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Real Military Will Help Reel Military

Not all productions get the support of the services

Some movie and television producers’ whose projects involve the U.S. military can obtain help from the different branches of the armed services to make the project as authentic as possible, but not all productions get the support of the services, say officers who make those decisions.

To increase the chances of gaining the cooperation of the U.S. armed forces in a movie, television show or video that has some military element to it, the producer needs to have the funding for the production in place, before meeting with some liaison officers, Lt. Col. Jason Johnston, the director, the Marine Corps Motion Picture & Television Liaison Office, told Government Video.

“Everyone can have a video camera these days, so we get a lot of people who are really one-man shows,” Johnston said. In addition, if the producers do not have the funding for their production, that is an indication it is “not a legitimate production, and we’re not going to support them,” he said.


The Marine Corps Motion Picture & Television Liaison Office provides support to the global entertainment environment including movies, television and video games, Johnston said. However, while support is provided, the liaison office’s primary mission is “to protect and project the Marine Corps image,” he said.

Which is a mirror reflection of the U.S. Air Force’s Entertainment Liaison Office’s mission, according to Lt. Col Francisco Hamm, the director of that office. In addition to protecting and projecting the Air Force’s image in entertainment productions, the liaison office works to get accurate portrayals of the Air Force in TV, films and video games. That is achieved by working with writers, producers and directors to ensure the scenes involving the Air Force are as authentic as possible, he said.

Like the Marine Corps’ liaison office, a production has to have funding to be considered for Air Force support, Hamm said. However, funding is not the only consideration, he added. Assuming a production has the necessary funding, the liaison office will then review the script paying attention to the sections that have the Air Force in it, said Hamm, who is scheduled to lead a panel—sponsored by the Television, Internet & Video Association-DC (TIVA)—of liaison officers from the different branches of the service on Nov. 30 at Government Video Expo 2011 in Washington, D.C.

T he Marine Corps does the same, Johnston said. “I read the script and then, depending on if we have any changes, or what the project is about, then we’ll approve or disapprove support for the project,” he said. “If support is approved, we’ll meet with those involved and ask what they want from us,” at that point “a lot of what we do is educate them about the Marine Corps,” he said. For example, a director or producer might ask to use “the Marine Corps’ rocket ships” in the movie. “Our response would be, we like the movie, but the Marine Corps doesn’t have any rocket ships, but we do have jet fighters, helicopters, tanks and Marines, and we think they’d work well in your project,” he said.

Once the producers and the officers “come to terms” military support for the production is coordinated, Johnston said. “We’ll find out where they are shooting and we’ll transport the Marine Corps assets to their locations, or we’ll allow them access to the appropriate base,” he said. Military support also includes on-set, and post-production advisors to the directors and producers, he added.