Hollywood, Veterans, and Social Perceptions

Updated: April 7, 2015


By Kerry Patton

For several years, I have heard on multiple occasions how veterans take issue with Hollywood. Many of these veterans are incredibly right leaning who claim Hollywood is one left wing industry. Unfortunately, they fail to understand Hollywood is just that, an industry—an apolitical system of businesses.

Do veterans protest, scream from the top of their lungs at the entire fast food industry when a business such as Starbucks makes some company decision? Do veterans protest, scream from the top of their lungs when Chick-Fil-A makes some company decision? Both businesses appear, based off social perceptions, to be politically slanted polar opposites per their company decisions.

In the aforementioned paragraph, two distinctly different companies are mentioned–both however fall into the fast food industry. McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Popeyes, etc. are part of that industry yet protests do not result against the entire industry when one business does X, Y, or Z. Why?

It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever for anyone to target an entire industry when one specific business/entity does something we do not like or appreciate—be it politically motivated or not. Yet for some bizarre reason, Hollywood is constantly attacked by veterans.

Hopefully, this will set some records straight.

Hollywood, like all industries has some exceptional persons, organizations, and productions supporting veterans. In fact, here are five of some of the most notable veterans working in some of the highest of levels in Hollywood.

shutterstock_130009628Ron Meyer (US Marine Corps)—Founder of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) (arguably the largest talent representation firm in the entertainment business)

Amy Gravitt (US Navy) – Senior Vice President of HBO Programming

Jackie Perez (US Navy) – Executive Assistant to Chief Innovation Officer at CAA

Tim Norman (US Army) – Director, Human Resources at DreamWorks Animation

Oliver Stone (US Army)—Academy Award Winner with a Bronze Star and Purple Heart from his service in Vietnam.

For several years, the entertainment industry has worked harder than ever to support military veterans as they transition from service to civilian life. Veterans in Film and Television , MUSA, and AK Waters Productions are just three organizations with feet planted in Hollywood making incredible strides for veterans seeking a means to enter the industry.

On an individual basis, I can personally vouch for a plethora of Directors, Producers, Stunt Coordinators, Actors/Actresses, etc. who wish to see more veterans in the industry. Dean Devlin, Peter O’Fallon, Paul Bernard, James Scura, Mike Massa, Austin Brewer, Christian Kane, etc. have deep admiration for America’s warfighters and truly embrace having such individuals on set.

Here is the dilemma though and many veterans will take issue with the messenger here: Veterans destroy themselves.

I have been on a plethora of television and movie sets and have witnessed veterans ruin opportunities. They often come on sets with attitudes that are cancerous to an on-set environment. Here are just a few things I have seen on sets that kill our opportunities working in the entertainment industry:

  • Acting as if people owe you something: no one owes you anything—remember, we volunteered to serve our country and be put in harm’s way.
  • Some veterans do not know how to speak to cast and crew members: they often try to “impress” such persons by telling war stories—hate to say it, but while such persons appreciate our service, they do not care about your war stories….they care about creating a great production.
  • “This is what I would do” attitude—we all get it, if you were in a specific situation, you would do something different. If you were fighting some burly dude, you would beat the snot out of him with your lethal combatives you learned while at Ft. Benning. Let me tell you something. Believe it or not, there are some serious bad-asses working in Hollywood who know a ton about fighting—many of which would likely kick the snot out of many of our own brothers and sisters in a real street fight. Not all veterans are Tim Kennedy or Dale Comstock—this is Hollywood and you do what looks best on film with safety in mind at all times.
  • shutterstock_226081837Method acting gone too far: You do your best to get in role, a role you might have a deep connection with per your past experiences working for Uncle Same while wearing a uniform. You get in the zone as the camera roles. Next thing you know, you are no longer acting and doing what is asked of you while on set. You just became a non-controlled idiot. You just killed your future career in the industry.
  • Failure to adhere to the onset Command and Control hierarchy: You have some issue while working on set and you immediately go to the Director. Seriously??? Are you nuts? That’s like the private walking into the Commander’s office without using the chain of command. DON’T DO IT!!!! Yes, there is a chain of command on set. And always, ALWAYS, handle things on the lowest level.

So what can a veteran do to get deep into the entertainment industry to become the next Jimmy Stewart, Humphry Bogart, Clark Gable, or Audie Murphy (all veterans turned actors)? It’s really quite simple.

Be who you are today, not what you were yesterday: Be an actor, stuntman, producer, director, etc. Be what you are tasked to be right now. Live in the here and now.

Your reputation has the potential to destroy that of your brother and sisters who served alongside you wishing to enter the industry. Forget what you have been told about any industry and explore things for yourself. Then make a decision to determine whether it’s an industry you really wish to become a part of.

For me, Hollywood is exceptional. Everything about it brings back a rush I once had while working alongside my brothers-in-arms. The camaraderie, the work hard/play hard attitudes, the thrills, etc., it’s the closest thing I have found to come even remotely close to that missing gap I once had when I left the Armed Forces.



One Comment

  1. Jim

    April 10, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Even industry publications like Variety and Hollywood Reporter talk about the “Liberal Elite” of Hollywood. I point out the grief and angst over the critical and boxoffice success of American Sniper and the reluctance to nominate it for any Academy Awards (essentially it was “Clint Eastwood is getting up there, and this may be the last chance to nominate one of his pictures for best xxx”). Yes, politically I would say there are as many Libertarians as “Liberals” in the entertainment business, but they are not usually making decisions regarding what to produce and what not to.
    Using Oliver Stone is a perfect example of why many, not all, veterans dislike Hollywood’s depictions. He hasn’t done his brothers and sister in arms any favors with his catalog.
    And THAT’s the issue here. It’s the depiction of veterans as having something wrong with them: they are shown as seconds away from a PTSD episode; amoral to psychopathic (Jack Reacher); or somehow a victim of the evil generals/President/SecDef who btw are almost ALWAYS shown as right of center (Mr. Stone again, Antoine Fuqua come to mind).

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