Five Questions With Filmmaker Christian D’Andrea

Resurrecting-Warbirds---webChristian D’Andrea likes to tell American stories that sing the unsung, with a special focus on the inspirational characters that might get left behind or forgotten by the mainstream.

In order to find them, D’Andrea practices the lost art of Shunpiking — knowing when to “shun” the turnpike and get onto the back roads where the good stories are tucked-away. The ones that remind us of our best selves.

America is a patchwork quilt, and stories are its stitching. In a fractured age, we need unifying stories more than ever.

A trip to Yuma, Arizona, led D’Andrea to create and produce a documentary for Discovery (about the mettle of the guys at special operations freefall school), and also create a new performance nutrition bar for the troops, Soldier Fuel™, which is now featured in the U.S. Special Operations Forces Nutrition Guide.

A rather dramatic shunpike during an LA-to-DC trip involved a dip into Biloxi, Mississippi, and led to D’Andrea creating, executive-producing, and directing HURRICANE HUNTERS, a series on The Weather Channel – where he embedded and spent two years flying into hurricanes with the Air Force’s storm-penetrating weather squadron.

A recent shunning-of-the-pike near New Orleans led to the discovery of a secret Southern soap mogul and the launch of a line of hand-made, custom-designed soap for extreme adventurers and Soldiers.

Other shunpiking forays have led to stories that sold as TV concepts to places like Fox and CBS, or became articles for publications like Men’s Health, Forbes, and Politico.

He’s been a lit agent at ICM, a VP of Production at Miramax, a professor of documentary film, and a creative director on projects for Fortune 500s with a focus on re-animating cultural traits that improve ethics. He also co-wrote SHERLOCK HOMEBOY, a feature screenplay at Universal.

D’Andrea’s film will be at the 2015 GI Film Festival.

Where are you from and what is your film background?

I’m from northern Virginia… went to South Lakes High School. While getting an MA at Oxford in History and Lit (and playing lots of soccer), visiting professor Richard Attenborough held an essay competition to select an apprentice on his next film (In Love and War). I was lucky enough to get selected (along with the gifted Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck!). I then became a Motion Picture Lit agent at ICM, and was trained by Ken Kamins, the brilliant agent who put together the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. After that, I became a VP Production at Tarantino’s A Band Apart.

Who are your biggest influences in film and why?

Ken Kamins is my model for professional integrity and work ethic. Not many know just how pivotal he was in making all the Tolkein movies happen

What was the hardest part about getting this film made?

These guys are humble and private. So it was tough convincing them to be subjects, and to allow their own portraits to be sketched a bit. They want all the attention to be on the WW2 vets.

What do you want viewers to take away with them after watching your film?

Love for the men who fought for us in WW2. Respect for the guys who put millions of their own dollars into honoring the pilots and planes of WW2.

What is a fun fact about you that would surprise people?

While directing the Hurricane Hunters series for Weather Channel, I spent two years flying on C-130 Hercules into all the major hurricanes with the Air Force’s storm-penetrating weather squadron. Most of the flights were violent. But on one memorable occasion, we hit a rare airborne tornado inside the eyewall of Hurricane Rafael and were basically sent into a mayday, stalling and slipping backwards out of the sky with two dead engines on the right wing. But the pilots pulled a miracle move and saved the plane… despite the alarms and automated voice of the Hercules basically informing us we were doomed.

Resurrecting Warbirds, directed by Christian D’Andrea, is playing at Angelika on May 23. Click here for tickets.