Indie Film about World War II Has a Unique Twist of Masonic Secrets
When Tino Struckmann finally made his move to LA, he had no idea that his previous service with the army and in the military police would serve as the platform for producing his first feature film and starring effort in Brother's War. Inspired by actual events, the film is set during the final days of World War II against the bitter fighting on the Eastern Front as the Soviet and Allied armies battled their way into a defeated Germany. After a British officer, attached to the Red Army, uncovers secrets that could destroy the Allies' unity, he is imprisoned by Stalin's notoriously lethal intelligence service. There he is aided by an unlikely source - a German officer - after they discover they share a common bond in Freemasonry that unites them by honor, oath and secrets.
Soon after, the two escape from the Soviet prison camp, and Anna (a beautiful nurse) joins them as they flee from the savage battles that surround them. These three unlikely adrift cohorts are pursued from both sides because the secrets they carry could alter the outcome of the war and seal the fate of millions in the future.
"With it all, I didn't want to make just another war film," admits Struckmann. "It is basically a classic war film with the added twist that the two leads (despite being on opposite sides) are both Freemasons - thus bound by this fraternity to join together in the cause to save Europe from a new war." Struckmann and his co-writer and producer Warren Lewis (Black Rain, The 13th Warrior) wanted to tell the real events that unfolded in war-torn Poland as the world stood by as Stalin exterminated its government, and how Germany was unraveling under the daily bombings by the Allies.
"I always believed that period films should be entertaining and informative and give rise to debate and spark the viewer's interest to study the time period and the history behind it," states Struckmann. "When I started writing Brother's War, I had both in mind. There is a great deal of interest in Freemasonry today as evidenced in films such as National Treasure and The Da Vinci Code. There is also a lot of untold history surrounding World War II, especially the brutal fighting on the Eastern Front between the German and Soviet armies. It was with these two themes in mind that led me to the creation of the film as well as the Nazis' persecution of European Freemasons which forced some to hide in the German army."
The film began production on December 10, 2006 in northern California under the helm of award winning director Jerry Buteyn. Besides Struckmann, with his outstanding portrayal of the German Captain, the cast also included American horror icon Michael Berryman and the European action star Olivier Gruner. The film also stares a great up and coming actor Jack Dimich giving an exceptional performance as the NKVD Major. Jack recently had the lead in the short film In the Name of the Son directed by Harun Mehmedinovic. The film has qualified for an Oscar™ nomination and is Co-Produced by Tino Struckmann. Beautiful Hayley Carr performs the female lead in Brother's War.
When asked if she was intimidated being the lone female character for most of the film, Carr gave a surprising reply. "I liked being the lone female in the film! I'm a tomboy at heart so I'm used to hanging with the boys. I just hope I did the role justice. The lead characters were so great and they gave me a lot to work with."
Michael Berryman, known for his role in the original 1977 film The Hills Have Eyes, brings a great deal of nuance to his role of Petrov, a ruthless Soviet intelligence officer committed to the USSR's manifest destiny. He commented about playing such an avaricious character, "I felt up to the challenge. The most compelling aspect of my role was the conflict between his loyalty to 'Mother Russia' and to his own family. Petrov surely was distressed over the choice: Kill the civilians or I send your family to the gulag."
Surprising US locations and WWII weaponry bring the past to reality
Filming in Petaluma County was a unique experience. "It rained half the time," Struckmann recalls, "then it was either hot and sunny or freezing cold. It seemed that everything that could possibly go wrong for us weather-wise happened." They shot the battle scenes in Petaluma, then at Fort MacArthur in Los Angeles. When more battle scenes were needed later on, the company moved to Michigan and then did the final shoots at Angeles Oaks.
For veteran actor Olivier Gruner, the northern California location and battle scenes were his most memorable aspects of the production. "Filming up north, looking at the set, I thought I was in Europe. The extras did an amazing job portraying German or Soviet soldiers - the way they held their guns and carried themselves was very impressive. You actually felt you were on that battlefield."
