Austin P Byrne
Operations Officer
857th Bomb Squadron
492nd Bomb Group
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Brian P Byrne
Blogs  (Updates, insights and ramblings from Alejandro Mena and his Team) . . .
Posted Sunday, February 11, 2018 by Alejandro Mena    

Howdy, We're Back!

Hello? Hey can somebody check to see if this mic is on? It is? Good.

OK. So looking at this blogspot page, I realized that I have somehow failed to post anything in almost three years. Well that's just crazy. There was a time when I was posting new blogs every other week, or so it seemed, at the time. Then somehow, we got sidetracked. Perhaps life stepped in. Perhaps you got bored with me. Who knows. But this is 2018 and by golly we're getting back on this goddam horse. We have a lot to go over and I reckon now is as good a time as any to start reporting again.

First of all, though it may appear to you, long lost reader, that we gave up on the film, that is just not so. What happened? Well lots of things happened. Some of them good, some of them not so good. I would say, that we, the producers, began to experience a collective sense of 'here we go again' Let me tell you something. It's HARD to make a film. It's just really goddam hard to make a film. Especially if you don't have any money, any spare rich uncles lying around or a girlfriend whose daddy is loaded with cash. After a while, passion can only take you so far. RAH-RAH only gets you so far. I must admit, we probably all felt at some time that this film was never going to be made. Over these last few years, we had made pitches to various investors-all came up with nothing. We had applied for grants and production funds-we got shut out. At one point, we applied to the Latino Public Broadcasting Fund. We were rejected on the grounds that my film wasn't "Hispanic enough" EXCUSE ME? A film made by a Mexican American Filmmaker to honor his Mexican American Father's service in WWII is somehow not Hispanic enough?? WTF! Time moved on, my producer Fiona took a job. My other producer Kelly took a job, had some medical issues (she's over them now-Thank the Universe!), I continued to take gigs to pay the bills and the IRS! Justin, our head animator also found a full time gig. And remember Justin and Fiona are married and raising two young kids, so that takes a lot of time and effort-(uh, it's a full-time job!), and that takes away from any efforts we, and they, can make. Time moved on.

But, through it all, we managed to keep a tiny ember going in the cold ashes of our collective fireplace. I would often post on our 492nd Bomb Group Facebook page and our own CREW 713 Facebook page. Occasionally, even a stray donation would wander into our deserted-looking hut and would be devoured by our ever hungry Paypal account! In the meantime, I was still collecting photos and images for the movie. At some point, (early 2016?) we pitched our film to a group of film students, animators and artists, looking to get our long awaited animation scenes going. And THAT effort fizzled out too. We couldn't figure that one out for a long time. So. We decided that what we needed to do was work on the rough cut. A simple assembly edit. Cuts only. No sound. No animation. No music. Just the veteran interviews and one VO actor, (yours truly) performing the role of narrator and all other voices which appear in the script. Twenty voices all told. We put it together for story flow. And guess what? It wasn't bad. It wasn't bad at all. Sure it needed lots of work, but that's exactly what an assembly edit is…to determine if you even have a goddam movie to keep on going. Did we have a story? And the answer was yes. I uploaded the roughcut assembly to Youtube, and sent it out to our historians and a select few others. The feedback we got was resoundingly positive. And that was encouraging. Many of our historians sent me notes, fix this, change that. This happened on this date, this didn't happen. So on and so forth. Reed Hammans sent in a 5 page report with foot notes, photographs and comments. I loved it. God Bless you Reed!

I figured, if those guys were still passionate about the 492nd, then by golly we needed to get back on that horse too. And slowly we did. By early 2017, we had the rough cut edit assembly completed. In mid 2017, Justin went on a mission of his own to find us our long awaited illustrator. (I could write an entire blog spot just about our ongoing mission to locate an illustrator for our film, and probably will-but I digress) He and Fiona finally located a colleague in Cornwall, England who had previously worked with them on the Illusionist. Damien Jones was now working for several book publishers, illustrating children's books primarily. I took a look at his work and was delighted. However, though he was a formidable talent, could he bring to life our vision of what it was like to fly on these terrifying missions? His first roughs convinced us that Justin and Fiona had chosen well. He understood exactly what we were looking for and after looking at those early roughs, I remember thinking to myself…this is exactly how I envisioned those missions. We signed him up. Initially he was hired to create illustrations for only one scene. We thought long and hard about this. Whichever scene we produced would have to be the showcase for the entire movie. A lot, Hell, EVERYTHING, was riding on this scene! This scene would have to incorporate all the visual and auditory elements we had been saying that CREW 713 would have…the animation, the veteran interviews, the archival footage, a key moment in the history of O'Sullivan's crew #713 AND the hapless 492nd BG, the new music, the SFX, the sound design…EVERYTHING had to be pristine because this was going to be our calling card. An advance screening trailer can only get you so far. At some point, as filmmakers, you HAVE to show what your film is going to LOOK like. We have to be able to show to potential investors, potential distributors, THIS is what our film is going to look like. So work began in late Fall of 2017 on the scene.

What was the scene? Oh, did I forget to mention that? Silly me. It was the May 29th mission to Politz, Germany. On this mission, the group was attacked by a large group of enemy aircraft. Several of our interview subjects were on this mission, including Milton Goodridge, George Worthington and Charles Bastien. Their testimony would be the bedrock upon which the scene would be built. Along with testimony from Charles Crowley, Archie MacIntyre, my own father, Nemesio Mena and a long ago recorded interview with my Dad's old tail gunner; Barney Edwards. Now we had the narrative, we needed some action to bring it to life and the Politz I mission had plenty of that! Thanks to our animation crew and a crack young sound designer and composer named Matt Aslanian, our vision has started coming to life.

This past Tuesday, the 6th of February, Fiona and I presented our (still unfinished) Politz I scene to a group of well connected former military officers. We estimated the audience to be about 80-90 people in attendance. None of them had ever seen anything pertaining to our film and only a handful had even been to our website. In a sense, this was a completely untouched sample segment of the general public. We figured, how they reacted, would be a key factor in how we moved forward with the film. Guess what? They loved it. They gave us a rousing ovation upon the completion of the screening of the 8 minute piece. It was encouraging to say the least. Afterwards, Fiona and I were swamped with well wishers and people wanting to know more about our project. For me personally, it was deeply reassuring.

Now, where do we go from here? We need to finish and polish this sample scene till it shines like a diamond in a pig's ass. (pardon that graphic reference). We are hoping that we will be finished with this showcase scene in about one more month. Then we'll do a major fund raising campaign which will showcase the scene, a big marketing push, and REALLY start knocking on some doors for financial support.

It's been a long time coming and somehow, this year feels different. I really believe this is the year we are going to make some big strides with this film. We have to. We owe it to those guys who flew these bloody missions 74 years ago. Never forget. Talk to you soon…and I mean it!

Alejandro Mena
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