With Veteran’s Day observed today, we thought it would be interesting to focus on a local resident and filmmaker who has helped veterans move off the battlefield and into independent filmmaking. With his film, “Call for Fire,” a tragic Shakespearean comedy set in a modern war, Park La Brea based filmmaker Sean Kinney, in collaboration with his wife and film composer Christiane Kinney, and retired U.S.A.F. Senior Master Sergeant Steven Barrons, recently won several awards while also helping veteran friends gather momentum in new endeavors beyond the military – specifically, indie film.
The project was a collaboration between Sean and Steve, childhood best friends, who set out to both make a movie and train their veteran friends in the art of filmmaking. The resulting production was “Call for Fire,” a Shakespearean adaptation of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, featuring real-life wounded warriors in front of and behind the camera. The idea partly stemmed from Sean and Steve’s work with Dark Horse Benefits, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that trains veterans in new skill sets, to help them transition into second careers. But Sean and Steve’s small indie film became much more than just a film…it embodied their mission to help veterans get a new start in civilian life.
The filmmaking cast and crew took shape with some amazing wounded warriors getting involved. Steve Barrons, one of the lead actors in the film, spent twenty-one years in the military as a Special Operations Combat Controller. With multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Steve is a decorated war hero who served all over the globe in combat, humanitarian and instructor roles. His job as an Air Force Combat Controller embedded him in many different Special Operation units and enabled him to learn invaluable leadership skills along the way.
Next on the team was Robert Disney, a Retired U.S.A.F. Chief Master Sergeant and Special Operations Pararescue Team Leader with 21 total years in military service. Robert plays the character “Disney” in the film, and has been inspired to follow serious training in the Meisner Method of acting. He is interested in continuing his acting pursuits during retirement.
Tech. Sgt. Ismael “Ish” Villegas, who received two Silver Stars while serving in Afghanistan as a Combat Controller, plays “Romeo,” the predator pilot. Ismael was a perfect fit for this cast and crew.
And Anthony Aguiniga, who plays the character “Taylor,” was a U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret, and the owner of “Woobies,” a veteran-owned and operated shoe company in Dallas.
“Many veterans who came together on this project distinguished themselves in the special operations arena in a way that stood out, and having them on set elevated this project in every way imaginable,” says Sean.
Sean and Steve decided not to make a mainstream action film with the cast and crew of veterans, but rather a stylish military movie – a modern day adaptation of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The movie is based on two combat controllers at the end of their careers taking on one last mission in Afghanistan. The plot centers around how their famous mission’s “Call For Fire” has shaped their situation today. They have to deal with unknowingly being pursued by high echelon leaders of the Taliban, working with some dirty contractors in D.C.
“It is an independent film, so we had to focus on dialogue and story since we didn’t have money for huge gunfights and special effects,” said Steve. “We don’t talk like Shakespeare, but we use his dark comedy and existential perspective, as we follow a similar story arc of two of his lesser known characters in Hamlet. If you don’t follow or don’t like Shakespeare, don’t worry, because the use is subtle.”
It took a lot of work in order to raise the necessary funds to finance their endeavor. But Sean and Steve turned to the veteran and tactical communities, and garnered support from a lot of higher profile groups, such as Article 15 Clothing, Black Rifle Coffee Company, Rally Point, among others, which have helped spread the word.
The film recently won awards for “Best Feature Film,” “Best Screenplay,” “Best Original Film Score,” “Best Editing,” “Best Director,” and even “Best Visual FX,” from the Royal Wolf Film Awards, Pinnacle Film Awards, and Mindfield Film Festival, with a total accumulation of 21 sets of laurels from film festivals that included the picture as one of their official selections. With that, Sean, Christiane and Steve hope to gain distribution and more exposure for their amazing cast and crew of veterans.
As they look back on the first parts of the film’s life so far, they already see it as a victory. Sean proudly states, “So many films never make it out of pre-production, much less than production. We have a good film in the can, and no matter what happens we have achieved our context. We have given some amazing veterans practical experience to start their careers. Many of the film’s crew and cast have already been hired for other projects, including the TV series “Rooster & Butch” on the A&E Network; not to mention both Rooster and Butch are in our film as well.”
This film is definitely more than just another independent film…it is high art with heart. Best of all, it benefits our veterans, whom we salute with gratitude on Veteran’s Day and always. For more information and updates on local screenings, please visit the production company’s website, 1 Stooge Entertainment.