In a sunny courtyard in Culver City, Kim Roy was laughing at the role reversal. For the 15 months that her husband, Army Capt. Justin Roy, was serving in Afghanistan, Kim Roy was the parent-in-chief, juggling chores and taking care of their two boys in Yelm, Wash.
Now with Mom in California, Dad was in charge and discovering the joys of being a single parent."Danny wouldn't take a nap today," Kim Roy said, rolling her eyes. "Niiice."
The 28-year-old Army wife had just arrived at the offices of Brave New Foundation for a screening of "In Their Boots," an Internet-based show that will feature the Roys in one of its episodes.
The father-son battle of wills back home was the kind of little home drama the Web documentaries aim to capture. The weekly webcast, which debuted this week, was created to raise awareness about the needs of veterans and active military personnel and their families.
The producers, supported by a three-year, $4-million grant from the Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund, combined documentary footage with live interviews with veterans service providers and questions from viewers via webcam.
"Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to take care of returning vets," said Richard Ray Perez, co-executive producer of the series.
"Less than 1% [of the population] serves in the military and we want to reach the other 99%," added Amanda Spain, who produces the segments on service members and their families. "We need to get people caring."
The producers aim to be nonpartisan, but they know they have some explaining to do because the foundation is headed by Brave New Films' producer and director Robert Greenwald. Greenwald is the mastermind behind the "The Real McCain" and other political attack videos that have circulated widely on the Internet.
Perez insisted there was a "firewall" between Brave New Films and the foundation and that the two groups work in different offices.
"We're not claiming we can be completely unbiased," Perez said. "But what I do have is compassion for the human experience, outside of any political ideology. . . . It would cheapen the human experience if we turned it into a football."
Jan Bender, a 25-year-old former Marine who hosts the webcast, acknowledged he was skeptical at first. "I was waiting to see what they were trying to push here," he said. "Most people talking about the war have an angle. . . . It's refreshing to be a part of a project that focuses on the human side of it."
Perez and his crew realize the Internet is an unconventional medium for documentaries, but they said they didn't want to have to ask TV networks or cable channels for precious airtime. Internet buzz, they hope, will expand their audience worldwide and maybe even get military personnel stationed overseas to click in.
Plus, Perez said, the Web format enables viewers to weigh in with questions and producers to supply weblinks to organizations that provide services to veterans and their families.
"It's great and wonderful to tell compelling stories, but it's not enough," Perez said. "We want to be solution-makers."
Even the work they did to find subjects for the documentaries was Internet-driven. Spain found Kim Roy on MySpace. On the profile of a mutual friend, Spain saw a photo of Roy with her boys and a headline indicating she was waiting for her husband to come home from the war. Spain then contacted her.
"At first, I was like, 'This is weird,' " said Kim Roy, a warm, talkative redhead with clear green eyes. She Googled the name of the foundation and then consulted with her husband over e-mail while he was in Afghanistan.
Roy signed on because she thought the documentary would be a good way to show the real day-to-day lives of Army wives. Also, she added, "A lot of people don't get what [soldiers] are doing over there. ... You only hear about the deaths and stuff. But my husband is over there building roads."
So in February, Spain sent Roy a consumer camera and a tripod and asked her to keep a video diary. Roy took naturally to the camera because she was so used to filming videos of her boys to send to her husband in care packages.
Roy turned in more than seven hours of footage, including scenes of herself attempting to sign on to a military instant messenger site to talk to her husband and digging up the backyard to find the cover of the septic tank. Roy also recorded scenes of her 2-year-old son, Danny, babbling unintelligibly on the phone to his father, whom he calls "Army Daddy."
Spain and her crew went up to the Roy home in Washington on April 30, days before Justin Roy was due home. They filmed the moment he stepped off the bus and embraced his family. In that scene, the boys Danny and Maddox bury their faces in Kim Roy's body as she encourages them to greet their father.
Roy saw the episode for the first time Monday. "It was odd seeing myself on there," she said. But she thought it was an honest portrayal of her life, and the emotions came rushing back. "I cried at the homecoming scene," she said.
"In Their Boots" has scheduled 26 live webcasts on Wednesdays this year, starting at 4 p.m. Pacific Time. The first episode aired Wednesday and the episode featuring Roy will air July 16. Previous episodes will be archived on the website intheirboots.com.--