20 May 2013

With Your Help, Music Will Unlock Soldier's Iraq Film

Steve Metze—a West Point alumnus, member of the Texas National Guard, and veteran of Operations Desert Storm, Joint Endeavor, and Iraqi Freedom—found out about his 2005 deployment to Iraq just three days after his honeymoon in 2004. Like other citizen-soldiers, Metze figuratively grabbed his musket and ran to the sound of the guns. The film-school graduate also grabbed his video camera.

"For operations in Iraq, the National Guard mobilized teachers, bankers, mechanics ... and one film-maker," reads a tag-line for the resulting documentary, "Year at Danger." Featured prominently throughout the movie is the distinctive shoulder patch of the Texas National Guard's 36th Infantry "Arrowhead" Division.

The film tells the story of how citizen-soldiers and their families deal with hardships of combat, deployments, separations, pregnancies, and more. The title refers to "Camp Danger," located on the banks of the foul-smelling Tigris River, near Tikrit, Iraq—Saddam Hussein's old palatial stomping grounds.

"I'd been deployed twice before (Desert Storm and Bosnia), and in both cases I came back wishing I'd documented the experience more," Metze explains via e-mail to the Red Bull Rising blog. "I don't think my thought process is unique, but when I get deployed, and spend a lot of time away from friends and family, potentially risking my life, I want it to mean something. That translates to remembering all the details to share with others, in order to share that meaning, that significance."

Metze's finished film is well-reviewed by those lucky enough to view it in private screenings. A blogger for the Houston (Texas) Press even called it one of the "10 Best War Movies You've Probably Never Seen."

Because music rights are expensive, Metze has been unable to widely distribute the finished film. Until now, he hopes.

Participating in a recent theatrical production of "Telling: Austin" reawakened in Metze the desire to share the work more widely. "I'd forgotten the significance of telling the story, both to those doing the telling and those listening," Metze says. "I get many e-mails from family members and soldiers who were in Iraq with me wanting to see the film, and I think we now finally have the potential to get it to them, to help them tell their own stories."

Metze is using Kickstarter in order to finance the $15,000 it will take to secure the music Metze considers essential to telling the story. As of this writing, the project is nearly two-thirds funded. Deadline for pledging is 8:03 p.m. EDT, Wed., May 22, 2013.

Music is a key component to telling the story.

"The music choices were, for the most part, not conscious choices on our part. They were scenes of soldiers singing to relieve stress, Iraqis singing to try to blend in with Americans, or music that played over speakers in the background while we were leaving or coming back," says Metze. "Because of the significance of those moments, we felt it was important to keep their original feel. Particularly in the deploying and returning instances, it helps the viewer understand the combination of all the inputs soldiers and families are going through ..."

"Imagine, for example, the irony of happy pop music playing as you leave your family behind, or returning from a year sleeping on a cot in a room build of plywood with very little contact with family or outside sources of entertainment, to walk through a fog-machine generated cloud of smoke into a gym filled with roaring music and a crowd of people you haven't seen in months," he says. "There are many emotions those sorts of scenes invoke, and the music was a critical part of them."

To contribute to the acquisition of music rights for the film through Kickstarter, click here. Donors of $25 or more will receive a DVD copy of the film.

In addition to his military writing and film-making, Metze is also author of multiple fiction, role-playing game, and war game resource titles, including "The Zombie Monologues,""Uncharted Steampunk,""Universal Airship Combat System," and more.

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