Burning Blue, which features a cast of very talented ( and really handsome ) theatre and television actors ( Trent Ford and Rob Mayes among them )first debuted last fall during the Reeling Film Festival and is now back in the Chicagoland areaopening this Friday, June 6 exclusively at the AMC Streets of Woodfield Theatre.
The movie is a very affecting love story of two Navy pilots who find themselves inexplicably in the midst of a forbidden relationship before the dreaded "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was rescinded. David Greer ( who goes by the initials "DMW" ) adapted his 1992 play ( along with Helene Kvale ), for the screen, and also both produced and directed it.
Windy City Times: Let's start with the inspiration for the play and now the film which I believe came from your own life. You were a Navy brat yourself and in the Navy in the 1980sa very tough time to be closeted in the armed forces. How much of the play is based on your own experience?
DMW Greer: It's a work of fiction but a lot is drawn from my own experience. A couple of the characters are blends of people that I am still very close with; others are more singularly true to the people that inspired them. Most of what happens in the film happened to menot necessarily in that order. I was fortunate that I was spared some of the humiliations that are detailed in the filmthough they were all based on things that happened to people. I was fortunate to leave without that heavy cloud hanging over meat least publicly. My niece, who was a helicopter pilot because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," voluntarily went to her squadron commander and said, "I can't live under this; it's damaging to who I am as a person and my honor and my integrity and I won't do it." So she had a bit of a moment like that and I knew others that did the same thing.
WCT: Did this life-changing moment for your niece happen before your play premiered in 1995 or after? Was she inspired by your work to do that?
DMW Greer: That's a really good questionI never thought about that and it was after the play was produced. She left the Navy, I think, in 2005 but I don't know about that.
WCT: Did you ever have conversations with her about your experience?
DMW Greer: We've had many conversations about so many things around this whole issuemany conversations.
WCT: Did your being gay have anything to do with your leaving the Navy?
DG: I wasn't forced to leave. I was pretty much under the radar but personally it definitely pushed me out. Not to say that I wouldn't have left anyway before I completed a 20- or 30-year careerbecause there were so many other things I was interested inbut I just didn't want to live under the threat of this completely intractable threat. It was something that was always there and in that way, yes, it certainly had an influence.
WCT: Were you in the process of making the film when the policy was overturned?
DG: There was all sorts of talk as we were getting into productionso much work had gone into the repeal of this with SLDN ( Servicemembers Legal Defense Network ) really doing the major heavy lifting. They really made the repeal their mission and just kept up the pressure and after 17 years of work on this were finally able to get to Obama and it was on the last day of our primary shoot in December of 2010 that Obama signed the repeal.
WCT: Wowwhat a day that must have been!
DG: We were shooting interiors on the aircraft carrier that we had built on a soundstage in Long Island and later that night we ended up shooting the scene where the four end up in the hotel room together.
WCT: Oh, yessexy times.
DG: [Laughs] Exactly. That was the last day of our shoot.
WCT: That had to have been the greatest wrap party of all timetalk about serendipitous!
DG: Absolutely. We'd gotten word that morning and I called the crew together and made a short speech and it was very intense; very emotional for everyone on the set. But we were just trying to make our day, you know?
WCT: Sureindie filmmaking.
DG: Yes. And there was a bit of a wrap party but we didn't get to really celebrate because we took a skeleton crew down to Washington D.C. and shot that beautiful footage at the Lincoln Memorial early in the morning of Trent and Rob walking together. It was bitter cold but it was a really wonderful wrap considering where we were and what had happened that day.
WCT: Did the Navy cooperate at all with the shoot?
DG: Not at all. I knew they wouldn't. My last tour of duty had been with the Public Affairs Office and I knew it would be highly unlikelythey rarely allow any kind of movie shoots. We did this all on our own.
WCT: It's nice to see a gay-themed film get picked up by a major studio like Lions Gate.
DG: It's been wonderfulwe've still got that hill to jug up so thank you for helping to get the word out to your readers.
WCT: I'm assuming you still have gay friends in the military, so would you say things have changed for them?
DG: Totally. Just amazing things have happened. Because of DOMA being struck down and the passage of gay marriage in so many states it was really necessary for the military to get in line with what the local and state laws are requiring. So, yes, there's been huge progress but there definitely still needs to be more. As was the case with the integration of the services by Truman back in the '50s, they change laws but they don't necessarily change hearts and minds and sadly, I understand that there are still men and women in the service who are not yet comfortable coming out.
WCT: Well, that's why something like Burning Blue really helps break down resistance in the mainstream.
DG: Absolutely. Thank you, Richard. We are so grateful for Chicago's support of the film.
See www.burningbluefilm.com .