Veteran Talks Role in "Patriots Day"

Posted January 13, 2017 by Kate Hoit

Tell us about Patriots Day. What role do veterans play in the movie?

Patriots Day is about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and how the great city of Boston and it’s law enforcement came together to track down the terrorist’s who executed it.

I don’t know the full extent military veterans were used on the film but I know there were vets as actors, tactical consultants, and performing stunts. In fact, a friend of mine working on the film was looking for amputees to be part of the bombing scene and thought he’d offer the opportunity to wounded amputee veterans. I often work with wounded warriors so he asked if I knew any that would feel comfortable portraying victims during the scene. I introduced him to several and they ended up flying out a couple amputee vets who had their first experience working on a feature film.

Can you tell us about your role in Patriots Day?

I worked on the film with a stunt team and we did several scenes as law enforcement doing tactical work including being part of the FBI team surrounding the terrorist in the boat and capturing him. As a Marine veteran, it was a great experience for me personally as I’m a big fan of Pete Berg, Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Monaghan, and Kevin Bacon, all of whom have authentically portrayed military veterans in previous productions I love.

Pete also had the actual FBI agents/law enforcement on set who apprehended Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and it was an honor getting to meet and work with them, some of which are veterans as well. Being able to work with fellow vets on this film that honors the Boston community and it’s law enforcement is an experience I’ll never forget and am very grateful for it.

Why is it important to have veterans on set—whether as consultants, writers, or casting them?

Veterans can make great consultants throughout the entire production process. From working with writers to get the language and military/veteran culture authentic in the script to ensuring uniforms and gear are accurate on set, vets provide valuable insight. When doing tactical scenes hiring veterans can make a director’s life much easier in that veterans don’t need to be taught how to properly hold weapons or how to wear and use gear.

Whether they served on the front lines or in a support capacity, every veteran understands what it means to be part of a team, take initiative, and the importance of every one’s role. In the military if someone doesn’t do their job, it can cost lives. That experience translates well to a hiring vets as crew on a production where there can be expensive budgets, time constraints, and immense pressure. Veterans have experience in performing and succeeding in these conditions. A common phrase in the military is “we get more done by 9am than most people do all day” and ultimately that translates to veterans are used to getting more production done in less time.

While it is easy to think of hiring veterans to be consultants and perform tactical scenes I would encourage professionals in entertainment to look to hiring veterans in all aspects of the filmmaking process. While the news may may focus on issues in the veteran community such as suicide and post traumatic stress, know that the overwhelming amount of veterans are leading success lives after service and becoming incredible assets in the workplace in our communities. That includes Hollywood’s community of veterans working to become talented actors, directors, writers, and crew.

For veterans reading this who are interested in acting how can they follow in your footsteps? 

Veterans have a wide range of emotional and life experience that most people do not get or take much longer to have. That experience is a great foundation to build off when developing characters and auditioning for roles. For vets interested in becoming actors I would encourage you to be in acting classes or schools and learn how to use your life experience to your benefit as an actor.

Aside from acting, for veterans looking to work in film and television in general, I would encourage you to do your research to find what career path is appealing to you. There are many crafts and skilled positions needed throughout the filmmaking process. From stunts, special effects, camera operators, armourers, make-up artists, set photographers, and more there are many career paths in entertainment. I would encourage any veteran interested in working in this industry to use the GI Bill and go to film school or training curriculum to get started.

Patriots Day opens in theaters nationwide on today.

Mike Dowling is a Marine and Iraq war veteran turned actor, producer, consultant, and veteran advocate. He’s teamed with various award winning producers on a wide range of productions for networks, studios, and more.