunray, recorded and created by former Royal Marines.

‘It was a way of me sharing how I was feeling and some of the things I was thinking and experienced by putting them in a fictional story,’ said the 30-year-old of Southsea.

‘I wanted to attack and create a platform for mental health and veterans but in a fun way.

‘People can be really scared about approaching mental health and are worried about showing people potentially trying to commit suicide

‘We wanted to show it in a way that’s dramatic and hard-hitting but still focuses on the issues at hand, which for us is PTSD and primarily survivors’ guilt.’

Sam Seeley, pictured right, with one of the cast members from the series - who is a serving Royal Marine - during a scene at Eastney beach

Sunray follows the exploits of four retired Commandos as they turn into vigilantes to bring down a brutal crime syndicate.

The cast is made up of three serving Marines and one retired Commando, who use their military training to stage fast-paced gun battles and fight scenes.

But the series also draws upon the cast’s own lived experiences battling mental health and the loss of colleagues during war to create realistic and sometimes ‘uncomfortable-to-watch’ scenes.

Behind-the-scenes footage of Sunray being filmed in an underpass in Portsmouth.

Afghanistan veteran Dan, 29, of Gosport, said the stark realities of mental trauma was something often brushed over in film and on TV.

‘The mental health struggles that a lot of veterans go through after traumatic experiences – is dark and horrible,’ he added. ‘It’s not comfortable. So we shouldn’t show it in a way that feels comfortable for the audience.

‘We want people to be able to understand what it is like… to see that raw emotion and not just someone acting but someone pulling from real memories and experiences.’

In one harrowing scene, veteran Marine Tip Cullen – now a professional actor – is shown breaking down with a pistol in his mouth as he contemplates taking his own life.

‘Tip had shared with us some of his deepest and darkest thoughts, and some of the places he has been to, seeing quite of few of his friends who were strong men and seasoned soldiers, commit suicide,’ Sam said. ‘The whole set went quiet during his performance.

‘The raw footage is incredible… you could tell he was pulling from that emotional memory, from himself or losing some of his friends.’

Former Royal Marine Dan Shepherd, picturing filming Sunray

Dan added: ‘It might not be easy to watch but this is the reality. And we all think that this is what needs to be shown to understand it.’

To support Sunray’s kick-starter appeal, see kickstarter.com/projects/sammyseeley/sunray.

The News launched the Veterans in Crisis campaign to shine a light on the mental health issues faced by veterans as they readjust to life outside the forces. We all also called on the government to change the law so that coroners have to record whether people who take their own lives are veterans in order to gain a more accurate picture of the situation.

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Southsea-based naval photographer Sam Seeley who put the script together for the series and is leading the project.
Former Royal Marine James Clarke pictured filming Sunray during a scene at Eastney Beach.
The Veterans in Crisis campaign