“Saved rounds” is a colloquialism used in the military, referring to a piece of information that a person forgot to say after telling everyone they can leave. But what do you do when you’re no longer able to deliver that information?
A short film by actor and director Doc Farrow, “Saved Rounds” attempts to chart the journey of an alcoholic veteran, racked by survivor’s guilt, to deliver a gift to the family of a fallen comrade. Deborah Leonhardt, who co-wrote the script, plays his supportive but beleaguered girlfriend accompanying him.
“You don’t find out who you are until you get shot at,” Farrow half-jokingly stated in a recent interview. Though many know Farrow as Coach Wilkins on the CBS comedy series “Young Sheldon,” they may not know that he had a military career.
Farrow reveals he got his nickname during his service. “Doc is a nickname that marines give their corpsmen. We’re the ones that go in, stand shoulder to shoulder with them, and patch them up. So if you’re good, you walk away with the honored nickname of Doc.” Farrow doesn’t reveal his birth name.
It was only after retiring that he even thought about becoming an actor, and it was Dave Chapelle and Larry the Cable Guy, in a manner of speaking, that led to the decision. Farrow was living in Arizona and studying nursing when, “One night, as I was smoking a cigar watching TV. Dave Chapelle and Larry the Cable Guy were on. I just said to myself, ‘Yeah, I can do that.’” He soon began acting classes. The classes strengthened his belief he was on the right path, though they weren’t easy for him. “You’re talking about someone from the military,” he explains, “who has learned how to lock up every rational emotion, so it was very challenging for me.”
Fate then stepped in and prodded him to move closer to film and TV mecca Los Angeles. “I lost my job, and with $2,100 in my pocket, hopped on my motorcycle and rode to L.A.,” Farrow recalled. He got into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and started getting roles and doing stand-up.
The film was shot in Palmdale, Calif.—the arid, rocky, terrain in “Saved Rounds” mirrors both the battlefield in Iraq, and the one in the mind of Farrow’s character (also named Doc) when he returns home. Stated Farrow, “I did not think of this film being set anywhere other than desert. It needed to be the essence of desert warfare. Also, Doc’s soul needed to be in a place of desertedness.”
The experience forced Farrow to confront his own demons. “It took me two and a half years to get past my own hurt and my own feelings about my life and move back into the space of what my therapist calls ‘moral and spiritual fracturing,’ to allow myself to write the script and shoot the film,” he explains.
“There were people in combat who died who I had been close with, and some died when they got back from the war and a lot of that had to do with suicide or drugs and alcohol.” Losing comrades after they return, he pointed out, is sometimes harder. “It’s a much bigger pain because I have to deal with, ‘If I had been there, it may have been different.’”
This struggle is dramatized by another character in the film, who haunts Doc. Farrow explains, “He represents the people that died that I was there for, those who died I wasn’t there for, and people I could not save who were back home going through what they had to go through.”
He is candid about his continuing struggle with the effects of being in a war and how it affected his ability to write and act. “The nightmares started to come back and I was forced to learn how to embrace that for the writing. The irritability when spending time around people came back.”
However, Farrow persisted, committed to telling a story that would resonate on a human level. “The character has to be brave enough to overcome, and in order to write that, I had to be able to bring everything that I have, and am still, overcoming.” A feeling of responsibility to his audience pushed him. “I had to go there myself. If I didn’t then the next person won’t be able to see that we all go through something and we all have the opportunity to heal, which is the whole point of the movie.”
In addition to getting in touch with his emotions, workshopping his script was another challenge. “That was another layer of fear that went with that. It was like, I went through all this gut-wrenching work to write this and now you’re saying it’s not good enough?” He came to learn something valuable about the creative process from the experience. “I learned they aren’t critiquing me, they’re critiquing what works and what doesn’t about the script.”
Farrell’s personal experience in battle also allowed him to see Iraquis through a different lens. “There were those who wanted us to leave. Then others were smiling and gracious even going through so much more trauma. Then I found such beauty in people stopping five times a day and praying. Listening to the prayer was a beautiful thing. It’s not for me, but it was still beautiful to see and hear.”
“Saved Rounds” is still on the film festival circuit. Follow @savedrounds in IG and Facebook for screening opportunities and more info.