“THE OUTPOST tells the true story of the events leading to and including the Battle of Kamdesh- the most heroic battle of the Afghanistan war , where 54 U.S. soldiers held off 400 Taliban insurgents. The battle was the first time in 50 years that two living servicemen were recognized with the Medal of Honor for their actions. It was the shit show of shit shows and we tried to get right into the ground level of the whole thing. The film is based on the best-selling nonfiction book of the same name by CNN’s Jake Tapper.” Director Rod Lurie on THE OUTPOST which screens at the 2020 edition of SxSW Film!
Editor’s Note: While SxSW was officially cancelled on March 6th, 2020, the below interview was one of many that already took place prior to the festival. To respect the creators, all already performed interviews are presented in their unedited entirety below. All of the below works WILL make their way out into the world in one way or another, and we will update this article with updated information when we have it. — JW
Welcome to SxSW! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?
This is the first time I’ve had the pleasure to be at SXSW, and myself and a number of the film’s producers and stars are looking forward to the film’s screenings, starting with the March 14th screening at the Paramount!
So let’s hear more about you and how you got started in the business and what you have worked on in the past?
I was a film critic first at Los Angeles Magazine, KABC radio when I met my now longtime producing partner Marc Frydman. Marc and I did a couple award-winning shorts, and then we did our first feature indies, DETERRENCE and THE CONTENDER starring Joan Allen, Gary Oldman, Jeff Bridges and Sam Elliott. Steven Spielberg saw it and bought it for Dreamworks. We did many films in the intervening years after that, including RESURRECTING THE CHAMP and STRAW DOGS and a couple television series, LINE OF FIRE and COMMANDER IN CHIEF with Geena Davis.
I am very fond of that resume! How did THE OUTPOST come together?
I graduated from West Point in 1984 and served as an officer in the Army right after. I never served in battle, unlike many of my classmates. When I became a filmmaker I knew I wanted to do a film to honor those who served. I was approached with THE OUTPOST and really admired the script by Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson, who along with producer Paul Merryman were looking for a home for the project. I came on board and shortly thereafter we landed at Millennium. Pre-production was a tough nut to crack, as we had nowhere near the budget of other war films. But we all rolled up our sleeves and got to work. I think prep is the most important part of a film, and that you devise a plan and then execute on that plan. Battleplan is the former name of my production company, in fact.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?
HONESTLY? Sleeping when I am not working. And staying in constant contact with my family. And then just the love of the craft. That’s what keeps me going. What drives me? I guess, in this case, the subject matter. it was too important and personal to feel like I was going to let anybody down.
What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?
We had to take a four hundred page book and fit it into a two hour film. This meant conflation of characters and events- which is always a bummer; but there were also physical challenges- not the least of which was that our lead actor broke his ankle right before production began. I think seeing Scott run, finally, was my most rewarding moment.
I am about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.
We owe so much to our cinematographer Lorenzo Senatore and our camera operator Sasha Proctor, who showed such amazing skill and athleticism. The film has many one takes, the most challenging being runs that were hundreds of yards across the battlefield set. Sasha in many cases was like that old line about Ginger Rogers, doing everything the actor was doing, only backwards and with a camera strapped to him. We mostly used the Alexa mini.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?
I’m looking forward to the range of folks who are going to be able to see the film at the festival. It will be great to take in the response from such a varied audience.
After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?
We have a theatrical release coming up. Look for it in theaters this summer. It’s such an immersive film with a tremendous amount of craft that it really deserves to be seen on the big screen. After that we’ll of course be streaming. Hopefully another festival or two, permitting.
If you could show your movie in any theatre outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?
We did a private screening for the families of the fallen at the Brookings Institution in October. That was in DC. It was without a doubt one of the most powerful
experiences of my life. We’re working to show the film to more military audiences. It’s for them.
What would you say to someone who was being disruptive, like talking or texting, during a movie?
With THE OUTPOST in particular, this is a film that honors service and sacrifice so I would ask everyone to please respect that. But, also, this is a powerful, realistic film that can be a challenging experience, especially for those who have served in battle. If someone needs a moment outside of the theater, by all means they should feel free to take one.
We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?
It is so inexpensive to be making short films these days. So ALWAYS be making movies!
And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?
At a film festival? I saw CINEMA PARADISO at the Palm Springs festival in 1990. My number one film of all time is either ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN or PATHS OF GLORY.
For more information on this film and to follow its progress into the festival world, point your browser to www.sxsw.com/film!