September 1, 2015

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU’s Barnas Writes Battle of Wanat Script, Wins Best of Festival at BEA

On July 13, 2008, at a remote outpost near the village of Wanat, in the Waygal District of Nuristan Province in Afghanistan, 49 American soldiers and 24 Afghan National Army soldiers were attacked by some 200 Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents bearing small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. The well-coordinated battle raged for nearly four hours, as the Americans — most of them United States Army personnel from the 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team — and the Afghanis defended their position amidst heavy, unrelenting, intense fire and eventually defeated their enemy. Nine Americans died and 27 more were wounded in what has become known as one of the bloodiest attacks since the war began — the Battle of Wanat.  

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University’s Frank Barnas won Best of Festival in the Faculty Scriptwriting Competition, Feature/Television Hour Category, at the Broadcast Education Association’s 2015 Festival of Media Arts. His script, “The Chosen Few,” was the result of four months of research into the Battle of Wanat, a process that included viewing military footage, transcribing interviews with surviving soldiers, reading volumes of government documents, learning as much as possible about the war in general, and studying the location of the attack. 

“I was incredibly honored to receive the scriptwriting award, as the competition was comprised of the finest writers at the best programs …,” said Barnas, a professor of mass media. “Hopefully, awards like this will generate interest in the script so the soldiers’ stories can ultimately be told.

“Several movie studios, including Lions Gate Films, have expressed an interest, but we’ll have to see how that plays out. It’s a very hard movie to watch, as so many of Chosen Company’s soldiers are killed during the battle. Still, it’s an important story about men who were horribly outnumbered, abandoned by their chain of command, low on food and ammo, but they still fought against overwhelming odds. This is a story that needs to known by everyone who has forgotten about the Afghan War.”

The project came about when A. Blake Pearce, dean of the College of the Arts at VSU, met Frankie Gay, Valdosta resident and father of Cpl. Pruitt A. Rainey, 22, one of the nine American soldiers who lost their lives during the Battle of Wanat.

“Frankie Gay was incredible with the amount of information he provided …,” said Barnas, who consulted with wife and colleague Marie M. Elliott, assistant professor of mass media and award-winning filmmaker, throughout the project.

Barnas said Gay introduced “Marie and I to several of the soldiers who had fought in Afghanistan. Marie was instrumental in getting the ball rolling and sat in on some of the video research before I began writing.” 

Seventeen faculty and student works were chosen to receive the highly coveted Best of Festival Award in their respective competitions during the 2015 Festival of Media Arts, an international competitive festival open to Broadcast Education Association (BEA) members. These winners were selected from a pool of more than 1,300 entries from more than 150 colleges and universities around the world in nine areas — audio, video, documentary, interactive, multimedia, news, scriptwriting, sports, and two-year/small colleges.

Barnas was the only winner from a University System of Georgia institution of higher education. He said his greatest competition came from such schools as California State University-Northridge, the University of North Carolina, the University of Oklahoma, and San Francisco State University.  

Barnas joined the VSU faculty as an assistant professor in the College of the Arts, Department of Communication Arts in 1997. He worked his way up the ranks and was named a full professor in 2008. Before becoming a Blazer, he worked for two NBC affiliates, one in Missouri and one in Texas, and taught classes at the University of Texas, Southwest Texas State University, and the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Texas, and an Education Specialist from Florida State University.

Barnas has written four academic textbooks, an interactive children’s book, six screenplays, and a play and has worked on documentaries in locations ranging from Russia to Antarctica. Four of his scripts, “The Ragged Man,” “Antibiotic,” “The Monster Movie,” and “Taggers,” have received good reviews and/or awards. He wrote, produced, directed, photographed, and edited a 60-minute video, “Antarctic Voyage: Imaging Unseen Earth,” which won the Educational Documentary Category of the 1992 College Television Awards from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (College Emmy Award). He is currently completing his third Fulbright Award as he produces a documentary, “The Hill of Witches,” in Lithuania.    

Contact Frank Barnas at (229) 333-7099 or to learn more.

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About BEA:

Established in 1955, the Broadcast Education Association is the premiere international academic media organization, driving insights, excellence in media production, and career advancement for educators, students, and professionals. It boasts a membership of more than 2,500 individual and institutional members worldwide. 

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