Hanson at the GI Film Festival San Diego. Photo credit BH.
Brian Hanson has lived a few lives and succeeded in some of the harder endeavors known to man: earning a Ranger tab and making a movie. He grew up in Southern California, worked in Hollywood for awhile and then felt called to serve in the U.S. Army. He left Hollywood and became a Ranger serving on multiple deployments to Afghanistan. Upon returning from his service he fulfilled his dream by writing, directing and producing his first film, The Black String, starring Frankie Muniz.
WATM: Can you share about your family and your life growing up?
I was born in Detroit then my parents moved to San Diego. They were tired of the snow and wanted a new lifestyle on the West Coast. My father has always been a huge TV, film and history buff. I grew up in Escondido which is a suburb of San Diego. I had a sister that unfortunately was killed in a car accident when she was sixteen so that was a life changing moment in our lives. It was a paradigm shifter. My parents worked hard, and my youth was in many ways the normal SoCal life — riding bikes with friends, enjoying summers and playing sports. I had a real fascination toward movies and telling stories. It was always in me. I played football and baseball in high school. I also did student government. We did a field trip when I was a senior in high school to see a talk show at Paramount Studios to see The Kathy Lee Gifford Show. Seeing the stage, PAs and cameramen showed me that showbiz was a real industry and that I could do it. Even though I did (short) films with my friends it made me aware that I could direct myself toward the industry. It is a real thing.
I graduated that summer and my sister died, so all bets were off on going into the industry at that time. I did one year at San Diego State and then decided to travel abroad with a friend. We worked as bartenders and lived in the United Kingdom. It is what 18 year olds should do— go see the world. I started reading Syd Field books and Robert Rodriguez books like Rebel Without a Crew, watching El Mariachi, Swingers, Reservoir Dogs, Clerks, Blair Witch, The Following…I was really into the big studio movies (Saving Private Ryan, Back to the Future, The Matrix) and the independents. It was like you can do this, get a camcorder and you can do it. I knew I wanted to join the military, but not at that moment in my life so I came back from Europe and transferred up to Cal State Northridge. I graduated and got my proper film school bachelor’s degree. I knew I wanted to be a Writer/Director. My parents were very supportive of my endeavor in making it in Hollywood and telling stories.
Once US Forces entered Iraq in 2003, I had read voraciously about 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan. I knew I was going to join the military at some point, but when? I would be pouring drinks for young, good looking Hollywood people at a bar making hundreds of dollars a night where over their shoulder would be a TV on reporting the Battle of Fallujah. I started to not feel right about that, and I wanted to be an honest storyteller. I would like to be a storyteller that speaks truthfully and authentically and didn’t want to be the person that imitates. I didn’t want to be an imitator of Goodfellas or Full Metal Jacket. I knew I needed that life experience to be an authentic storyteller. I did a TV Pilot with some friends that we raised money for, and Brandon Routh was in it. This was right before he was cast as Superman in Superman Returns. Brandon and I bartended together at that time. He was a great guy to work with. I was also bartending at the Playboy mansion during the end of the glory days for Hefner and the Mansion. It’s tough to just walk away from all of that and you are making decent money in Hollywood. You are just one step or script away from “it” happening.
After not much happened with the TV Pilot I started to realize that Hollywood and LA are still going to be here. I wrestled a year or two of how to leave it behind after I had started a life. As I approached 30, I looked in the mirror and decided to join the Army because if I waited longer, the military wouldn’t let me join – I’d be too old. I would have regretted to my dying day if I did not serve. There were no questions in life. I knew joining as an older guy would be different when compared to most recruits. But I wanted to volunteer my time and some of the years of my life to serve my country, but I had to step up and go do it. I gotta do this and gotta do it now. I knew my goal was to come back to LA with this accomplishment and service to my country being complete.
Hanson at Fort Benning. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What made you want to become a Ranger and what was your experience like?
I didn’t know all the details when I enlisted as an 11Bravo (infantry), but I knew that Rangers and Green Berets were the high-speed special-operations units. One day in Basic Training at Fort Benning, the Ranger recruiters came out to ask for volunteers and my Drill Sergeant SFC Metcalfe looked at me and said, “Hanson, you better f’n volunteer.” So, I volunteered on the spot and a few months later I was reporting to Ranger Assessment Selection Program. Unfortunately, SFC Metcalfe was killed in action a year later when he deployed to Afghanistan with the 173rd. I thank SFC Metcalfe for pushing me to go Ranger.
I was stationed at Fort Benning with 3rd Ranger Battalion where it is a high-speed training cycle. You train for six months and then deploy for about 3 to 4 months. There is always a Ranger Battalion deployed. Just operating at that tempo, at all times, is exciting and inspiring to see your NCOs, squad leaders and platoon sergeants are on their sixth or tenth deployment. It was very inspiring to see their commitment to the unit at the cost of their family and personal time. When you are a single young, enlisted person it is very inspiring to see that level of motivation. Rangers hold themselves up to the highest standard of leading the way. You are always being tested. It is uncomfortable and you never have a chance to relax. It is a great way to stay sharp. It is a tough head space to always be in. You are always being watched. The young (new) guys compete like professional athletes to deploy, like trying to make the starting roster. Once you deploy you want to be on that mission every time. I deployed to FOB Salerno in Afghanistan on the border real close to Pakistan. My second deployment was at Camp Leatherneck/Camp Bastion and then my last deployment I was at FOB Shank aka “Rocket City”. That place was hit like all day with nonstop rockets. It’s funny how used to it you get.
