After a successful week filming in Bammental, Germany with the Military Counseling Network, we thought our latest film was going well. We had principal photography done, we were on schedule and under budget, and - surprisingly - the war in Iraq was not yet over, ensuring our film wasn't suddenly redundant.
All we had left was a quick return trip to Germany to film a prize-giving ceremony with a well-known Iraq War conscientious objector-turned-deserter, followed by an interview with said objector-turned-deserter. It was to be a touching and beautiful end to the film, a plucking of the heart-strings as this shy but determined man told the story of his transformation from gun-toting medic to lover of humanity.
But no. It wasn't to be so easy. The man (whose name I won't mention for his own sake) had changed his mind. After two months of contact, he suddenly went quiet. He went from expressing his support for the project to completely ignoring us. We finally tracked him down to the house of a gynecologist in Heidelberg (the association is, I'm told, immaterial) where he explained that he didn't want to be associated with Al-Jazeera.
Or, to be more accurate, he first he said he was too busy and tired to be interviewed, which sounded a little suspect coming from a man who was willing to go to prison for his ideals, and who has dedicated his life - since being discharged - to highlighting the inequalities and brutalities of the US military in Iraq. He's been doing interviews, marches and protests since his release from prison - this guy doesn't get "too busy and tired." Eventually Gareth called him (I was too afraid to push it...) and arrived at the truth. He was scared.
"I already get enough hate mail and abuse from Americans," he explained timidly. "I don't want to get any more." He was worried about the heartland of American, the Bible-belters: precisely the kind of people who would NEVER WATCH AL-JAZEERA. Especially since, as we explained to him, Al-Jazeera doesn't even broadcast in the US unless you specifically subscribe.
"Everyone who will hate you already hates you!" I wanted to say to him. But I didn't. "The Bible-belters already thing you're a traitor! They couldn't possibly hate you any more!"
We did all we could, we called his friends whom we had already filmed with for a week and asked them to convince him. No luck. We tried to pressure him. We tried to emotionally blackmail him (note to Gareth: you tried emotional blackmail, right?) No luck.
It was clear by the end of the conversation that there was no chance we were going to get this man to talk to us. We were not happy. I was afraid the whole film was ruined. We had wasted money on tickets, our schedule was out the window, we were pissed.
But then something even better came along...