Origin of Birthday

From Writer/Director Chris King

In July of 2012, I came across this photo online of an unknown wounded young Marine.  I don't remember why or how it showed up in my email, but it hit me like a ton of bricks.  For some reason I couldn't stop looking at this picture.  Being a vet myself I naturally have a soft spot for our wounded veterans, so photos of them always have an affect on me.  But this photo in particular spoke to me in ways others hadn't, but I couldn't put my finger on why.  It haunted me.  Maybe because it was a combination of how young he was, that his eye was missing and face so badly damaged, and that his expression was just so, well, expressionless.  I began to insert all sorts of meanings into this image until my curiosity as to who this young Marine was couldn't take it anymore.  So the process of tracking him down began.

 

After a few weeks of research via websites, phone calls and emails, I discovered this young man to be Corporal Kyle Carpenter, a severely wounded Marine who was still recovering at Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland.  We first chatted on the phone and later via Skype.  What an amazing human being.  Such a positive (almost cheerful) attitude on him despite having had his jaw (and teeth) blown out, his eye lost and his arm and leg shredded by a grenade that was thrown onto a balcony where he and a fellow Marine stood.  His injuries came from having jumped on that grenade.

 

These initial conversations with Kyle began my script about the severely wounded veteran rehabilitative process that ultimately become Birthday.  Two years later we finally made the film, but more significantly...Kyle received the Medal of Honor for his courageous act.