Q&A with the Makers of "Here am I, Send Me"
Here Am I, Send Me tells the incredible true story of Team Goldstar and Team Freedom, two groups of Veteran servicemen who set out to honor the 75th anniversary of D-Day with a round-canopy parachute jump into Normandy, France. The documentary features Scoti Domeij, member of Team Goldstar and mother of Army Sergeant First Class Kristoffer Domeij, who jumps with Army Rangers to honor the memory of her late son.
Cisco, the end-to-end networking telecoms company and financier of “Here Am I, Send Me”, is set to screen the film on Saturday, January 25th at Brand Storytelling 2020, a Sanctioned Event of the Sundance Film Festival.
We sat down with Matthew Griffin (AKA Griff), former Army Ranger who appears in and Executive Produced the film, as well as Zane O’Gwin and Devin Graham of Devinsupertramp, the video production team behind the exceedingly popular Devinsupertramp YouTube Channel, to learn more about the experience of making “Here Am I, Send Me”:
Who was approached to direct and when?
Devin Graham: The way this entire project came about was we have an awesome relationship with Google since we are one of their top creators on the YouTube platform. They had heard about the story from Griff, one of the people highlighted in the film, and they thought it was a great story. Google then had us jump on a phone call with Griff to hear a little bit about their story and they told us their plans to jump into the 75th anniversary with a gold star mom. Everyone on our team got really excited and thought it would be a powerful story to tell.
We have a couple different people that direct projects for our channels we run. Zane and I are the two main directors for our channel. With this project based on the story we thought Zane on our team should be the director on this one, and Zane was the one who made it happen from a director, writer, and editor standpoint. My role with the film would be executive producer and director of photography/cinematographer. But Zane was the one I chose to direct this film based on knowing he brought the most to the table to tell the story the best.
This project is unique when measured against the rest of the Devinsupertramp body of work. Did that present challenges for you? What was this experience like when measured against so many of your other unique opportunities as filmmakers?
Zane O'gwin: This Project was super unique as far as what we normally do on the channel. For those who don't know us one of the biggest things we are known for is we travel all over the world and capture people doing crazy stunts like a slip'n slide out of an airplane or parkour athletes jumping from roof to roof in Paris, France. So to make something with such a drastic mood change was intimidating and alluring at the same time. Especially for me as my usual role on the team, where my focus has always been on writing and directing traditional upbeat narratives. The idea of capturing something so real and meaningful made us really excited for the challenge but also we were all incredibly nervous and intimidated.
I think the biggest point of anxiety wasn't so much capturing what we needed, as far as epic footage, but making sure that I was asking the right questions to tell a coherent and meaningful story and be able to allow Scoti and the veterans to feel comfortable enough with me to open up and share. I can't speak for everyone on the team but of all the places and things we've captured in the world, this by far was the most life changing and meaningful.
The film certainly captures not only the literal moment of a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but the emotional essence of the experience as well. Griff, what was it like to be square in the center of this experience?
Matthew Griffin: Total agreement. Team Supertramp did a phenomenal job capturing the in-between moments while emotions were fresh. Therefore, "essence," would be an understatement of the emotions captured in 40+ minutes of HD.
What most people don't know is that the majority of pinnacle shots of the film were the production crew. During the initial production meetings, the team made the decision to wear the WW2 Ranger uniforms. In the Ranger Charter, it's mandated that wherever we go, our uniforms, appearance, and behavior represents the entire Regiment. Wherever we go, it must be apparent that we are the best team. All team members showed up, in uniform, operating at their highest level--it didn't feel like we were filming at all. It truly felt like we were on a mission to make the best remembrance film possible. It was humbling to work alongside Red Bull Athletes, Special Operations heroes, Youtube superstars, and most importantly--a Gold Star Mother.
As a producer of the film, can you speak to what it was like getting all of these different elements and people involved? How did Cisco come on board as well?
MG: I have limited experience in the film industry, but from what I understand and experienced, "chaos" is the norm. There were at least five different courses of action of how this operation could have gone down, sponsors fluctuated until the last minute, and aircraft availability and rates came down to a plane-side call. Throughout the entire planning cycle, we worked to minimize chaos with a simple, executable, and "feel good" plan that would be executed by genuinely good people. So if you really wanted to know what it was like, I'd have to give you an example of how the typical conversations went down:
Me: You want to go to France for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day and film a free fall jump out of a vintage airplane?
Them: Um. Yes please.
Me: Let's do it.
Cisco graciously stepped up as title sponsor through connections on Team Freedom. They saw the vision in the project supported the mission whole-heartedly. Words can't express how much gratitude we have for their support.
What inspired the title “Here Am I, Send Me”?
ZO: The title was inspired by a scripture in Isaiah 6:8 from the Bible which says: "Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me." While we by no means want to compare ourselves to the veterans we had the privilege to work with there, we chose “Here Am I, Send Me” for the title of the documentary feeling it not only represented so many of these soldiers but also fell right in line with how we felt when this project was first presented to us- Filming these veterans, and a gold star mom, and sharing with them this experience in Normandy, was an intimidating and overwhelming responsibility but we essentially raised our hands and said “we’ll do it, send us!” and we are forever grateful that we did.
What message do you hope viewers will take away from this powerful documentary?
MG: Given the diversity of subjects and topics covered, each viewer is going to take their own lesson away. Personally, I hope viewers gain some scale and perspective on their lives. This planet has problems requiring mandatory solutions if we want a future. Generations before us faced comparatively similar situations and succeeded. We can too.