Rise of the Indie Vet Filmmaker

It has become very easy for the legacy of veterans in film to be lost amidst the glamour of A through C List Celebrities, reminiscent remakes, & the ever growing number of Marvel and DC comic book screenplay adaptations. Though we often times enjoy these films, as a Veteran, you can’t help but wonder why the lack of representation or familiarity. What happened to the days where we were SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, remembering that WE WERE SOLDIERS, and honoring A FEW GOOD MEN. With roughly 1% of the country’s population having served in the Armed Forces, only a small portion of society has been able to relate to and truly appreciate these stories of triumph, sacrifice, struggle, and loss. With less of this 1% being able to break through into the film industry, even fewer of these stories are being told. However, thanks to organizations like the G.I. Film Festival (GIFF), the growing number of Indie Vet Filmmakers can again portray these ACTs OF VALOR in attempts to bridge an understanding and representation of our veterans in the industry and most importantly, with society.

What is the GIFF?

Founded in 2006 by Army Veteran Laura Law-Millett and her husband Brandon Millett, the G.I. Film Festival has served as a Non-Profit Organization geared towards helping veterans project an understanding of the Armed Forces through film and television. Every year for the past eleven years, in May and October, Indie Vet Filmmakers and supporters gather in Washington D.C. & in San Diego in the hopes of preserving the legacies of our veterans. They, thankfully, aren’t alone in this mission.

Hollywood Paves a Boulevard for Vets

The support for Veterans in the film industry, Hollywood to be more specific, has graciously grown through the years. With the increasing number of Veterans attending film schools in L.A. or pursuing careers in front of and behind the camera; Hollywood has begun to show how appreciative they are for Veteran’s services for the country and their diligence on set. From Production Assistants to Camera Operators and Directors, Veterans magically niche well on set. Directors and Producers are very happy to express how well Vets take direction and remain at least one step ahead of the game. This allows for an easier day of filming which often saves time and helps to keep a production within budget. As a response to the rise of veterans wanting to enter the film industry, more organizations are helping to ease the entry for Vets in Hollywood.

Camaraderie of the 1%

As the famous Hollywood saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Luckily for Vets, through camaraderie and a mutual understanding of and for the same things, Veterans find it much easier to work and communicate with one another. Organizations, such as Vets Mentoring Vets (VMV), Veterans in Film and Television (VFT), and U.S. Vets, have formed solely for the sake of assisting Veterans to transition into the various career opportunities (i.e. the film industry). These organizations and more have found the perfect ways of transitioning the skills of Veterans into skills needed for their careers on set.

Examples of Skill Transitions:

  • With a valid driver’s license Veterans with Military Driver’s Training can find a position as a Teamster with the Motion Picture and Theatrical Trade Division or driving production trucks for businesses who deliver equipment to set (i.e. The Production Truck or Quixote).
  • Military Engineers may find an easy transition of their skills into multiple departments on set, such as Grip or Electric.
  • Most Vets will find that the simple skills learned upon entry into the Armed Forces are enough to sustain a position as a Production Assistant.
  • Logistics may find a home for their military skills working with production equipment rental warehouses or assistance with running studios for productions.

The opportunities are more vast now than ever before for Veterans to have an opportunity at a career in the film industry. How close are we to bridging the gap of society’s understanding of Veterans and the stories they inevitably have to tell? Still will have to say closer now than ever before. With the continuous rise of the Indie Vet Filmmakers, there are more perspectives of the military experience waiting to be cinematically portrayed meaning more chances at bridging the gap of understanding between Veterans and Society.

Michael Hubbard
U.S. Army Vet
Film Editor/Screenplay Writer