Meet Clay Broga and Dan Hayes.
Clay and Dan are the creative minds behind the film Honor Flight – one of DC’s most talked about documentaries.
Honor Flight is a documentary about four World War II veterans and a Midwest community coming together to give them the trip of a lifetime. Volunteers race against the clock to fly thousands of WWII veterans to Washington, DC to see the memorial constructed for them in 2005, nearly 60 years after the War.
Tonight their film is premiering to a sold-out crowd at the U.S. Capitol. Tickets are still available for Friday’s viewing.
1. What is the Honor Flight film about and how did you get involved?
Honor Flight is a documentary about four World War II veterans and a Midwest community coming together to give them the trip of a lifetime. Volunteers race against the clock to fly thousands of WWII veterans to Washington, DC to see the memorial constructed for them in 2005, nearly 60 years after the War. The trips are called “Honor Flights” and for the veterans, who are in their late 80s and early 90s, it’s often the first time they’ve been thanked and the last trip of their lives.
One Saturday morning in 2009, Dan was feeling a little down and out. His dad said, “Why don’t you take your camera down to the World War II Memorial?” The Stars and Stripes Honor Flight (SSHF) from southeast Wisconsin (where Dan is from) was bringing 200 World War II vets on an Honor Flight trip. The first veteran Dan spoke to at the WWII Memorial said, “I can die a happy man, now that I’ve made this trip.” A few days later on Veteran’s Day, Dan released a web video about his experience which got over 35,000 views and helped SSHF raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then Dan filmed an entire trip from Wisconsin to DC and back. He quit his job to turn the project into a feature film, then Clay followed suit (our parents were super happy about that), and together we created and self-financed Freethink Media under the guidance of entrepreneur Kmele Foster. Now, Dan is happy.
2. What kind of reaction have you gotten from both Veterans and other people who have viewed the film?
Really, the project touched a nerve from the start. Our first trailer got 4.5 million views through Facebook and the world premiere of the film broke a Guinness world record for largest film screening ever with over 28,400 people at the Milwaukee Brewers’ stadium. The reaction from those who have seen the film has been incredible. Veterans are very humbled, honored and emotional. Other people have told us that it’s the most emotional film they’ve ever seen. They walk away inspired, motivated to lead better lives. A recent film reviewer said the film was “life-affirming.” Our goal from the start has been to positively change people’s worldviews and lives through the power of film so to hear that is a dream come true.
3. What’s next for Honor Flight? When will more folks around the country be able to enjoy the movie?
We have screenings in select cities (DC, NY, LA, WI, OH, MA, NH, FL) in the first two weeks of December. In DC, we have a sold-out show the US Capitol on Dec 4th and are on our way to filling DAR Constitution Hall with 2,500 people on Fri, Dec 7th (Pearl Harbor Day). Droves of people have asked us how they can help and get more involved with the film and the Honor Flight organization. We’re encouraging fans to host screenings at their local theaters through an innovative online service called Tugg.com. We’re going for the largest fan-generated theatrical run ever. We’d love for people to escort WWII veterans in their communities to these screenings. Then, it’s video-on-demand, DVD, TV and classrooms. We think the film is a powerful educational tool for younger generations and we want it in as many classrooms as possible. People can get tickets to our screenings or sign up to host their own.
4. What advice would you give other young filmmakers who are hoping to make a similar impact that you two have made?
Now is an amazing, unprecedented, totally crazy time to be an independent filmmaker. GO FOR IT and don’t be afraid to go for it in a non-traditional way. Everyone on our team is in their 20s and 30s, we are all self-taught at film (i.e. no film school), we shot the film with DSLR cameras the size of a softball that were never even meant to be video cameras, and we’re self-marketing and distributing the film in disruptive ways. Are you kidding me?! We wouldn’t have been able to make this film 10 years ago. Now, we have a growing business that pays the bills by making Youtube videos for clients. Youtube?! It wasn’t even created until 2005. When I say we’re living the dream it’s true because this sort of thing only existed in dreams when I was in high school.
5. Obama calls on a Friday night and wants to kick it with you two. Where do you take him and what are you doing?
Dan would bring us all to a Phish concert where we can dance around like wet noodles without inhibitions. Clay would organize a small after-party where, completely coincidentally, Kmele is about to give a TEDTalks-style live presentation titled “Why isn’t everyone a libertarian?” We would either become best friends with BO, or he’d hate us and audit our company immediately. One, or the other.