Very rarely are films about the military made by those who actually served.
Joshua DeFour, a radio-television-film graduate student and veteran of the United States Marine Corps, is one of those rare individuals. DeFour has been cultivating his storytelling skills in the MFA Film and Media Production program for the past three years and hopes to bring an authentic voice to the military genre when he starts shooting his thesis film, “The 11th Order,” this July.
“The 11th Order” takes inspiration from the true story of Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, two Marines who died on April 22, 2008, while stopping a truck filled with explosives from destroying a base in Ramadi, Iraq, just minutes after meeting each other.
“It’s such a quick decision that was based on their training of course, but also the type of people that they were,” DeFour said. “It makes you question what you would have done.”
During his time with the Marines, DeFour said he embarked on humanitarian missions in countries such as Bangladesh and Thailand. DeFour said his experiences traveling the world instilled a deep respect within him.
“I got a sense that the Marines aren’t just about war and taking care of business in the violent sense that people associate them with,” DeFour said. “They’re also about taking care of others and genuinely attempting to help.”
Though DeFour said his time with the Marines influenced his films, his initial work had a more light-hearted bent. As he approached the end of his time in the master’s program, however, he decided it was time to make something more personal.
“I came to the school trying to avoid being pigeonholed, and I think a lot of people were silently disappointed that I was pushing that (military background) away,” DeFour said. “Over the years I think I realized that unless I told a story that I had personal connection to, (my films) just weren’t going to reach the next level.”
To reach that next level, DeFour needed a dedicated crew, including fellow graduate student, Lauren Izard.
DeFour and Izard said they have been working tirelessly to get all the details of Hale and Haerter’s story down pat since the beginning of the development process. Izard also noted DeFour’s dedication to do things the right way when it came to ensuring the support of their families.
“When he first pitched this story he was advised by others not to contact the families, but he immediately threw out that advice,” Izard said. “I’m proud to be a part of a production with that kind of heart and truly appreciate the duty Josh feels to represent the Marine code of honor in its fullest form.”
The project has been striving for much more than emotional accuracy. In the past weeks, DeFour has held location scouts throughout Los Angeles to find the perfect stand-in for Ramadi.
Jack Langlois, the director of photography, radio-television-film alumnus, said he is particularly excited about the challenges recreating the story presents.
“All projects I’ve worked on have been very ambitious, but this one in particular will be my largest crew and budget I’ve had the chance to work with,” Langlois said.
Izard said the crew is focused on telling the story the best they can.
“Cpl. Yale and Lance Cpl. Haerter were ordinary men who made an extraordinary decision that saved the lives of hundreds of people,” Izard said. “They deserve to be remembered, and this film is a small way to do that.”
Correction: A paragraph from Izard was rewritten to better reflect the meaning of her quote. The Texan regrets this error.