The Taliban used a lot of ingenious guerrilla tactics like setting ice on the mortars to eventually melt and then go off at some point during the day. Apaches would launch to try and find the culprits however they were not there. We ran the night shift out there for High Value Targets (HVT) where we went on night raids. To see how targets were acquired and track and intel was gathering where the strike force commander was the CO. From top to bottom the whole thing was a collection of assets. We worked with the Air Force, Navy, Marines, big Army, DIA and had civilians running the drones. It is amazing to see people come together for these task forces where all of these people work together on the fly. Being 30 and seeing this strike force run by young soldiers/civilians is amazing because in Hollywood most 23-year olds close to me are up and coming bartenders/actors/writers/directors. In Afghanistan we had 23-year-old Forward Observers bringing in Chinook helicopters into dangerous LZs to pick us up for a night raid. 24-year-old squad leaders are ensuring that everyone is accounted for and that no one is left behind on the side of a mountain in Afghanistan. It is amazing to see what young people can do where they have been trained at such a high level and have high expectations. They achieve and are motivated. I think Hollywood is an amazing place where things get done, but I think a lot of it is a 10-year delay. It is a bit of an arrested development sometimes.
In a training incident I was a towed jumper. We were doing our yearly training for airfield seizures which is an entire battalion operation to seize an airfield. I was the last guy to jump out of a C-17 at night with a full combat load and got hung up on the plane which made me a towed jumper. I was hanging outside of a C-17 at 1000 to 1500 feet circling Fort Benning banging against the side of the plane and fully conscious. Thinking that I might die at any moment and this is not a normal thing to happen to people. My static line wrapped around my weapons case where when you are jumping your weapons case is attached to your thigh and your harness. Somehow there was too much slack in the static line to where it wrapped around the weapons case so it wouldn’t release me. The static line stays clipped inside the plane and it is supposed to pull the back of the pack tray. You jump and it pulls it out, but it got wrapped around and it pulled me.
I was okay with a tight body position and covered my reserve chute, so it didn’t release. I was out there for six minutes. I thought they were going to cut me loose to where all I have left is my reserve chute to land on some trees at night next to the Chattahoochee River. Then I started looking at my boots flying through the air and thought this is what parasailing must be like. Then I thought, did they forget about me and is the C-17 going to try to land? Do they not know I am out here, and I am going to do some high-speed combat roll on a tarmac as the C-17 lands? You are trained to keep a tight body position out there, so they know you are not unconscious. I kept slamming against the side of the C-17 behind a gigantic turbine engine. I hit the plane and stayed there where I started to get dragged across the skin of the plane. I felt hands underneath my arms and they pulled me in. Everybody was so glad to see I was alive and in one piece. I was just relieved as I was out there so long, I went beyond any initial shock, concern to just cut me loose guys so I can land on a tree with my reserve shoot.
They pulled me in and did a great job making sure I was okay. I had to retell the story for weeks to a lot of soldiers, especially Sgt Majors at the DFAC wanted to hear the story of a towed jumper. It was a very bizarre story because no one wants to be a towed jumper. It is a total nightmare scenario short of both chutes failing. It all ended well and twelve stitches in my chin was it. After all of that my 1stSgt checked on me and made sure I was alright. He then told me, “Get ready you are jumping tomorrow.” We had another jump the next day. The 3rd Ranger Battalion was like you are jumping tomorrow to get over any fear of jumping again. Just get out there and do it. I jumped not 24 hours later and believe me I was concerned. I said, “There is no way that can happen twice.” I got out the door and was fine. There is not a lot of pity or sympathy it is like get back up and do it again unless you are truly hurt, alright get up and do it as there is no time to think about. That is something I take with me to this day.
All of the pre-jump training you do these repetitive and boring things you already know, and I did one of those things without even thinking about it. It dawned on me why I do this training every single time. When that one time does happen, you are ready and have gone over the worst-case scenario. You will be that much quicker to save your own life or someone else. It seems so mundane and so repetitive and a waste of time until you need it. That repetitive action like weapons malfunctions….but when you need that instantaneous second nature habit it is the most important thing you could have known at that point.
Hanson at Camp Leatherneck. Photo credit BH.
Hanson on his last mission at FOB Shank. Photo credit BH.
Paratroopers jumping from C-17 Globemasters.
View of Camp Salerno. Photo credit wikipedia.com.
WATM: What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?
I am proud I stepped up to the challenge of 75th Ranger Regiment (thank you SFC Metcalfe) and made the team. Severing with my Ranger buddies was like the saying goes: “I was no hero, but I walked amongst a few.” I did my part and I know guys that are still out there doing it. I know squad leaders that are now getting their own platoons. Some guys have gone into elite units like Delta Force and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. I still think about them often and stay in touch. I want to make them proud because of the work they are still doing…I try to keep pushing myself in a way that would do right by the effort they are putting on…I am proud to have been on a team with those guys and seen what leadership means…and at such a young age and for so many people. I am proud to have seen it and been associated with that level of person.
Frankie and Paige Muniz, Kayli, Chelsea and Brian at Dances with Films. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army into Hollywood?
One thing that you see among some twenty something bartenders or Hollywood newbies that is unacceptable in the Ranger Regiment and also unacceptable in the Army are excuses. It is the same on production, there are no excuses. There are just no excuses. I don’t want to hear it other than a solution. Maybe an, “I’m sorry,” and that is it where I don’t even want to hear an excuse. Unless there is something disastrous you need to untangle. No excuses, just solutions. The high-level professional types of productions have that mentality where I really appreciate it. I do see the correlation between military units and productions. You have one mission where everyone comes together to accomplish it.
