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PAUL GROSS: LIVE WEAPONS, HYENA ROAD, AND THE MIDDLE EAST

by / No Comments / September 28, 2015

by Joel Schulz – Publisher

Paul Gross and I sat down together at his hotel, on Friday September 25, to discuss the making of his latest production, HYENA ROAD, which was shown at its own special gala at this year’s Calgary International Film Festival, currently in progress. This film is a fictionalized documentary that immerses the viewer into the modern warfare arena and, in particular, as it is happening in Afghanistan. Having spent a major portion of my life covering war for television networks, I was impressed by the stark reality that Gross managed to accomplish, compelling me to seek him out because HYENA ROAD took me back to the front lines in a very very big way.

For what should be obvious reasons, Paul Gross could not fly his entire crew and cast into the battle theatre in Afghanistan, they are film professionals and actors and not soldiers, so approximately half of HYENA ROAD was filmed in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (Jordan’s official name). However, portions were filmed in Afghanistan and Canada. This article encapsulates my discussions with Gross pertaining to the logistics of the Jordanian component of the production. Jordan has been a location for many productions, most notably LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.

Being told that a plane load full of live weapons, ranging from assault rifles to heavy artillery, had to be flown into the Middle East got me asking questions. First thoughts would lead one to think this would be, potentially, a logistical nightmare. Real ammunition and ordinance was used to make this film, no fake Hollywood western sound effects here. When one stops to ponder the idea, the producers had to secure permissions to bring enough guns to equip a small army into the Middle East, a region where much of it has been at war or subjected to terrorist activity for nearly 70 years. Paul Gross had to build an operable base camp to mimic the one in Afghanistan, provide security, bring the weapons, crew, and cast in, shoot (the film that is), and do this all in 15 days. During our discussion, Paul iterated that Jordan was actually most cooperative once they were assured that the security issues were mitigated.

Hot weapons were not the only issues. Visas and transportation for crew and cast for both the Jordanian and Afghani components of HYENA ROAD had to be tackled by production managers and coordinators. An added treat was the fact that a visa had to be secured for an important crew member who was former Mujahideen, the anti-Russian Muslim Afghan warriors. Many Mujahideen are modern day Taliban, an enemy in this production. Paul also iterated, most emphatically, that insurance for the production presented its own obstacles. Flying into Afghanistan, the insurance company would only insure until the plane was on the tarmac, but not after. One look at the IMDB crew credits would show the complexity of the transportation component.

Gross, in addition to the abundance of administrative hurdles to his production’s success, wanted the filming to provide as much of an experience as possible for his cast and crew with foreign cultures. Prior to my interview with Paul Gross, I spoke briefly with Rossif Sutherland, one of the lead actors, who shared with me the fact that he was exposed to cultures he had no prior experiences with.

HYENA ROAD is to be released October 9, 2015.

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