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the film
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“No one walks the trail alone“


"The Keeper" is based on an inspiring true story of one Army Veteran, challenged by his own demons and searching for hope and answers while hiking from Maine to Georgia on the Appalachian Trail.

(Based on a true story) Heavily impacted by his fellow veteran's suicides, George Eshleman (Angus Benfield), an Army Veteran, decides to help raise awareness for military member suicides by hiking the entire nearly 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. On the trek, he carries 363 name tapes from the uniforms of military members who committed suicide, given to him by their families.

Along the way he is given the trail name of “The Keeper” (of the names) and finds support and comfort from fellow hikers, civilians, and military Veterans alike, in the "Hiker Universe.” This adventurous subculture forms a network of hikers that revel in their common purpose and an unspoken meaning of life that drives them down the trail and over the next peak.

From the beginning, George meets four unique, military Veteran hikers (Michael Maclane, Haley Babula, Andrew Ferguson, Nicholas Asad) who shadow his hike, motivate his efforts, and seem to keep tabs on him from beginning to end. Despite the support of fellow hikers and Veterans for his noble mission, his own depression threatens to overtake his judgement as he plots his own suicide along the trail. With his darkness only a few paces from his mind, George fights a daily battle along the trail as he struggles to prove his mettle, conquer his depression, and focus on the mission of finishing the trail.

“The Keeper,”  is based on the life story of George Eshleman, directed by Angus Benfield, co-directed by Kendall Bryant Jr. with screenplay by Todd Tavolazzi and story by George Eshleman.  

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Cast and crew filmed for 3 weeks out on the Appalachian trail, in Georgia, Virginia Tennessee & Maine. "As we filmed we met many people along the trail who were Veterans, who had tears in their eyes as they shared with us personal stories of the pain they themselves have gone through – this story made them want to share their stories, and it was why we were there on the Appalachian Trail, and why we are here…to tell George’s story, and the story of the 363, and the story of the 22 every day, and the story of the countless number connected in someway to all those who have lost their lives and those who are losing the battle of a war that never seems to end.” Director: Angus Benfield.

"My focal point was sincerity and authenticity—essential elements in portraying the journey of a veteran navigating the Appalachian Trail in solitude, facing inner demons head-on. The film aspired to accurately represent the military and veterans, delving beyond battlefield experiences to encompass the challenges encountered in the broader landscape of post-war life. A key emphasis was placed on authentically depicting relationships, from the camaraderie and banter within the military to the profound bonds shared among members of different branches in the brotherhood and sisterhood of the armed forces."

Co-Director Kendall Bryant Jr.

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The Veterans Administration statistics confirm that 22 veterans die by suicide every day on American soil.


According to reports, the rates for the active-duty individual services per 100,000 were 23 for the Army, 23.1 for the Marine Corps, 14.4 for the Air Force and 13.4 for the Navy.

“Unless the issue of veteran suicide is constantly kept in the minds of Americans, it will silently disappear as many important issues do because of the vast amount of information we all have to compete with. Keeping this issue alive is a fight in itself. Just as we fought for our brothers in combat, we must continue to fight to bring assistance and improvement to the current processes and solutions for them and their families.”

“This trek is not for notoriety, but for every soldier who dreams of leaving the battlefield and having an outlet for help.”


George Eshleman.

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This is half of what we set out to do… 


Honor the victims and their families…


The other half is to prevent the need to honor more…


Todd Tavolazzi.

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"I want this story to reach everyone in such a way that they cannot help but see the importance of the phrase “No one walks the Trail alone”.

"The path we take in life dictates how our lives unfold. We have the power to change, improve, and carry on. That is what a journey is. Nothing in our lives can be accomplished alone. We will always fight the urge to reach out for help because we feel we have control.

I want this story to reach everyone in such a way that they cannot help but see the importance of the phrase “No one walks the Trail alone”. Opening up and asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a gesture of love to those who care about us.

Mental illness is such a frowned upon term that many people, including myself have kept inside. That illusion of strength I thought I had, almost killed me.


This film exposed my personal journey through that learning curve, and I came out the other side changed. I wanted to let everyone I meet know that the solution is not to take on more than we can possibly handle and to speak up. There is always someone who will stand by you and walk that Trail with you. The Trail of life."