Also, you see this in the military and it is a career everything, keep moving forward just like a twenty-mile ruck march. You worry about the next step, then the next phone pole, then the next quarter mile where they will all add up. You can be overwhelmed by all of it if you look at it all at once where if you do it one step at a time you see that you can do it. Those are two crucial lessons I learned in the Army.
Hanson, Frankie and crew at Dances With Films. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What was one of the toughest lessons to learn coming from the service to Hollywood?
Even though I had worked in Hollywood before leaving, I came back a veteran, and still had to learn that there is a system in Hollywood. The system is not as rigid perhaps as the military. It isn’t just this artistic endeavor where you get to be a genius and be Quentin Tarantino or you are Steven Spielberg because you say you are. There is a hierarchy and there is a smart way to navigate. There is a way to get oriented and to a very real map of how this town works and have very realistic expectations. I think that veterans and others think of their prior accomplishments, whether a lawyer or a company commander of an infantry company, where you are not going to be a 1st AD. That is a ten-year path that is very regimented. The biggest challenge is understanding what the path to success is and how to realistically pursue those things. Know that they all take time and embrace that.
***Since leaving the Army I have learned so much by working as a Production Assistant on HBO’s Barry, Silicon Valley, Room 104 and worked as Assistant to Matthew Rhys on Perry Mason. Being on set and working for top level professionals has been an incredible learning experience and given me insight to become a better filmmaker on my own projects. I also greatly appreciate the film/tv mentorships, education and opportunities I was given through Veterans in Media Entertainment (VME), USVAA and WGF. It has been very important to find mentors and work for professionals.
Hanson with members of the cast and production staff at the Austin Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What was it like writing, producing and directing your own feature film, The Black String?
The story was percolating for a long time before making the film such as Donnie Darko, Repulsion, Jacobs Ladder, which does a great job of blending horror and military, and Rosemary’s Baby. It was conceived with my bartending buddy Andy Warrener before I joined the Army. We wanted to explore in that story what it is like to be on that edge where you are experiencing something and no one else believes. It is you against the world. How do you convince someone of something that crazy of a witch conspiracy or a coven of witches? Or some really wild, evil cabal? The moment you say those words you already sound like you are having mental problems. Doctors will definitely not be going to believe.
The challenge we wanted was for a character to have to convince his family, his friends and his doctors of something that is inconceivable where no one in the real world is going to believe that. We put that in a genre we enjoyed which was horror. Now we thought maybe we would make that movie, but I joined the Army and Andy got married and moved to Florida. The wild thing is that you never know what you write today may be a movie in five or ten years. I lived a whole crazy life in between thinking of the story while tending bar with my buddy and then going into the Army. The difference in the time gap was about seven years. I could not have guessed that would have happened, especially with Frankie Muniz.
The creative part I was very comfortable with in the directing and writing having made many short films. I got an MFA from Mt. Saint Mary’s University with the GI Bill, which is a beautiful thing, loves the GI Bill. I owe so much to the GI Bill. So, I got very comfortable with the directing portion where you get very creative to bring this vision and feeling and this emotion you have to life in a very technical way. It is running the business, the producing part of things, to where you are starting a business, you are an entrepreneur. My producing partner Richard Handley, he is a Navy veteran and was an officer and Physician’s Assistant, he runs a contracting business with the DoD. We ran a business together where many purely creative types don’t understand what that level of dedication and commitment is.
To this day I have had probably had equal amounts of discussions about corporate taxes, LLCs, investor shares and running a business as I have about storyboarding shots. When you are doing an independent film like this, truly a passion project, you are building a team that is not a whole lot different…then opening a small company. You and your business partner are shouldering the burden if not for months, but for years. You have to love it and I do where it has been a great journey to where we had such great crew members and other producers that have helped us along the way. It is a multiple year endeavor when you do something like that in the independent world. You really are from the very beginning of raising money all the way to negotiating with distributors and foreign distributors and how you cut checks to your investors. It’s a true business education and kind of feels like I got this mini MBA education.
That was unexpected but the directing part was just amazing. Working with such talented people and friends that I had before joining the Army…we really were able to bring a lot of relationships such as Ravi Patel I bartended with as well. Cullen Douglas and Ravi and I did a TV pilot in like 2008. It was amazing to be able to reach back to my pre-Army friends that are so talented and my post Army, new team of filmmaking friends and bring everybody together. We called on so many favors. We had such great support from Mt. Saint Mary’s, VME and Vega Baby. We called in every favor where it is such a positive experience. When we landed in Frankie Muniz where he is a champ.
He brought his “A game” even for the tiny movie it was. He loved the character and the chance to do something different. He gave everything to our tiny project as he would have to our multi-million-dollar project. He treated us with respect, and he treated the script with respect. He came to set daily with a big folder of his personal notes. He was meticulous like a pro and his level of preparation and how he kept track of everything and what he brought was just amazing. He took that movie and made it really something different than perhaps something we thought. Frankie made it his Breaking Bad character. Like his Malcolm in the Middle dad, Bryan Cranston did on Breaking Bad. He was still kind of that funny person but had a much darker take on it. It is a dark twist on that guy you already know. Frankie imbued the role in the film with his Malcolm in the Middle persona, but whoa that is the dark side of it. What happened? Like Breaking Bad, what went wrong? To work with a pro, I learned.
