Desert Sky began as a side project by former Army Aviator Captain Eric Simon of the 159th Aviation Brigade when he arrived at Fort Campbell in February 2003 just two weeks before they shipped off to fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Taking his miniDV camera with him, Eric began shooting footage of the deployment and war whenever the chance arose, with the hopes of producing an hour long 'Wings' presentation for the Discovery Channel. This changed in November 2003 when a helicopter crew from the brigade's 5th battalion was shot down north of Tikrit. A week later, two more helicopters collided over the city of Mosul raising the casualty toll in the brigade to 12. The brigade would never be the same. After the memorial ceremonies, Eric began searching for stories within the brigade that would tell a broader view of the unit's experience. With the help of Flight Operations Sergeant Jason Rhoades he collected thousands of photographs from throughout the brigade showing hundreds of stories. It was no longer a 'Wings' production but a human interest story - a documentary. In December 2003 Eric contacted Dan Smith a producer in Phoenix, Arizona and told Dan his idea for the film. They agreed to meet upon Eric's return to the States. In the interim, Eric produced a short trailer for the film to bring to Dan and in May 2004 they met in Phoenix where Eric showed his footage and trailer. Don Enevoldsen a writer and Robert Allison an editor and technical specialist were also at the meeting. They were stunned by the pictures and footage Eric brought back with the stories and immediately knew there was a film to be made. Upon returning to Fort Campbell, Eric arranged to interview several members of the brigade. One surviving family member of a killed crewmember was available for interview as well. Once approval for the film was given by the Department of the Army Public Affairs in Los Angeles, interviews were shot and secondary footage was gathered from the 101st Airborne Division's Public Affairs cameramen and the 101st Museum. When the smoke had cleared, over 1200 minutes of footage and interviews had been compiled. The challenge would be to narrow it all down to just 90 minutes.
Monday, May 02, 2005
Desert Sky on DVD is now available for purchase. Desert Sky is a documentary about the 159th Aviation Brigade in Iraq. The 159th Aviation Brigade is the world's largest Air Assault Helicopter Brigade. You can purchase Desert Sky on DVD here.