For first-time director and veteran Hollywood screenwriter Jason Hall, the process of providing David Finkel’s book “Thank You for Your Service” to the silver screen was influenced by an individual connection.
“I poured my heart and soul into this script,” said Hall in a mobile interview, noting an uncle who fought in Vietnam, a sibling who offered in Desert Surprise and a grandfather who dished up in the Air Pressure during World Warfare II.
Despite all the family connections, war reviews were rarely shared among Hall’s family, so he was all the more impressed by the candid aspect of Finkel’s effort, which recounts the true story of Sgt. Adam Schumann and several Iraq Battle veterans as they wrestle using their civilian lives.
Hall was impressed by the openness the veterans offered Finkel as he looked into their personal struggles, proclaiming that he “wanted to do the same thing in terms of directing the film.”
Hall first came across Schumann’s history while working on the “North american Sniper” screenplay with Steven Spielberg, who was originally going to direct the storyline of veteran sniper Chris Kyle before stepping away in favor of Clint Eastwood. Spielberg gave Hall a duplicate of Finkel’s book, imagining the film as a friend piece to the “American Sniper” film.
“He asked easily thought they were too similar,” Hall said. “But I said that I didn’t think so, that I sensed one was the story of Achilles and the other was the report of Odysseus.”
For Hall, “MANY THANKS woman Service” could be the compelling story of the “everyman” who returns from warfare without all the accolades and honors, and he hoped the film would “shed new light on what these guys go through when they come home.”
Ultimately, Spielberg stepped away from “Thank You and also the Service” as well, and the directing reins fell to Hall. For the first-time director, the chance was referred to as both an “honor” and a “giant ‘be careful what you wish for'” situation.
To do the job, Hall built on his experience as a screenwriter.
“I always try to write a script as if I was an architect sketching blueprints for a director,” he said. “EASILY don’t see it, I don’t write it.”
He also benefitted from the help of the real-life veterans he was immortalizing on display, adding that lots of were involved in the making of the film.
Actually, Sgt. Schumann was so helpful as a military services adviser that he was delivered off to do the same job for an upcoming Ang Lee film, and both he and Sgt. Michael Adam Emory arrive on display screen in “MANY THANKS woman Service” cameos (the true Sgt. Schumann actually greets his own figure — enjoyed by A long way Teller — when he arrives at an airport early in the film.)
The veterans were also present for a special pre-screening, an event Hall referred to as “profound and moving.”
“While you watch a movie in a movie theater, you’re writing the first collective unconscious of the people around you,” he said. “You can detect the reactions, which was certainly true because of this viewing.”
The director observed that after the screening, members of the audience — people who acquired just watched their own lives play out on screen — lingered together to process the experience, but regularly used the word “beautiful” to spell it out what that they had seen.
Hall dreams that the veterans who start to see the film will see comfort in knowing others have distributed their experiences.
And for everyone else, Hall expects that viewing the film allows those to “come away with a new understanding of our veterans and what each goes through,” and create conversations that will “find a new way to welcome (veterans) home.