To be able to work with actors like Ravi, Frankie, Cullen, Oded and Chelsea where they are people that do this for a living to be able to work with people like that and be creative partners with them for my first feature was inspiring. To see how a team can really work with everybody really contributing some high-level creativity. Everyone on the team had so much to add. You have to shepherd the project to where everyone stays on track, but still allow personal creative contributions from cast members. A director is like a manager of a company. You have to work with the talent, resources and the money of your company. You still have to get to the goal, but you can’t be resistant to some things that are great new ideas.
Poster for The Black String. Photo credit IMDB.com.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Rich and Mari Handley with Yani and Brian. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Hanson and Handley on stage at the GI Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
“No excuses” and intense preparation for a project. It is preparing like you are the best and spending hours a day preparing. Don’t assume, always do pre-combat inspections. It is having everything truly ready to go. Because once you arrive on set and once you arrive at that location it needs to be ready and needs to be operational. If not you, need to have a back-up plan. Research and having contingency plans. Checking your equipment and your team. It can be seen as micromanaging, but it doesn’t have to be that bad. In the military everybody checks their troops. It’s just how it is to make sure your guys and your buddies are ready to go. I think that can be transferred to the civilian world and film production.
Frankie Muniz and Richard Handley in The Black String. Photo credit IMDB.com.
More of Muniz in The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
WATM: As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?
We need support from great organizations to promote veteran voices and veteran creators. Such organizations as We Are The Mighty, Veterans in Media and Entertainment (VME), of which I volunteer heavily with, the USVAA, United States Veteran Artistic Alliance, and the WGA Writer’s Guild Foundation do support veterans. We need the support from industry professionals and organizations. They are out there, and they are growing. I think that with the people in the position in power right now, the producers and executives that can green light things, I do think they do a really good job where there is always a presence of the military and law enforcement. There are always more and different perspectives. To keep in mind and do the rote, stereotypical type of story lines. There are a lot of really nuanced, interesting and unexpected perspectives that veterans can bring to the time-honored tradition of military inspired entertainment. The producers, executives and showrunners should be open to finding those unexpected angles to veteran stories.
Hanson with Steve Fiorina and Handley at the GI Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What would you like to do next in your career?
I plan on directing my second film in 2021. My first one was the horror genre where my next one is likely going to be a thriller with a military character. I always want to do things that are thought provoking. I definitely want to challenge viewers and explore philosophies. …Christopher Nolan makes great entertainment and with challenging ideas and philosophies. He is an independent filmmaker making giant movies, which is something to strive for. Since I have completed my first film…I have been working to get on great television shows as a writer. There are so many stories to tell and I joined the Army and lived this life to help tell authentic stories. I would love to be in day in and day out be in a room with other story tellers creating an amazing show. Creating stories with a team. I will continue directing but would love to be in that writer’s room doing innovative television.
Brian Matthew Rhys on “Perry Mason”. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?
I am most proud of serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment. In a sense in my career I may never do anything as meaningful as that even if I make ten more movies or even if nominated for an Academy Award. I don’t think that I’ll ever be prouder than spending those days with my Ranger buddies in Afghanistan or sweating in Fort Benning. I am also proud of making that first movie and everyone that contributed to that colossal effort from nothing. Rich Handley and I being these recent film graduates decided to make a movie where we built that coalition from the ground up. It is an effort we are very proud of and what we did and everybody that was able to help us achieve that.
On the back end we got distribution through Grindstone and Lionsgate to where we had to find everything from scratch. The studio didn’t fund this. Movie making is a risky endeavor and long commitment over many years. The movie has been out now over a year and we are still making producer phone calls and receiving emails four years later. When you divide the money, you might make on the back end of an indie film and divide the hours by what you put in it, there might not be much money so that passion that drives you to keep working. There is a bond between people that have that level of passion to work 15-hour days. You are not really thinking about the paycheck where you are there to get the job done because you believe it is similar to the military mindset.
My wife Yani Navas-Hanson is from Venezuelan; she left the country and I met her in Atlanta when I was at Fort Benning and she was studying at Georgia Tech. She was the accountant by trade and then was our accountant on the movie. She left her country, learned English here in the US and transitioned from corporate accounting to entertainment accounting and from taking on the challenges of an independent film. What someone like her can accomplish if they are driven and keep pushing forward and to be able to accomplish that in a few years is amazing. People do have to surround themselves with the right people. If you are in a relationship with someone who is not supportive with this career path or your family is not supportive, then you might have a tough time during the ups and downs. Family and friend support is crucial. I have fantastic and supportive friends and family.
Brian and Yani at Sitges Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
The first season of The Terror centered around a failed British expedition to find the Northwest Passage. The second season of this horror anthology takes place in the (fictional) Colinas de Oro War Relocation Center, a Japanese Internment Camp during World War II.
Star Trek’s George Takei stars in the show and came aboard this season as a consultant.
“Set during World War II, the haunting and suspenseful second season of the horror-infused anthology The Terror: Infamy centers on a series of bizarre deaths that haunt a Japanese-American community, and a young man’s journey to understand and combat the malevolent entity responsible,” reads the official synopsis.
The Terror: Infamy Season 2 Trailer | Coming This August
Screenshot from official trailer for ‘The Terror: Infamy’
The 10-episode season is co-created by Max Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island) and Alexander Woo (True Blood). The first season was praised for its supernatural suspense and currently has a 95 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The second season will premiere on Monday, August 12 at 9/8c.
