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Documentary chronicles how a zombie apocalypse movie gave new life to veterans

POSTED: June 27, 2017 9:19 a.m.
In summer 2016, independent film “Range 15” premiered in over 550 theaters, drawing thousands of military veterans and an ISIS death threat to all military gatherings in movie theaters (which did nothing to stop crowds from turning out).

United States Air Force veteran Jarred Taylor is still feeling the movie's ripple effect.

“The night that we premiered … to over (550 theaters), there were (550) after-parties,” Taylor said. “And still to this day, when we meet people, they tell us how they met their now really good friends at the ‘Range 15’ premiere, so if that’s what we got out of that, just bringing a ton of people together across the country … then I think it was a success.”

Now, Taylor — who executive-produced and starred in “Range 15” — is helping tell the story of how the film, shot in 13 days by 80 veterans with $1.1 million raised on Indiegogo, came to be.

The documentary “Not A War Story” will premiere in Los Angeles on June 30 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, though there’s been no announcement yet of when and where it will be available to the public. It includes interviews with cast members and producers as they navigate the challenges of creating “Range 15,” a darkly comedic zombie apocalypse film starring only veterans and meant to poke fun at how Hollywood typically portrays the military. The Indiegogo page for “Range 15” shows nearly 11,000 backers — despite the cast and crew's complete lack of film-making experience.

Taylor grew up in Poulsbo, Washington, and became interested in the military when his father, who served in the Navy, was transferred to Italy. Rather than join his father, Taylor enlisted in the Air Force at age 17, where he later became a Tactical Air Control Party specialist (TACP) and part of the 14th Air Support Operations Squadron in support of the 82nd Airborne Division. He deployed twice from Fort Bragg to Iraq (Mosul in 2005 and Baghdad in 2007) and later taught the TACP apprentice course before separating from active duty.

Taylor is now president of Article 15 Clothing, a military-themed clothing company, which helped produce “Range 15” in conjunction with boutique production company Pixela Pictura and military-themed clothing company Ranger Up. He also holds board positions with Leadslingers Whiskey, Black Rifle Coffee Company and A15 Publishing, and each of the companies he’s involved with seeks to give opportunities to veterans.

For Taylor, “Not A War Story” has been a long time coming — he began filming behind the scenes during the making of “Range 15,” knowing he “wanted to do a documentary on what this kind of project was going to take,” he said. “And now, in the next month, everybody gets to see how hard this was.”

Some of those challenges included a lead actor injuring his ankle, thousands of dollars in unanticipated costs, and even several actors almost being arrested when police thought live rounds were being fired.

“The hardest part of being involved in the project was (being) a lead actor in the movie (while I was) also an executive producer,” Taylor said. “That means all the problems within the production (were my) problems, but (I was) trying to focus on doing good for the movie.”

Despite the challenges, though, “The hardest parts are over,” Taylor said. “… We were able to overcome those.”

Something else Taylor is proud of is the speed at which they performed — according to the “Not A War Story” trailer, the cast and crew went through eight to 12 pages of their script a day, while the average Hollywood movie goes through five to six.

“We outperformed a lot of people in Hollywood,” Taylor said.

The cast and crew of “Range 15” are by no means movie stars, though.

“(‘Range 15’ was) fun because a lot of us here (have) always dreamed (of) … having a real movie with real actors and stuff like that, (so) it was a really fun experience,” Taylor said. “But at the end of the day, it hasn’t changed anything. I mean the movie comes out, occasionally somebody will look at you weird and go ‘Oh, weren’t you in that (movie)?’”

Now, Taylor is focused on helping veterans through his businesses.

“We want to empower veterans to know that they can succeed in the business world,” Taylor said, “and if they can learn from … where we make mistakes or (if we) can help them, then we’d love to do that. We (also) want to hire as many as we can. They get priority with us.”

To Taylor, “Not A War Story” isn’t just about telling the story of “Range 15.”

“I just really hope (‘Not A War Story’) kind of changes the tune of the naysayers to see really what this did, to see how many people we were able to bring together,” he said. “We’re excited to share this documentary with everybody, and it (will be) interesting to see what they think.”

Content advisory: "Not A War Story" currently is not rated, but does includes crude depictions of male anatomy as well as vulgar and strong language.
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