Coming off the cusp of the highly successful film, Lone Survivor, Janie Elliott took time to discuss ABQ Mastermind Productions’ latest project, YOLO – A Military Documentary with PolitiChicks.tv. YOLO is a brief look at a few amazing people and companies that are making a difference with our veterans and their families upon their return.
LD: Tell me about YOLO. For those who don’t know, what does the acronym mean? What does YOLO mean in the context of your documentary?
JE: The acronym YOLO stands for You Only Live Once. The reason I named it, YOLO, was, first off, not only is it a catchy saying, but then when you really stop and think about what it means, you understand that you REALLY do only live once. Despite the pitfalls and sometimes dire consequences, these men and women have chosen to do THIS with their lives and serve our country. That takes a special kind of person. In a world full of paparazzi and reality shows, they are risking their lives and making a difference where it really counts.
LD: You are a military veteran yourself. In what branch did you serve? Where were you deployed?
JE: I served in the United States Air Force, a very long time ago, back during the Reagan Administration, and did all my time stateside. I never saw combat. I was one of the lucky ones that was able to serve my country in a low risk environment. My friends were not always so lucky. During my enlistment I had a relatively routine situation. I was in during a period when they did not let women in a lot of the job listings. It may have been the end of the Cold War, but the thought of having women in most of those combat positions was relatively new. It was definitely a different time in the world.
LD: Tell me about your reintegration back into civilian life.
JE: I left the military in the mid-80s as a Personnel Specialist with computer training. I was fortunate when I transitioned out to California, because I was able to pick up an Executive Assistant job at a university hospital. It was a good job and it got me to my next path in life. Ultimately, I went back to college which opened up new opportunities including being a Radio Morning Show Producer.
LD: What has been the most profound or shocking statement made to you regarding your reintegration?
JE: “Suck it up! You’ll find something. Veterans get hired over others so you should have no problem.” When I heard that, it was absolutely mind-blowing to me that people were so ignorant. As soldiers we are taught to be self-sufficient and not ask for any help. When we DO ask, and then get a dismissive response, it is overwhelming to me. Being a female veteran, it was even harder. We trained to be as tough as a male soldier and when we ask for help it IS because we really need it.
LD: Tell me about the companies that have partnered with you and their participation in the mission to reintegrate veterans back into civilian life.
JE: Last year my producer and I had the pleasure of working on the movie, Lone Survivor. While filming that movie, we worked with a gentleman named Harry Humphries. He was our Military Advisor and Liaison for the Military Entertainment Division. I told him of my idea to do a documentary about veterans and the needs that they have upon their return. In turn, Harry pointed me in the direction of VetNet, which is his company that is working with our veterans to reintegrate into civilian life. Mr. Humphries also told us about an amazing woman named Jerri Rosen that oversees a company called Working Wardrobe in Costa Mesa, California. We had the pleasure of going out to California to meet with Jerri Rosen and Working Wardrobe’s outstanding staff. We spent the day speaking with veterans that were actually going through the process. The staff takes them shopping for clothes for possible job interviews with their own clothing consultant. They give them interviewing skills, training classes and an all around support system in connection with VetNet to make sure each individual is cared for with compassion, understanding and respect.
LD: You are crowdsourcing YOLO on Kickstarter. What is the difference between crowdsourcing process as opposed to the more traditional routes such as mainstream production company funding. What are the pros and cons of crowdsourcing as opposed to funding through more traditional channels?
JE: My partners and I started a production company this year. We work in the film industry as a career and decided that it was time to make our own company and produce documentaries about things close to our hearts. We live in Albuquerque, New Mexico so finding a studio to fully fund our project would be nearly impossible to do locally. Thus crowdsourcing was a much more viable option. We would love to take this to a national level. Recently we have made contacts that may take us to Washington DC and further our scope of reference. The more exposure and publicity that YOLO gets, the more beneficial crowdsourcing becomes. The downside of crowdsourcing is that if the project does not meet its fundraising goal, it does not receive any of the money already pledged. A lack of project exposure can make crowdsourcing difficult without proper networking.
LD: If you look at the projects on Kickstarter, the projects primarily involve the creative arts: film, video, dance. Like most creative ventures, Kickstarter projects are dominated by left of center points of view. Is their room in film and media for more conservative voices?
JE: It is true that filmmakers are trying this method of fundraising, mostly out of ease and accessibility, because you can get exposure to a diverse group of people all at one time. I don’t want to categorize us as a conservative voice or a liberal voice, but rather as a beacon of light showcasing great people and companies that are making a difference for returning veterans. Although they may be hard to find, there are independent organizations working outside VA funded programs; people and companies that make it their responsibility to fill a need for our veterans.
LD: What is the timeline of production and release of your project? What distribution channels are available for YOLO? How can we see it once it’s released?
JE: We are shooting for a July 2014 finish. If we get enough national response, then we will be trying to distribute it through larger television and cable markets. There is also an opportunity to get a copy of the completed documentary for contributors at the Kickstarter.com website. DVD copies will be made available upon the completion of the project through Albuquerque Mastermind Productions.
LD: Finally, what is the message that you would like to convey your audience?
JE: Honestly, when I started filming this documentary I was looking to highlight the gap between what the veterans needed and what they were receiving. The tone of the first few interviews made it clear that the project was headed in a dark place. Anyone that knows us knows we are optimists at heart and we always try to see the hopeful side of things. This required a change in mindset and direction. When we had the pleasure of meeting with Working Wardrobe and VetNet, it changed the game. We immediately saw the opportunity to focus on some great people and companies that were making a difference. That experience was the catalyst that we needed to turn it around and focus on the bright futures of our veterans. Seeing what IS being done by individuals and companies to make the veterans’ transition into civilian life easier is something that we can ALL be proud of.
To learn more about YOLO – A Military Documentary link to:
To learn more about the Albuquerque Mastermind Productions and their other projects, including YOLO, link to:
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