"The Colonel," a story about a Marine veteran's second act as a football coach and builder of young men at a Texas school, has claimed top honors in the first-ever GI Film Festival Trailer Wars competition — in dominating fashion.

The film's trailer received 84 percent of the vote in a final audience poll, pitted against fellow finalist "American Veteran." It was the last of 15 head-to-head, single-elimination votes featuring previews of films that will screen during this year's GI Film Festival in Washington, D.C. 

And much like the trailer may set the tone for the film, Tim Williams, the writer/producer/director of "The Colonel," hopes the short film will lead to bigger things.

"The idea was to cast it and basically do the feature first, but it may have been a little ambitious," he said in a Thursday interview. "One of the ideas was, let's do a short for a lot less money and do a proof-of-concept."

The short will screen at the GI Film Festival on May 28 as part of the "Honor and Sacrifice" event at the Navy Memorial Theater. Williams, based in Texas, will make the trip to D.C., as will family members of retired Marine Lt. Col. Ralph "Rocky" Rosacker, whose life story inspired the film.

Rosacker served in World War II and Korea before retiring to a career in education, eventually becoming a coach and instructor at Fort Worth Country Day School, which Williams attended. Rosacker died in 2001; Williams gave the eulogy at his funeral.

"From script to filming the short, [Rosacker's family] has been very much involved," Williams said. "They've been extremely supportive and provided a tremendous amount of information, but also the encouragement to keep going. They've been somewhat of an extended family for me, to get this project done."

Kevin Durand ("The Strain," "X-Men Origins: Wolverine") plays the Marine-turned-educator. Williams said the actor's performance as a police officer in "Fruitvale Station" put him on the radar for the role.

"He's so bigger than life," Williams said. "He has a tremendous presence, and I thought, 'That's the guy.' In some ways, he's on the cusp of really being a big-name actor. ... He brings so much to it."

Williams discovered the GI Film Festival while entering the short into other festivals, and said "to have a place to screen the movie, which was so much about honoring the highest principles of the Marine Corps, which was what this character represented, and to be able to show that at the U.S. Navy Memorial, was just one of those Hollywood-type fits."

Williams has modified his feature script and plans to start production on a full-length version of "The Colonel" later this year, he said. Durand has "right of first negotiation" to reprise his role in the feature, Williams said.

While "The Colonel" cruised to its first-place Trailer Wars win, the third-place matchup was a nail-biter. Only a handful of votes separated "A War Within" (51 percent) from "Charlie & Sam" (49 percent) in the fight for the bronze medal.

For more on "The Colonel," visit the film's official websiteand Facebook page. For more on the GI Film Festival, head to its official websiteor to its

, which includes trailers for all Trailer Wars participants.

Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.

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