First-ever doc on presidential
helicopter flies at IFP Market

Producer Mark McCarville waits while presidential transport Helicopter One is loaded onto a cargo jet, for a scene in his “Marine One” documentary going to the IFP Market.

The extraordinary Chicago-made “Marine One” documentary on the presidential Marine Helicopter Squadron is expected to soar and score at the Sept. 22-26 IFP Market in New York.

The 24-minute rough cut of a work-in-progress that was initiated just before Sept. 11 was one of 85 docs selected for screening at the Market from a fiercely competitive field of 790 entrants.

A FIDO Films production, it is produced by Mark McCarville and directed by AnnaLisa Lunn. It marks the first long-form production for both and their first collaboration. Cinematographer was Mark Chamberlain of New York.

What makes “Marine One” especially saleable is that it received the first-ever access to the men and equipment of Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1). FIDO is also only the second film crew in the squadron’s history to be allowed inside of the president’s transport to film landings on the White House lawn.

“Marine One” depicts travel overseas with President George Bush juxtapositioned against the 55-year history of the most photographed helicopter in the world. McCarville, who retains all rights to the footage, would like to sell the show as a four-part TV series.

Among the aerial scenes are interviews director Lunn conducted with former presidents Bill Clinton and George H. Bush. Other interviews were with the first Marine One pilot who flew for President Eisenhower, enlisted personnel who keep the machines flying, the pilots who test all new equipment for the Corps, and the men and women who protect the flight line.

McCarville estimates the budget will be around $300,000 when completed next year. HMX-1 maker Sikorsky Aircraft provided $150,000 of the budget so far. As part of its sponsorship, Sikorsky received a special 19-minute video edited by Eve Saxon that was shown in August, 2002 at the 55th annual reunion of squadron members.

The project began in late summer of 2001. “I picked up the phone and called the Marines’ public affairs office asking how to go about obtaining permission. We then wrote a letter explaining the documentary we wanted to make. A month later we got a call from the squadron. We were at the Marines’ base in Quantico where we met face-to-face and they were comfortable with us — two weeks before 9/11.”

After 9/11 hit, “I put everything in a notebook and put it on a shelf,” said McCarville, figuring the project was on permanent hold. Much to his surprise, he received a call a few months later “and the project was on.” Shooting began in May, 2002.

“Some of the footage we picked up was amazing,” said McCarville. “The crew chief, the man at the bottom of the stairs of HMX-1 talks about how the hardest part of his job is not smiling. He says he gets all the smiling out of his system before landing. When he cracks that door open it’s all business.”

FIDO Films is presently in discussions with the White House Military Office to obtain security clearances so the team can make the next overseas trip with President Bush. They won’t travel on the presidential jet, but in the cargo jet transporting the helicopter to an overseas destination.

“A Marine squadron will fly to Andrews Air Force Base and load the helicopter onto a cargo jet, either a C5 or C17,” McCarville said “and we will be on that flight.” Upon landing, the helicopter is unloaded and reassembled and used as the president’s transport,

McCarville, a locations manager since 1985, has worked for commercial, corporate and music video producers. Lunn, an award-winning producer since 1991, has worked on more than 100 projects, including docs, educational programming and corporate. Chamberlain’s 20 years of experience is in A&E and History Channel and other docs and news magazine shows.

“Marine One” will screen Sept. 23 at 9:30 a.m. at Angelika Film Center, one of the three New York venues where the IFP Market will take place. FIDO Films is located at 4838 N. Kildare; phone, 773/794-8598; see www.fidofilms.com.

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