In October 1983, the Caribbean nation of Grenada experienced a series of bloody coups over the course of a week, threatening U.S. interests as well as U.S. citizens on the island. In a controversial move, President Ronald Reagan decided to launch Operation Urgent Fury, an invasion of the island nation — and the first real-world test of the all-volunteer force in combat.
The list of Urgent Fury mistakes is a long one, but one snafu in Grenada was so huge it became legend.
The basic story is that a unit on the island was pinned down by Communist forces. Interoperability and communications were so bad, they were unable to call for support from U.S. forces over the radio.
So a member of the unit pulled out his credit card and made a long-distance call by commercial phone lines to their home base, which patched it through to the Urgent Fury command, who then passed the order down to the requested support.
There’s nothing in this world that makes a deployed troop happier than opening a care package from the folks back home. Some of momma’s cookies, hygiene stuff, and little sentimental things are always appreciated. But everyone gets hyped the moment the MWR gets some new video games.
One of the unspoken realities of deployment life is, between missions, there’s almost nothing to do. Boredom causes complacency — and complacency is cause for concern. This is where Operation Supply Drop comes in.
Since 2010, Operation Supply Drop has impacted 471 deployed units, supporting over 361,271 troops. The care packages include some of the top video games that troops miss while overseas, consoles to play them on, peripherals to enjoy them, and some coffee to help work gaming into their schedule.
Glenn D. Banton, Sr. CEO & Executive Director of Operation Supply Drop, tells We Are The Mighty “Being able to provide a positive impact and morale boost to our troops at this scale is a huge driver for OSD. What really keeps us going is that many of these men and women then become active members in our community programs when redeploying back home. OSD provides relevant services to the military community during service, through transition, and into civilian life.”
(Photo by Maj. Erik Johnson)
While this is their most well-known program, it’s only about half of their mission statement. They’re also making great things happen in a program they call Respawn, through which they supply injured troops at military medical centers around the world with video games. There have been many studies conducted on the physical and mental health benefits of playing video games. Mentally-challenging and thought-provoking games have been instrumental in assisting those who sustain traumatic brain injuries.
(Photo by Mr. Steven Galvan)
Other amazing programs run through Operation Supply Drop include Heroic Forces, which provides one-on-one professional development support to troops leaving the service; Thank You Deployments, where the community nominates fellow veterans for VIP events, like attending the E3 Expo or meeting sports legends; and an awesome, recent addition in Games to Grunts, which gives free game codes to veterans. There’s no catch: Just sign in with a verified account from ID.me and you get some pretty sweet games.
Steve Rogers’ career has been extraordinarily long and eventful. Just like our own careers, his has evolved over time and, with it, so have his personality and looks. Now, with the latest Avengers installment, Infinity War, set to hit theaters soon, we’re getting a look at his superb, post-career beard.
It should make veterans take pause and reflect on how far we’ve all come. It really is amazing to see just how much of a true veteran Captain America really is.
Stage One: Full boot
When Steve Rogers first joined the military (in case you haven’t seen Captain America: The First Avenger), he was enhanced by an experimental serum that turned him into a super soldier. Unfortunately, it did nothing for his haircut.
No, he wasn’t getting an awful cut by his buddies in the barracks or from an overzealous PX barber, but his fantastic WWII-era mane carried on through his first film.
Stage Two: Comfortably military
Now that the novelty of being in the military has worn off and he’s busted his combat cherry, Cap can relax the hair standards a little bit and upgrade to a more modern look.
At this stage in your career, it’s ok to be normal, have a little personality, and reconsider his earlier, standard looks – while staying in regs, of course.
Stage Three: ETS comin’
In Captain America: Civil War, Steve Rogers’ service is coming to an end. Cap is letting his hair grow out and, while there’s no stubble yet, you can practically see the conspiracy theorist inside him coming out.
Stage Four: Full veteran
Mistrustful of a government that seems to have turned on him, Captain America goes off the grid with his best friends for a while. He doesn’t reappear until the world needs him again, for whatever reason.
They’re probably armed to the teeth and have been living in the woods as survivalists…
The only thing surprising about the closure of A Bug’s Land — a section of Disneyland dedicated to the eminently forgettable Pixar effort A Bug’s Life — was that it existed in the first place. And now, walls labeled “Stark Industries” have gone up around where Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train – amazingly the real name of a real ride — used to run.
The reference to Tony Stark’s company suggests that what’s been suspected since Disney bought Marvel Entertainment in 2009 is finally happening: a Marvel Land. A series of construction permits filed at Anaheim City Hall further supports this theory while revealing some details about what Disney has in store for Marvel Land.
One permit description specifies 2,071 square feet of new commercial construction for merchandise and 446 square feet for three attached canopies. Others describe projects like a bathroom overhaul, meet-and-greet area, improvements to staff buildings, and even a microbrewery (!).
(The Walt Disney Company)
With permits in hand, construction has begun. Visitors to Disney’s California Adventure have started to see scaffolding and a metal structure rise behind the temporary wall.
A blog post from December 2018 hinted at new rides inspired by Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man the Wasp, and the Avengers. The Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission Breakout! attraction, the old Tower of Terror ride that was remodeled to be Marvel-themed in 2017 also figures to be a major draw.
Disney has yet to reveal much beyond these scant details, but the company will likely announce more information at the D23 Expo, a biannual celebration thrown by the official Disney Fan Club scheduled for August 23-25, 2019.
