Although this is being written in a format more as a FAQ than a discussion, understand that I am writing this in an attempt to help benefit other filmmakers out there.
First I would like to say, that if you plan on having anyone play the part of a military person or police person, you should look into obtaining a consultant and not just rely on ‘what you have seen on tv’. I have seen many films out there where the ‘realism’ has been lost just on an actors inability to pull off the “walk and talk” of their character [being based on a military or police person].
Usually, finding someone to act as a consultant is somewhat easy. You can either contact or inquire with a local or state film office or commission (many film offices have lists of different crew and consultant people (such as the Pittsburgh/Pennsylvania Film Offices and the Greater Cleveland Film Commission as examples)). You can also seek out someone who is either active military/police or prior service military/police. I will say though, the issue most common with the latter of the two is the ability to work efficiently with a Director or a DOP. Let me say that the issue is a lack of desire to work with a filmmaker; you have to just understand that a person in that position has been doing the ‘Tactical and/or Standard Operating Procedure’ gig for a while and it can usually be “by the book”. I say this because it is not that he or she does not care about your vision, they are just use to operating and doing things in a certain fashion and it is not easy to stray away from that “SOP”.
The benefits though, can be huge. That ‘consultant’ can point out small flaws in your script (which is not exactly a bad thing). They are going to want to make it as realistic as possible because that is how they have been trained. If something seems unlikely in the script, that consultant will probably point it out. At the same time, they also have the ability to show you methods or techniques that you may have not even thought of.
Granted, in the end of all of this, after production, post production and distribution (if you didn’t go with a consultant) half of your viewers may not even notice any production errors or hiccups in lieu of your military or police characters, their speech, actions or tactics. But be sure that military or police personnel and prior service veterans will point out a majority of those errors and will generally point them out to their friend and co-workers.
In my personal opinion (as both a filmmaker and a prior service military veteran with tours in Iraq and with the Department of Defense) I would highly suggest either hiring or ‘borrowing’ a military/tactical consultant. It will make things a little bit easier and more convincing in the long run. You can probably even procure one of these consultants for either little or no cost just on general principle.
M.Adkins, Director, Laythrom Media