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Although there have been documentaries made about war for as long as there have been cameras to film them, documentarians say it is unusual for the warrior himself to be the one making the film and using his own battle footage.
"Live action, American, filmmaker as subject on war trauma is not, to my mind, terribly common," said Michael Renov, associate dean of academic affairs at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and author of "The Subject of Documentary."
Perhaps the effort that comes closest to it, he noted, was Ari Folman’s 2008 Oscar-nominated film "Waltz With Bashir," in which the filmmaker interviewed Israeli soldiers he fought with in the 1982 Lebanon war and used animation to visualize his story.
One of the hardest things for Anderson to do will be to fill in the years between the battle and what his fellow Marines are doing now and still be able to effectively show how war changed them, said Mitchell Block, who produced the Oscar-nominated war documentary "Poster Girl."
For that film, onetime cheerleader and Iraq combat veteran Robynn Murray allowed cameras to follow her for more than a year, vividly capturing her struggles to overcome PTSD.
Having the close relationship he does with the people he’s filming could overcome missing out on those years between the battle and the present day, Block said, but only if his subjects have compelling stories to tell.
Anderson and childhood friend Antonio de la Torre of Los Angeles hope to have the documentary finished by the fall, about the time of his wedding and in time for next year’s film festival circuit.
They are making it on a budget of $30,000, most of it raised through the website.
"That may seem like peanuts to most people," Anderson says with a laugh. "But me and my buddy Antonio have been working together for more than a decade with digital editing and we’ve written up a pretty clean budget and we think we can do it."
The two made their first film in high school, a mockumentary that took the filmmakers to Nevada’s infamous Area 51 in a jokey attempt to prove long-held conspiracy theories that space aliens live there. They have since gone on to film commercials for small local television stations. This will be their first documentary.
With reams of war footage and 12 engrossing stories to tell, Anderson believes they are up to the task.
"I’ve had the luxury of growing up with digital media, and I could see right away when I was younger that this was going to be the future," he said. "It gives the artist the opportunity to bypass a lot of the old ways, and in the future I hope it comes down to it’s going to be more about story and not about budget."
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