Veteran Created Film “Tango Down”
On Friday, November 8, VIDI SPACE will honor Veterans Day 2019 (11/11/19) with the premiere of Tango Down, a short film from Veteran Powered Media.
Tango Down is the first in a series of films by Veteran Powered Media whose unique goal seeks to provide opportunities for veterans, raise awareness for veteran suicide, and connect those who have served in the armed forces via film.
In preparation for the VIDI SPACE premiere, I had the chance to interview Tango Down Executive Producers Micah Haughey and Julia Ling to find out more about the film and its unique veteran-centric mission.
- AR, Editor
”Our mission is to create opportunities for veterans, service members and first responders to make films.
Starting with the most important question…Why was this movie made? In several places various cast/crew/production/etc. mention that this a movie “For Marines, by Marines…”. Can you elaborate on that idea? What can the civilian viewer expect to learn/get from the film as well as the non-civilian, military audience?
Tango Down is not just a film. It’s just one project in a series of hopefully many more to come from Veteran Powered Films. Our mission is to create opportunities for veterans, service members and first responders to make films. Through the film-making process, we hope to build a community in which veterans help inspire each other, where civilians and veterans can work together and learn more about each other, and where veterans can simultaneously learn new skills that can help them with their transition back into civilian life. Many of the vets on the film had never worked in film before. We were able to help provide on-set experience and training that will help them as they pursue their careers in the entertainment industry. The most important aspect, though, is the community. People on Tango Down have built lasting friendships. They continue to stay in touch, and have even worked on their own projects together. That is what this is all about. Helping veterans connect with other veterans so they don’t feel isolated. Helping them connect with civilians so that hopefully civilians can learn to understand them better. For example, Roger S. Christiansen, a highly respected director in the industry (Friends, Murphy Brown, Hannah Montana) who directed Tango Down said that working with this team really helped him understand veterans better (an interview with him: https://vimeo.com/277225745).
It seems that the movie industry loves a good “combat film” but I’m not sure how many actual veterans are involved in the writing process of these huge blockbuster-type movies. I understand that the films will typically have consultants that offer ideas to make the film more realistic, but that seems to be about it. Making a movie written by those who have firsthand knowledge of combat and its impact on the return to civilian life seems like it would be incredibly rewarding. How did you find it as an EP? Were there any challenges?
I understand why most Hollywood combat films don’t focus on accuracy – it’s not easy. Often times, big blockbuster films gloss over little details, but those are precisely the details that our veterans have been trained to detect and notice as they watch the film. Just about every vet on set that we’ve talked to had the same complaint about most “war” movies. The lack of attention to detail distracts them and pulls them out of the story. That’s why authenticity was important to our team. The veterans wanted to make everything as accurate as possible. Not just with the uniforms, but with the way the characters talked and carried themselves. We went to great lengths to ask about the details and did our best to do it right.
Do you have any idea (even an estimate) on the total number of veterans that had a hand in putting everything together? Can you elaborate on a few of their roles?
There were over 40 veterans on the cast and crew, and even more whose artwork, businesses or products we were able to feature through the whole process, not just in the film itself, but also part of our social media and press outlets. Every time we talked about the film publicly, we tried to highlight a business or piece of work by a veteran or first responder. Additionally, many veterans and non-veterans voluntarily joined in on the fundraising effort or outreach, so the number of veterans involved is much higher than just 40. Tango Down was created by mostly veterans. The main cast and much of the crew (wardrobe, set decoration, behind-the-scenes, fight choreography, etc) were vetereans. Recon Marine Rudy Reyes flew in a day early from Australia to be our 1st. AD. Veterans continued to join even after the film was already wrapped. Army veteran Chris Martin came onboard after post was complete to help raise money to pay off the deferred fees to the cast & crew so that we could distribute the film. Mark Gillespie donated his trail mixes and granolas to all of our guests at the premiere. The core and heart of this team was made up of veterans.
Can you give me a basic idea of how long the filming lasted? Where was it shot?
The film was shot over 4 days in Riverside County and the City of Banning in California. It was a fairly ambitious schedule, but one of the things I love about working with veterans is that when they have a mission under pressure, they’ll find a way to execute and get the job done.
What was/is this films mission? It obviously has a purpose much greater than “let’s make a compelling film”. What was that?
Our ultimate mission is to help prevent veteran suicide. We want to do more than just raise awareness. We want to try to create opportunities for veterans, servicemembers and first responders to make movies and create artwork, and be a part of a community where they can feel they belong and enjoy building something. We want to employ them, hire and cast as many veterans and LEO as possible. We want to continue to promote veteran-owned products and especially their small businesses. Moving forward with new projects, we want to continue to build this community, get them involved in the arts, give them a creative outlet, help them heal and connect with like-minded folks as well as civilians so that civilians can better understand them. We want to do whatever we can to prevent suicide, anxiety, loneliness, or some of the other issues veterans face, because these folks have put their lives on the line and sacrificed so much to serve our country, and it’s only right that we do what we can to give back.