AFF 2012 Filmmaker Spotlight: Michael Connors

By Mark Saldana

A day before the start of the 2012 Austin Film Festival and Conference, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Connors, the writer/director of the movie Allegiance, which is playing at this year’s festival.  Connors, a polite and amiable gentleman, shows great talent with his feature film debut and deserves to continue working in the movie business.  Allegiance tells the story of two soldiers in the National Guard who request transfers prior to being deployed to Iraq.  Lieutenant Danny Sefton’s (Seth Gabel) transfer is approved, as his father has friends in high places and Specialist Chris Reyes (Bow Wow) receives a denial, as he is considered one of the best field medics available.  Reyes requests the transfer to remain stateside with his ailing son, while Sefton’s request is simply to remain with his fiancé.

 

 

Obviously because of the controversial nature of the story, I had no trouble coming up with questions for Connors.

Mark Saldana: I really liked your film.  It is so emotionally charged and certainly is the type of film that will divide audiences and arouse much discussion.  Did a personal experience or connection of some kind inspire you to tell this story?

Michael Connors: Absolutely. It is based on my experiences in the National Guard.  At one point in my career, one of my soldiers asked me to help him go AWOL.  I also experienced being reactivated through IRR (Inactive Ready Reserve), also known as the “back door draft”, a form of involuntary service.  I was in the New York National Guard and in 2001, resigned my commission to attend Columbia’s film school. A week after I began the program, 9-11 happened. Even after a Guard member resigns, he or she remains on a list for four years and can be called back into duty in times of emergency or crisis.  When we went to war with Iraq, I got the call as I was about to start shooting my thesis film for school.   National Guard Life is so different from the regular Army.  We don’t receive the same kind of intensive training and preparation that Army units receive.

MS: I just discovered that Allegiance began as a short film called Recalled. Had you always envisioned this story as a feature length film? How did it evolve into one, once you finished the short?

MC: Recalled is my thesis short for school.  In the beginning, I had written Recalled solely as a short.  I had no idea what would happen after deployment.  I managed to get an extension on my IRR orders and finished the film.  Because the short was a success, producers inspired me to expand it to a feature length film.

MS: Is AFF the first film festival to showcase Allegiance?

MC: No. It premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival in April.

MS: Have you received any negative feedback from people feeling insulted or offended with the notions of soldiers going AWOL or deserting in a time of war?

MC: My film is not politically aimed at all.  Actually, two thirds of the investors of this film served in the military and some are far more conservative than I am.  I received no Army support or permission, though. Army recruiters do not favor realistic war films.  They prefer movies of the more heroic variety.

MS: So what’s next for you? Any other film projects after this?

MC: I am attached to an indie crime thriller.  It is an update of noir films similar to Chinatown.  Production will begin in the Spring or Summer of next year.

 

Well, if Allegiance is indicative of the quality of movies to expect from Michael Connors, we should all look forward to this.  Allegiance played once at AFF last Saturday (October 20) and has an encore presentation today (Tuesday, October 23), 4:00 pm. at the Alamo Drafthouse Village.  Go to austinfilmfestival.com for further details on how to see this and other festival movies.

Full review coming soon!

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