As Hollywood’s awards season wraps up with the Oscars, it’s easy to believe that Hollywood glamour and military might are like oil and water: Two very separate worlds that only intersect on the screen.
While Hollywood might love taking military stories and putting them up on the screen, the military involvement is usually all but forgotten when the red carpets are rolled out and the glitterati are all dressed up in their tuxedos and gowns with the flash bulbs popping.
Like the military, for every high-profile celebrity, there’s a couple hundred crew members supporting them, from the always present agents and assistants, to the camera and lighting crews, and even the guys who drive the trucks and cook the food every day on set. Just as any admiral or general could never win a battle without the hard work of the brave men and women in their command, every big-name actor and director also owes their celebrity on the work of the often under-appreciated crew behind the scenes.
One of those valuable yet often under-appreciated components is that provided by the US military, which could fill an article on its own, but we’ll leave that for another day.
Among the many awards offered by Hollywood this year, one award deserves special recognition.
The California On Location Awards recognizes the contributions of the logistical backbone of Hollywood: the location professionals and public employees responsible for making filming possible. Without the contributions of location managers and public employees, Hollywood could never venture off the studio lot, and it’s the location managers who negotiate with the city, state, and federal employees in order to facilitate access to public roads, gritty alleys, exquisite mansions, alien landscapes, and the tanks, aircraft carriers, and military transports required to give any military-based project the level of realism viewers expect.
One man has been responsible for providing much of the military hardware seen on screen.
Phil receives his award from the California On Location Awards.
(Courtesy of Kent Matsuoka)
That man is Phil Strub, the recently retired Department of Defense’s Entertainment Liaison. A former Navy cameraman and Vietnam vet, he used his GI Bill to earn a film degree from USC, and was appointed to the Entertainment Liaison Desk at the Pentagon in 1989 following the phenomenal success of Top Gun; not only for Hollywood, but for DoD as well.
As the Department of Defense’s point person for any project wishing to use US military assets on screen, Phil has provided a constant bridge to Hollywood for almost 30 years. From his first project, Hunt For Red October to the new Top Gun, Phil has been a true asset to Hollywood and America.
This year, the COLAs recognized Phil’s contributions to Hollywood with its Distinguished Service Award. Presented by David Grant, Marvel’s VP of Physical Production, he praised Phil’s efforts on their films, from the first Iron Man to the eagerly awaited Captain Marvel.
While Hollywood loves to honor themselves for their own contributions, this award is a testament to Hollywood’s appreciation of all that DoD and the brave men and women who serve can provide, and for that reason, was one of the most important, under-reported award given out this year due to the morale value such awards have in sustaining Hollywood’s continued relationship with its government partners.
If there’s one thing the military does well, it’s recognizing the immense value of each and every member of its chain of command. Whether it be the individual qualification certificates, promotion ceremonies, retirement shadow boxes, or the fruit salad of ribbons on a soldier’s chest, they make a point of recognizing every individual from the lowest enlisted recruit to the five star brass, and understand that such recognition is important to unit cohesiveness and morale.
It’s a lesson Hollywood would do well to remember. It’s not just the big names that deserve recognition, but the hundreds of lesser known craftsmen behind the scenes who also deserve their 15 minutes of fame. Without them, the big names wouldn’t have anything to celebrate.