War films have been a Hollywood staple since the birth of the industry, with “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “To Hell and Back,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Saving Private Ryan” and countless others weaving their way into popular culture.
Some of these films have even moved people to enter military service. It was “Black Hawk Down,” for example, that inspired Brian Chung to enlist. The former U.S. Army captain served in Iraq, got wounded and was flown back to the States for medical treatment. While recovering in Los Angeles, he got wind of the Army’s entertainment liaison office. One day he just dropped in and said, “Hey, can I work for you guys?”
The office happened to be short-staffed, said Lt. Col. Greg Bishop, who was working there at the time, helping out with such projects as “Transformers 2,” “G.I. Joe” and “Army Wives.” He quickly put the eager volunteer to work, and it wasn’t long before Chung identified an opening to start a business advising producers and studios on a make-or-break component of some film budgets: Dept. of Defense cooperation.
Normally DoD decisionmakers, who can provide access to military equipment, personnel and locations, “won’t even read the script unless a movie has funding and distribution,” says Bishop, so producers need assurance their project will pass muster. That’s the value proposition Chung is using to position the company, called Musa, which means warrior in Korean. He and co-owner John Han, also a former military officer, recently took on Bishop as an equity partner.
“We can help with development and save a lot of money for companies seeking assistance from DoD by working with them at the script stage to identify red flags,” says Bishop. He cites one script he read just as a favor to a friend while he was still at the liaison office in which he spotted a secondary storyline he knew would preclude DoD cooperation.
“If a company like ours had looked at it on the front end, we could have advised them to come up with another idea,” Chung points out. “In the meantime that producer had paid the writer and they were wasting their time on something they were never going to get.”
The military is surprisingly tolerant of film content, says Bishop, even sometimes approving scenarios of misbehaving troops “as long as there’s a consequence to it, but they won’t greenlight anything blatantly untrue or outside the realm of possibility. Of course, on a film like ‘T3,’ where you’re fighting alien robots, realism and accuracy tend to go out the window.”
Musa, which is repped by UTA, also advises on how to authentically depict key aspects of films such as uniforms and language. “We can make sure actors walk, talk and communicate like soldiers,” said Bishop. “If word gets out among millions of active-duty military members and veterans that a movie isn’t accurate, you can lose out on ticket sales.”
The Jacob & Kole agency is no more. Steve Jacob has dissolved his partnership with Julia Kole and has joined Richard Caleel at his newly remonikered WPA-Worldwide Production Agency, bringing along agent Trevor Kossack as well as a slew of clients. Jacob’s forte is commercials; Caleel specializes in features.
Caleel himself left Paradigm to start his agency last January, losing no time in bringing aboard two former Paradigm employees, agent Kristin Tolle and assistant Louiza Vick.
“I was only made aware of the changes last week so I don’t have a lot of comment,” said Jacob’s former partner Kole. “I’m retaining several clients for feature work, including d.p.’s Emmanuel Lubezki, Igor Jadue-Lillo, Rogier Stoffers, Stephane Fontaine and Adam Kimmel.” She added that she’s talking to a lot of people while evaluating her options.
Meanwhile, Sandra Marsh changed the name of Marsh, Best & Associates to Sandra Marsh & Associates after Claire Best left a few weeks ago along with associates Meg Olsen and Lori Di Costanzo and formed Claire Best & Associates.
Following Best to her new agency: d.p. Chris Menges, production designer Dan Hennah, costume designer Ngila Dickson and vfx supervisor Richard Edlund. Best has also signed clients, including producer Sue Baden-Powell (“The Apparition”), co-producer Diane Sabatini (“Unstoppable”), d.p. Byron Shah (“Prom”), costume designer Lisy Christl (“Anonymous”), vfx supervisor Tom Wood (“Prince of Persia”), prosthetic makeup artist Katy Fray (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”) and editor Stan Salfas (“Let Me In”).
Marsh, now marking 25 years in the business, retains agents Rocco Hindman and Michael Vasquez and reps a remaining roster of about 80 clients. “Not much has changed other than some clients went with Claire and most stayed with me,” said Marsh. “I wish her well.”