Wearing his "producer hat", Struckmann decided to start backwards, shooting the more difficult footage first. "A war film needs soldiers, tanks and authentic looking battlefields, so I started to look for them first." When he began searching for tanks, Struckmann deduced that if he could find an actual tank collector, there would surely be fields nearby. It happened that one of the film's producers knew of a man, Hans Beerbaum, who collected tanks and World War II equipment. Fortunately for the production he had a running T-34 Russian battle tank. On a scouting trip to look at the tank, Struckmann found out that Beerbaum owned ten acres in Petaluma that had terrain similar to Europe and he even owned one of the famous German 88 guns. Originally an anti-aircraft gun, Rommel discovered during the invasion of France, they could knock out tanks from over 2,000 meters, and so its function was changed to serve as the primary gun on the German Tiger Tank. "We were lucky to find one in existence at all. They are very rare today.
Both Beerbaum and Producer Mike Phillips knew of re-enactors with German and Russian uniforms. This re-enactor's society was a film producer's dream, as participants came from all over the country to be in the film. They knew their history. They also owned all of their own equipment and knew tactics and weapons. For them, it was like being back in the Army. "All I had to do was give orders," adds Struckman.
In Clio, Michigan, another one of the film's locations, they uncovered a trove of German memorabilia as well as a German "unit". The men in Clio had a German Hetzer tank destroyer that the filmmakers used in the production, as well as one of the few remaining German amphibian jeeps, a swim-wagon and many other WWII "toys."
More than seven different types of Russian, German and US World War II vehicles were used including tanks, jeeps and trucks. Great attention to historic detail was adhered to. A highly experienced group of technical advisors from film and television provided the film's army with over 100 different uniforms and authentic World War II era weapons. Over eighty "special ability" extras worked throughout the course of the production. These extras were pre-trained in weapons handling and stunts and served as German, American and Russian soldiers.
Cutting edge technology and accomplished crew bring highest quality to Brother's War
Additionally, Struckmann takes pride in the high-level production value in all aspects of the film. Brother's War is the first feature film to use the Red Rock M2 cinema lens system. This new technology allows High Definition cameras to use 35mm cinema lenses, giving Brother's War the same look as film but with the advantages of HD. The film also digitally captured all of the production's audio. These digital recordings were captured straight to a hard drive allowing for unparalleled audio clarity.
Over 160 computer generated shots are incorporated into the movie including multiple fully rendered 3-D environments as well as "genuine" muzzle flashes from the actual weapons and composted into the battle scenes - all created and supervised by Ryan Carter whose previous credits include Spiderman, The Day after Tomorrow, Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow, The Helix, Dune and Cities of the Underworld.
To bind the entire film together is a "world class" soundtrack created for the film by Chris Ward, composer of the score for films such as Waterworld, Pearl Harbor, Speed, Con Air, Bad Boys, Twister and The Lion King.
As for the film's unique perspective "including a German soldier as one of the heroes", director Jerry Buteyn feels the film is really about people who are forced to work together. "In war," he states, "there is no black or white. There is good on all sides and bad on all sides. We had a challenge in this movie because we took a German captain and made him the hero. But then we learn that he is actually a gentleman who cares for his men and also cares about doing what is right. He is not a typical Nazi. And, being a Freemason, he was persecuted by the Nazis. Like a lot of Germans, he was just getting by - not towing the party line."
And, it is that aspect of Struckmann's character, the Freemason that allows him to join with his British "brother" and transcend his mission beyond the border of his fallen homeland.
Along with the talented cast and crew who banked on the success of Brother's War, Scott Jones, President of Artist View Entertainment is another believer. "Artist View is very pleased to add Brother's War to our Fall 2008 line-up. The film has real potential in the worldwide market boosting great writing, solid acting and a first class, high quality sound track. The EFX are exception and I can honestly say it is one of the best independent films I have seen this year."
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