The aggressive effort to build an entirely new park to add onto the Marvel Theme Park Universe (it’s a thing) comes in the wake of the massive success of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. That park has had huge crowds since (and even before) it opened. Disney is banking on Avengers fans being just as eager to step into the world of their favorite movies — and pay exorbitant prices for souvenirs — as Star Wars fans are.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Gathering Storm is an intense new show on National Geographic featuring the United States Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force. Each branch is highlighted as they race against time to complete vital missions during catastrophic storms.
Keo Films spent over a year developing the six-part series for National Geographic. The show will bring viewers inside the intensity of the world’s most powerful storms and outline the devastating impacts of climate change. Keo Films gave hundreds of cameras to maritime workers to document a year at sea and what happens during a major storm. Cameras also followed the three military branches serving in the midst of deadly storms.
The Coast Guard can usually be found right in the middle of it all, always ready.
Chief Warrant Officer Paul Roszkowski is a part of the leadership within the Coast Guard Motion Picture and Television office and was involved in the series from the start. “The Coast Guard worked with Keo Films for more than a year to coordinate filming part of our mission the public generally doesn’t get to see. This involved getting international film crews cleared to film at a moment’s notice at a number of Coast Guard units across the country and prestaging cameras at some units in case a storm formed. We are grateful to all of the units that participated in this which include USCGC Cypress, USCGC Alex Haley, Sector Guam and Sector Miami. Gathering Storm will give a peek behind the curtain of what Coast Guard personnel are doing before a major storm hits and the rescues start,” he shared.
Sector Miami is one of the busiest areas of responsibility for the Coast Guard. When hurricane season approaches, that responsibility increases tenfold. “We have two of the busiest cruise ports in the country… The port coordination team is vital. The decisions that are made [during a storm] are impactful. When we set those port conditions, the implications they have on all the stakeholders in the area are huge,” Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Daniel Delgado explained.
As the Incident Management Division Chief for Sector Miami, Delgado worked closely with Keo Films for the series. “They were interested in seeing the preparation that goes into the ‘before the storm’ work. A group of people were here with us here in the sector building and also gave cameras to our teams that went out to verify pre-storm preparations. It was great working with the crew and they were very respectful of us and the work we had to do and didn’t impede it,” Delgado shared.
When hurricanes are approaching, the Coast Guard receives daily updates from the National Hurricane Center, which is a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Although the public has probably heard of the term “hurricane hunters,” they may not realize who’s flying many of those planes to gather vital weather data that gets dispersed to the Coast Guard: the United States Air Force.
In the first episode, viewers watch as the production crew follows members of Sector Miami navigating the Coast Guard’s response to Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane which devastated the Bahamas and Abaco Islands in 2019. The damage left the islands in ruins and Hurricane Dorian was soon declared the worst natural disaster in Bahamian history. The Coast Guard saved the lives of over 400 people, flying and sailing through hurricane force winds and almost zero visibility to do it.
While the first two episodes focus on powerful hurricanes, the series then takes viewers into typhoon alley and through the roughest and most deadly fishing ground on the earth – the Bering Sea. Then watch as the Coast Guard and Navy rush to respond to typhoons in the Pacific, all while the Air Force is flying through the storms to gather the important data needed to respond.
“We featured the ‘Hurricane Hunters’ of the 53 Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the USAF Reserve, based out of Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi,” Executive Producer Matt Cole said. He shared that he enjoyed getting to personally interview veteran Hurricane Hunter Lieutenant Colonel Sean Cross about what it’s like flying into powerful storms.
Viewers will also watch the Navy become storm chasers with their advanced technology. “It was fascinating to see how the US Navy center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii plays a lead role for the whole of that region in tracking typhoons and even providing life-saving forecasts. So, out there where typhoons are such a serious and life threatening problem, the forecasts provided by the US Navy using satellite data are invaluable,” Cole said.
The Keo Films also learned a lot during the filming process. For instance, prior to working on the series Cole and the film crew thought ships were safer in harbor during a storm – an assumption the Coast Guard was quick to correct.
“The folks who work out at sea face these huge storms at their fiercest. By filming with maritime workers on ships at sea we were able to capture the reality of cyclonic weather events and to track their development, through the eyes of these people who work in their path,” Cole explained. Although Hurricanes receive a lot of attention from the media during hurricane season, the show goes even deeper by revealing what it’s like to be in the middle of it all.
Film taken from over 1000 cameras paint a stark and terrifying picture of the impact of storms and climate change, felt on every corner of the globe. “I think that like us, the viewers of the series will come away with a lot more respect for the workforce that makes a living out on the ocean and the military teams that are on constant vigil to try to keep them safe when storms are brewing, through understanding the power and scale of the dangers they face,” Cole said.
The six-part series on National Geographic will air two episodes in a row each Saturday beginning August 15th, 2020 at 10pm.
Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.
One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)
For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.
But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.
This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.
Patriotic rock band Madison Rising and the Navy SEAL Foundation announced a unique partnership with the release of Madison Rising’s new song, “Men of Steel.” Madison Rising is donating 50% of the proceeds from the song to the Foundation in support of its mission of service to the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community.
“Men of Steel” is a new rock anthem that pays tribute to all those who serve.
The song is a special collaboration that started when Madison Rising approached the NSF in 2019 about a potential partnership. “I had always wanted to figure out a way to have music support our mission at the Foundation, and Madison Rising was an ideal partner to make that happen,” said Chris Irwin, Director of Partnerships for the NSF in a press release.
As a result, Madison Rising worked with the Navy SEAL Foundation to write a song about teamwork, camaraderie and the service member experience, that directly supports those it honors. “By donating half of all proceeds on this song to the Foundation, Madison Rising is committing itself to not only raising awareness about our mission, but also raising funds to help us execute that mission,” Irwin stated.
