"Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" was an ambitious project for Tina Fey to undertake for a couple of reasons: First, it's a drama and not a comedy. Second, she plays a journalist embedded with the U.S. military in Afghanistan, which means the movie tees up a lot of military details that Hollywood has a history of getting wrong -- much to the chagrin of the military community.
But fortunately for Ms. Fey, the production team behind "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" knew a few things about making a movie that deals with military subjects, not the least of which was understanding how to navigate the Pentagon's approval process.
"Because of this script we had a need from the beginning to get the U.S. military to support the project," producer Ian Bryce said. "The military does quite well to make these movies great."
Bryce approached the Department of Defense's director of entertainment media, Philip Strub, a guy he'd worked with before on other military-related movies. Strub had some reservations about whether "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" ultimately presented the U.S. military in the right light.
"But we talked it through," Bryce said.
Ultimately Bryce was able to convince Strub that "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" was an accurate, positive portrayal of the American military experience, and so the effort got the green light from the Pentagon for direct U.S. military support. The crew wound up using Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico to replicate Bagram Air Force Base as well as the surrounding lands to replicate the wilds of Afghanistan.
The movie features Air Force pararescue airmen and their assets including H-60 helicopters and CV-22 tiltrotors. And although access to the real people and machinery made the shoot easier (and provided a greater guarantee of accuracy), Bryce pointed out that it still took a great deal of coordination to get the job done while honoring the fact that making movies wasn't the U.S. Air Force's primary duty.
"We recognized and embraced the fact that we were guests on a military facility," Bryce said. "They are doing much more serious stuff."
The digital HD version of "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" has just been released and contains special features including an interview with the author of the original book, in-depth looks at life in Afghanistan and how war correspondents cope with stress, and deleted scenes. Look for the Blu-Ray version on June 28.