George Eshleman

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Please know that you are not alone, if you are a service member in crisis or are concerned about one please reach out, there are many wonderful resources available to you, help is here.

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The Support
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WRITER (screenplay by)

Kendall first discovered acting during grade school and his passion for story telling continued throughout high school. He founded Chaos2Love Productions which has produced internationally distributed and award winning short films, documentaries and web-series and partnered with LAMA Entertainment to produce feature films Yellow Bird and The Great Turkey Town Miracle. He also co-directed The Keeper and directed The Deprogrammer and Stan the Man.


"I bring a distinctive perspective shaped by my background as a Marine Corps Desert Storm Combat Veteran. This lens affords me a nuanced understanding of the challenges that confront combat veterans, both in the crucible of battle and upon their return to civilian life. My personal journey through PTSD has provided me with a firsthand awareness of the profound struggles individuals face, particularly in grappling with the impact of suicide. Active involvement in various Facebook groups and collaboration with organizations dedicated to supporting veterans in crisis further underscore my commitment to addressing these critical issues."



Angus Benfield is an Australian-born, multi-award-winning director, producer, actor and writer and is the Founder and CEO of LA based film production and distribution company LAMA ENTERTAINMENT and production company BRIDGE & ACORN ENTERTAINMENT. "The Keeper" is Angus's 7th film as director.  

Angus is also an accomplished, multiple award-winning and incredibly versatile actor, having acted alongside some of the biggest names in Hollywood including, Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, Eric Roberts, Julia Garner, Bob Gunton, Brian Doyle-Murray, Angus Macfadyen, Doug Jones, Corbin Bernsen, Jamie King, Brian Posehn, Kris Poloha, Cate Blanchett, Anna Chlumsky, Kathy Garver, Judy Norton, LL Cool J, Eric Christian Olsen and Chris O'Donnell.

"My vision for THE KEEPER was to retain the authenticity of the story and its environment and to not over stylize or sanitize the substance of the story or the setting of its world. Tackling the dual worlds of the military and the hiking community was core to telling this story, showing the real Appalachian Trail was paramount, along with its actual locations, hostels, and real people along the way, mixed with true military veterans in our cast and crew

This is not a big over-bloated Hollywood telling of George’s story, this is intimate and personal and made with a small crew to reduce the footprint of the film on the trail, made with real veterans and hikers as consultants, casting unknown actors for their skill and ability and heart for the project, rather than bringing in a 'name'.

You’re never alone. I have heard this phrase from so many people who I believed couldn’t understand how difficult it is to pick what dreams you have, or what memories you cannot shake. Even the name tapes I carried didn’t seem at that time to be more than companions along for the ride.


It wasn’t until I sat behind a large, beautiful tree just off the Appalachian Trail in Maine. All those memories and walls I couldn’t seem to break through were about to come to a head. Pistol in hand and relinquishing the fight I figured I could never win; I was ready. As I was petting the name tapes as if they were a pet I was getting comfort from; emotions rushed in. “What are you doing?” was a simple question and the reason I am still here.


“You’re never alone” now has a new meaning for me, and I tell that to every veteran and civilian I talk to who feels like I did behind that tree.

WRITER (story by)
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Todd grew up in San Diego, he served in the Marine Corps Reserve as an Infantry Scout and Light Armored Vehicle Crewman at Camp Pendleton, California, before he attended the U.S. Naval Academy. He was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy and served as a Surface Warfare Officer onboard a supply ship stationed in Bremerton, Washington, before he was granted a transfer into Naval Aviation. He earned his Navy "Wings of Gold" in 2002 and flew the MH-53E Sea Dragon, the MH-60S Knighthawk helicopters, and the CMV-22B Osprey Tilt-Rotor aircraft.


While I had been writing novels and screenplays for several years when I came across George's post on a freelance writer website, I knew immediately I wanted to help get his story told as a film. After hearing his experience about hiking the AT and his dedication to honoring not only veteran vicitms of suicide but also the loved ones who are left behind to grieve, it became my mission as an active duty Navy pilot (with 32 years of service - and counting) and screenwriter, to get George's story out to as wide of an audience as possible.

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The Team
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