Madison Rising’s mission is to honor veterans, first responders, and active-duty military members by making great rock music that reinforces true American values. This collaboration with the Navy SEAL Foundation is the latest initiative in support of that mission. The band is led by Rio Hiett, a retired Master Sergeant who served in the Air Force, “Madison Rising is on a mission to honor our military however possible and we know this song will have an incredible impact on the community,” he said. The band is well known for hard-charging, patriotic performances at venues including NFL games, NASCAR, and other special events.
“I started singing back in high school with producer and friend, Andrew Lane, in Muscle Shoals, Alabama,” Hiett told WATM. “This is where the love of performing and creating was started and as he went on to become a Grammy Award winning part of Atlanta’s and L.A.’s R B movement, I chose the route of military service.
I spent 20 years as an Air Force AMMO troop, having served half on active duty and half in the air guard.” Hiett served in several operations, including Allied Force, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. “I spent nearly 3 years deployed to the AOR and lost that time with my oldest son Dante’,” Hiett said. “I felt he endured the impact of the deployments far more than anyone else in the family. From the moment I became the frontman for Madison Rising, I had always wanted to have my son be a part of something meaningful. He plays the drums and this was an incredible opportunity to have him be a part of a song [Men of Steel], that has the potential to go a long way in the veteran community.”
Hiett continued, “We were able to team up with Chet Roberts of 3Doors Down and record the song down in their studio in Nashville at Rivergate Studios. SEAL Chris Irwin was also a huge part of the track as it was brought forth from his original idea as we collaborated, rearranged/rewrote, then recorded. So at this point in time, I am incredibly proud of this song, the meaning behind the song and how it was created, but mostly that my son is a huge part of something so amazing.”
Madison Rising has shared the stage with rock legends Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Toby Keith, Weezer and many others, and they have a large following among veterans and first responders.
About the Navy SEAL Foundation:
The Navy SEAL Foundation’s mission is to provide immediate and ongoing support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community and its families. The Foundation stands behind these warriors and their families by providing a comprehensive set of programs specifically designed to improve health and welfare, build and enhance resiliency, empower and educate families, and provide critical support during times of illness, injury, or loss. Like the community it serves, the Navy SEAL Foundation is a high-performing organization committed to excellence. It has received eight consecutive 4-Star ratings from Charity Navigator and it is one of less than 70 charities, from among more than 9,000, to have earned a perfect score of 100 for financial health, accountability and transparency, placing it in the top 1% of all rated charities.
For more information, please visit: www.navySEALfoundation.org.
The penultimate episode of season one brings us Chapter 7: The Reckoning, wherein director Deborah Chow returns — and brings along some familiar faces.
Here’s your spoiler warning:
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Our Mandalorian-of-honor receives a transmission from Greef Carga, who has a proposition that is clearly a trap. Navarro is now overrun with Imperial troopers and Carga wants them off his back, so he’s willing to team up with Mando to kill The Client.
Our Mandalorian seems to decide that this is the best deal he can get so he decides to take Carga up on his deal — but not without reinforcement. He returns to Sorgan to recruit Cara Dune, who’s brawling for credits in a bar (fun to see Gina Carano showing off some of her moves).
To my surprise, they leave Omera behind (I’m still waiting to find out why she’s such a good marksman) and head off to Arvala-7 to grab Kuiil instead.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Here we learn that the Ugnaught has spent the time since we last saw him repairing and reprogramming IG-11. For some reason that hasn’t yet paid off, this episode spends a lot of time on the montage of IG-11’s journey back to functioning droid. I feel like I got the gist the first time Kuiil said he reprogrammed the killing out of IG-11?
Kuill finally agrees to accompany Mando but insists on bringing IG-11 and three blurrg with him.
(Side note: I basically just ignore space and time in Star Wars otherwise I’ll get too distracted wondering how those blurrg fit in the ship? And how much time has actually passed? It only feels like a few days or weeks but I guess it’s longer?)
Silly billy! No Force-choking friends without their consent!
The Mandalorian, Disney+
During their flight back to Navarro, Mando and Cara arm-wrestle. Seeing this, the Yoda Baby misinterprets Cara’s actions as an attack against Mando so he decides to Force-choke her.
“That’s not cool!” Haha but it is hilarious. Little baby Force-choke! That’s impressive!
What’s most interesting is the reaction — no one in the ship talks about the Force after the incident. Kuiil is theoretically old enough to remember the time of the Jedi Order (he mentions to Cara that he’s lived three human lifespans), but none of the group seem to know firsthand about the Force.
Beware the intelligent adversary.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
On Navarro, the group meets up with Carga and his back-up. They decide to walk until sundown, camp for the night, then head into the city at first light. Unfortunately, they are attacked by some sort of pack of flying dragons or mynocks or wyverns. The creatures carry off two blurrgs (which was deeply unsettling — why do the innocents always have to die?) and rake Carga’s arm with poisonous claws.
Here we get to learn a pretty fun new fact about the Force — it can be used for healing. The Yoda Baby walks up to Carga, places his tiny little hand on Carga’s wounded arm, and closes the wound and eliminates the poison. Cool!
Carga thought so, too, because the next day he shoots his men and confesses that they were just going to turn on Mando. Now Carga is committed to saving the baby and killing The Client.
He suggests there will only be about four Stormtroopers guarding The Client and not to worry…
Only now, Kuiil will take the baby back to the Razor Crest and they’ll pull the ol’ fake-prisoner bit, bringing in Mando in handcuffs, and just pretend the baby is in the carrier.
