O P E N D O ORS
THE CASE FOR HIRING VETERANS Skills acquired in the military transfer neatly to production Written by Brian McLaughlin
hen I was in my early 20s, after leading an Army infantry platoon, I served as a general’s aide-de-camp—still the most challenging job I’ve had, requiring absolute reliability. This was followed by commanding a paratrooper unit, with ongoing life-anddeath stakes. Lastly, after serving as a major in special operations, I was General David Petraeus’ media production advisor and produced documentary shorts with Afghan crews throughout that country. So when, as a producer, I was called to rescue a feature film whose director and producer were fired the day before production was to begin ... or to rescue another film that lacked cast, locations, crew and equipment a week before filming, it wasn’t my first crisis. My background is illustrative of most veterans’ breadth of work history and life experience—valuable background that enhances their agility, capability and contributions on a shoot. The PGA Diversity Committee treats veteran status as part of Diversity 2.0, along with gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion and age. As we look for diverse views, veterans’ perspective offers an intriguing layer to storytelling, and they’re tremendous assets on a production. My producing partner, Penelope Korff, is a former Army first lieutenant. We’ve developed a doubly diverse true story about a Black Green Beret in Afghanistan, Tiger Zero Three—written by Ken Henderson, a Navy and National Guard veteran—and fully intend to hire many veterans on this and all our projects. About 5.7% of the U.S. population has served in the armed forces. That’s comparable to the percentage of the population that is Asian American or LGBTQ+. Yet
Brian McLaughlin with a village elder in eastern Afghanistan in 2011.
veterans face unique hiring hurdles, such as inaccurate stereotypes and underappreciation of their transferable skills. To counter misperceptions and provide evidence of solid skills, consider these producers who have worn a uniform: Clint Eastwood (Army), Roger Corman (Navy), Norman Lear (Army), Mel Brooks (Army), Morgan Freeman (Air Force), Ice-T (Army), Ram Bergman (Israel Defense Forces), Gal Gadot (IDF) and Mark Burnett (British Army). Surely their achievement is at least partly due to valuable traits that are honed in the military—leadership, teamwork, adaptability, perseverance, responsibility, calm under pressure, planning, organization, problem solving, innovation, determination and confidence—qualities that foster success in any production. After you’ve been through basic training, jumped out of an airplane or been shot at, challenges on a set are easy. The military also brings a national and global perspective—I served in four U.S. states and nine countries—that can add distinct voices to a writers’ room. And studies have shown that veterans have higher
productivity and lower turnover than non-veterans. The PGA occasionally includes veterans in its activities, which introduces Guild members to qualified folks. In coordination with the 4,000-member Veterans in Media and Entertainment, veterans have also been volunteers at Produced By and many other PGA events. Over the 16 years of the PGA’s Power of Diversity Master Workshop, many of the participants have been veterans—including me in 2017. It’s been an honor to subsequently mentor in the workshop and recruit other veterans to apply. Additionally, two VME members have joined the PGA with my sponsorship. We can all be proud of the Producers Guild’s support of veterans, exposing our members to the many advantages of creatively collaborating with former service members. Now, hire and cast them! Producing is often described as a battle—who better help you win that battle? A project I produced last year had veterans in 19% of the positions (along with 45% women and 48% people of color), which helped us accomplish a very challenging shoot.
For assistance identifying qualified vets, contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to vmeconnect.org.