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The War Tapes: Looking Backward to the Beginning of the Film by 'Soldier with Camera' Mike Moriarty

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Looking Backward to the Beginning of the Film by 'Soldier with Camera' Mike Moriarty

IMG_1103.jpgIn filmmaking and storytelling, access is often a key issue. How to gain the trust and participation of those whose story you want to tell. We thought it would be interesting to ask each of the five soldiers who filmed the entire year, why they decided to do it? Why they took the leap of faith with this project? This week we hear from 'Soldier with Camera' Mike Moriarty who filmed the most tapes of anyone -- 220 in total, many of which were 80 minutes long! Mike was a gunner in Iraq and often had multiple cameras -- regular, POV and IR mounted alongside him in the turret every time he went outside the wire.

After Deborah's presentation at Ft. Dix about her project's intentions, she asked for 10 camera operators across the unit that would be expected to film every opportunity they had for the next year plus work with her to tell 'our' story, through our eyes. WE were going to tell this story and no one else. No outside narration or influence.

Now at that time, I was extremely cautious about the entire idea and not sure about having ANYTHING to do with ANY media or film organization. It has been my experience that the media has an amazing tendency to lean leftward and modify, twist or edit stories of this sort. I felt as though this just may be a ploy of some sort to gain access to our experience using the front of "telling our story" then unleashing some anti-war, anti-Bush, anti-military politically based message.

As the group of us who were interested in hearing more about the project gathered in the day room to personally introduce ourselves, I piped up and simply began my interrogation about the true intentions of the film, "How do I know you aren't using us to get a story that you can twist into an anti OIF message or a Bush bashing fest?"

I asked if they knew anything about the National Guard. To my surprise Deborah immediately presented me with a copy of her previous film which was an oral history of the soldiers of her home town, Goshen NH who served in WWII some of whom had been National Guard. She began, in a rather feisty tone, rattling off the entire history of the NH National Guard. Her face turned red and I was sure she was going to Kung Fu me into a pretzel. Just the look on her face let me know there was some serious conviction and feelings about telling the story of the National Guard. I was actually contented by her temper, I saw her passion there. It seemed as if it was a mission of Deborah's to not only respect soldiers and their stories, but in a way to continue to tell a story she already started with her first film. This was not just an Army National Guard unit, it was the National Guard of the state she was born and raised in. It was personal and dear to her. At that point, I was somewhat convinced this was possibly a genuine project. That, and we figured out she lived just a ways up the road from my hometown. We were neighbors, I knew where she lived.

I still wasn't convinced though, I wanted to see what her other film looked like. So one night me and some of the guys 'borrowed' a VCR from a location that will remain forever undisclosed, and barricaded ourselves in a room to watch the film. To our surprise, we liked it.

Now I was raised by my family that regardless of time and gradualism you must not EVER forget those who have defended our country. I was taught to stop and really think hard about the details entailed in a soldier's experiences. To give them respect and always say thank you no matter when they served.

In the coming days, at Fort Dix, waiting to deploy to Iraq, I went from skeptical about taking part to having a vision of someone sitting in front of a screen someday watching us, hearing our story and seeing some of our sacrifices. I thought, this would be so great for not only the history of New Hampshire and Charlie Co., but for the families of every soldier serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will portray the actual life and events involved in being a soldier today.

So I made up my mind, I became one of the Soldiers with Cameras. I then began a LONG ass year of running not one, but several cameras as much as possible. I made mounts out of anything I could find. I used pipes for brackets and bungee cords. I attached the cameras to everything and anything. Actually the film should be called "Velcro, Duct Tape, and Guts" now that I think about it, but more on that later...

Mike Moriarty