Insert a “we’ve got company” quote here.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Of course, the plan goes awry. Though The Client apparently believes the baby is “sleeping,” his boss doesn’t. Moff Gideon (played by Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito) calls via hologram right before ordering an attack on everyone in the room. He shows up in a fancy TIE fighter to join his Death Troopers and trap Mando and Cara behind enemy lines.
Mando then decides to, for some reason, communicate with Kuiil over comms that are easily intercepted by Scout Troopers, who take off to capture Kuiil.
A very stressful race begins, with Kuiil and the Yoda Baby on a fleeing blurrg, racing toward the ship while the Scout Troopers speed off toward them. (I mean, how did the Scout Troopers know which way to go? Why didn’t Mando use clean comms — or at least some code?? Questions for another day…)
Honestly, I was waiting for IG-11 to burst out of the ship and save the day…but instead we cut abruptly to the Yoda Baby on the ground, scooped up by a Scout Trooper, leaving the dead blurrg and Kuiil in their wake.
With that, we’re left on an Empire-like cliffhanger waiting for the finale on Dec. 27.
You’ve heard of Elf On The Shelf but are you ready forpic.twitter.com/0dyFHkbkCR
The beginning of November saw three important organizations come together for the Heroes Work Here initiative. Easter Seals, Disney, and USAA held a conference to compel the leaders of Midwest-based companies to improve their veteran hiring programs and teach them how to integrate and celebrate veterans in their work forces.
J.R. Martinez, an Army veteran attended the event and spoke with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the President and CEO of Easter Seals, the Director of the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs, the Director of Veterans Initiatives for the Walt Disney Company, the founder of the Easter Seals Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, the Program Manager of Veteran Hiring Initiatives for Sears Holding Company, and Military Affairs Relationship Director of the USAA.
Travis Mills, also an Army veteran and author of Tough As They Come, is a quadruple amputee who joined the major players, devoting time and effort to bring American companies into the Heroes Work Here fold. He lent his voice to the conference as a guest speaker to advocate on behalf of Easter Seals.
“Easter Seals is really leading the way with Walt Disney, USAA, and Sears, and all these other great companies here in support of this event,” Mills said.
United States Secretary of Veteran Affairs Robert A. McDonald was the keynote speaker at the event.
“This is a national challenge to all of us,” McDonald said. “[We need] to make sure we take care of the quarter of a million veterans who are coming out of the service, making sure their transitions into their communities is seamless, and that they have jobs.”
Any post-9/11 Marine could easily sit down and binge through all seven episodes of the HBO miniseries, Generation Kill. In fact, if you’ve sat in your squad bay at Camp Wilson while there for a training exercise, you’ve probably already watched it a few times. Why is it so popular with the Devil Dogs? Simple: it feels pinpoint accurate.
There aren’t a whole lot of accurate depictions of Marines out there. At least, not many that really, 100% capture the true nature and mannerisms of Marines — the Infantry-type especially. That’s what sets Generation Kill apart from the rest. Based on the novel written by Evan Wright, a reporter for Rolling Stone, who was embedded with the 1st Recon Battalion during the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Wright set out with the goal of showing Marines as they were, unfiltered.
And that he did — but the miniseries adaptation took it a few steps further. There were aspects in production that not only honored Mr. Wright’s material, but Marine culture as well:
If he’s portraying himself, is this still considered his costume?
1. Military advisers
A lot of people give Hollywood sh*t when incorrectly depict aspects of military life — likely due to the lack of someone on set who knows (from experience) what they’re talking about. In this case, they had two guys on the job — Rudy Reyes, who plays himself in the series, and Eric Kocher, both Recon Marines. They went as far as having the actors go through a six-day mini-boot camp to learn all of the basics.
A side-by-side comparison of the real-life Brad Colbert with Alexander Skarsgard, who played Colbert in the series.
And the actors took it seriously. They dedicated themselves to honoring the memory and the experiences of the real-life Marines they portray in the series. Rudy Reyes himself said,
“… These guys have shown incredible discipline and attention to detail as well as commitment and camaraderie.”
Which goes to show that they picked the right actors for the job. But, in many cases, an actor can only be as convincing as the material they’re given.
Lee Tergesen as Evan Wright.
2. Source material
As previously stated, Evan Wright set out to portray the Marines as they were. He’s gone on record as saying he didn’t aim to depict them as heroes or villains — but just as they were. If you were to go to Rolling Stone to read through his original series of articles, you’ll notice that they, too, are extremely accurate.
From reading his writing, you get a sense that he wanted to show the world that Marines are people, just like anyone else. Such authentic source material meant that the production team had some big shoes to fill — they needed performances that felt real. Really real.
Thankfully, HBO at this point had already done Band of Brothers, which was another accurate depiction of troops in war. For Evan Wright, that kind of pedigree was comforting; he know that HBO would do their best to faithfully adapt his work.
Also, notice how the actors have learned to keep their booger hooks off the bang switch.
3. Cast and crew
And, of course,Generation Kill has a great cast of actors. As mentioned before, they were extremely dedicated to their roles and understood what it was that they were doing. Of course, that’s partially credited to the Reyes and Kocher, but the actors themselves played their roles brilliantly.
Beyond that, every department understood what they were making and made sure to get a lot of the details correct, including costumes.
When it comes to getting things accurate, Generation Kill does an outstanding job. It would be great to sit here and write all of the amazing things the actors and crew had to say about it, but to hear them say it is even better: