‘American Sniper’ Screenwriter Jason Hall: Finding Purpose in Tragedy

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“There’s a lot of ways to succeed and you don’t always know what’s going to make you happiest — what’s the most fulfilling — if you can’t get past your ego and your own idea of what you’re supposed to be.”

Jason Hall, Oscar-Nominated Screenwriter of “American Sniper”


Jason Hall is having a moment. The country is having a moment.

Although hardly an overnight success story, it’s fair to say American Sniper is this talented screenwriter’s big break. A break so big he just might win his first Oscar a few days from today. But the celebratory mood is tempered by one inescapable fact: it is constructed from the tragic demise of a man named Chris Kyle. The soldier who not only serves as this contentious movie’s protagonist, but was also a man Jason called friend.

In an era when studios shy away from war movies as box office poison, American Sniper is an unsuspecting juggernaut. Breaking records left and right, the Bradley Cooper starrer seems to have touched a national nerve, packing theatres across the U.S. to the tune of over $300 million domestically and a fast approaching $400 million worldwide grossNot only is American Sniper Clint Eastwood’s most successful film to date, it’s the highest grossing war film of all time.

And yet the film is not without its critics and controversy. Propaganda or protest movie? War polemic or character study? The glorification of a highly skilled killer or the tragic tale of one man’s demise? 

Let the pundits pontificate, Jason Hall would say. The important thing is that people are now talking about things that need talking about.

Irrespective of your personal feelings about this film, you cannot deny that it is a work that demands to be reckoned with. A reckoning that has catalyzed a productive dialog around a litany of important issues such as:

  • the incidence and treatment of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) in today’s soldiers;
  • the physical, mental and emotional impact of multiple deployments on soldiers, their families and society; and
  • how to systemically improve the much needed care and support we provide our troops.

This is the dialog that interests Jason – a guy with his feet on the ground who really gets that the success of this movie is not about him. It’s about service. It’s about the responsibility we collectively shoulder as a society – irrespective of politics — to do a much better job of taking proper care of the men and women who voluntarily enlist to place their lives on the line daily, and without reservation.

This is a compelling conversation about many things, from the machinations of Hollywood to the fragility of life. But to me, this is about the responsibility to make your journey about something bigger and more important than your self and your ego.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange.

Peace + Plants,

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Production, music & sound design by Tyler Piatt. Additional production by Chris Swan. Graphic art by Shawn Patterson. Thanks boys!

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