Five Questions With Filmmakers Daniel J. Egbert & Doc King

Project 22 WebDoc King served as a US Army Scout Medic while deployed to Ramadi, Iraq from 2004 to 2005. During his three year enlistment, Doc worked as a Trauma Team Leader in the Madigan Army Medical Center and reached the rank of Sergeant. He then served as a Police Officer for nearly three years before resigning due to increased struggles with Post Traumatic Stress. After living in Seattle and New York, Doc now resides in Los Angeles and is studying Psychology at Antioch University. Doc is the co-founder of Medicinal Missions and co-directed Project 22.

Daniel Egbert joined the Marine Corps Infantry in 2004 at 17 years old. After two deployments and four faithful years of service his time was fulfilled but extended for a third deployment to Iraq. Daniel returned to Manhattan where he and Doc were roommates, but soon the duo was broken up as Daniel extended a second time for a fourth deployment to Afghanistan. He now lives in Los Angeles, where he studies filmmaking at the Los Angeles Film School. Daniel is the co-founder of Medicinal Missions and co-directed Project 22.

King and Egbert’s film, Project 22, is playing a the 2015 GI Film Festival.

Where are you from and what is your film background?

DANIEL: I was born on Long Island, New York, within a town by name of, Miller Place. Film for me has been a life long partnership. Since I can remember I was running around with my parent’s camera recording films, editing in camera, and scoring by syncing cassettes and CDs from the stereo while the image played on the TV. I feel that was more important in sparking my love for it rather than any proper schooling. Of course in the end, education gave me the tools I needed to truly make anything I desired (with the right team) come to fruition.

DOC: I was born a dual US-Canadian dual citizen near the Rocky Mountains in Calgary, Canada and started studying film in 2009, around the time I met Daniel in New York. My work as an actor and my current studies in Psychology informed my approach to co-directing Project 22, in which I focused more on the human content and social aspect of documentary filmmaking.

Who are your biggest influences in film and why?

DANIEL: I have researched a lot of test groups and audiences for films when the company wants to play two endings to see what’s best received. 9 times out of 10 it’s always the happy one. I thought about this, “how could you all want to see these lies?”… It plagued me. Then I realized how film for the average American is complete escapism, an obvious statement I know, but some things take a while for me. They want the happy ending because life is goddamn hard enough so why not pay for a false smile before re-entering that world from the womb of a theater. Well regardless of that all, and they all, I still like to get dirty, down in the grit; hopeless people in hopeless situations. This type of art, be it film, fine, literature, or photography, drives me, it acts more like a catalyst for the spirit and soul, to awaken something inside you and push for change in your real life. I truly feel that film is the greatest medium of all. It can literally adjust a human’s perspective; it can reset passions and beliefs, and ultimately, it can change lives; save lives. Long story short, directors such as the incomparable, Darren Aronofsky, who can hit those beats so eloquently are my true inspiration. He can tell a story from any era, about any walk of life character, and strike those chords so effortlessly. Even watching his films on mute will still rip you apart, not needing to hear his brilliant dialogue from his always perfectly casted actor’s mouths.

What was the hardest part about getting this film made?

DOC: As first-time filmmakers, the challenging aspects of making, “Project 22” were learning on the fly. After only two months of pre-production, we hit the road with less than fifty percent of our thirty-plus interviews confirmed and barely enough money to get us started towards our eventual 6,500-miles to, New York. Our military background helped us adapt and overcome a few obstacles that might have been avoided with a longer pre-production process. We weren’t willing to wait, however, to start raising awareness and seeking methods of prevention. Fortunately, “Project 22” received immense support from the community. As a result of crowd-funding and pro bono services provided by a few large independent studios, we were able to operate unconventionally from initial concept to theatrical release in less than two years with a total budget of less than $70,000.

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

DANIEL: Simple. First and Foremost, get up! Not in a simple physical sense of motion, but instead, in a life changing, ready to live rather than survive, act! You can be happy, you can find yourself again, and you can come home from not just the wars you fought overseas but the shitty soul caging wars inside you as well… so, GET UP! Second, to filmmakers everywhere, get up! Haha. It is possible, Doc and I had truly no idea what we were doing, we just knew we had to do something. Thankfully we obtained our incredible producer and friend, Matt Tester, and then we got on those bikes and made it happen. It’s just like they say about being a Marine, “The hardest part is getting on the bus.”

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

DOC: Daniel and I met on the set of the film, “Salt” where we were both hired as special ability Military to carry a flag-draped casket as Honor Guard. We rehearsed for ten days, shot for three and were in the film for one-third of a second. Both of us were both looking for an apartment in the city

and we became Wall Street roommates until Daniel re-upped for one final deployment. Four years later, a VA study and a personal tragedy sparked a mission in which Daniel and I returned to set together for the first time, this time co-directing, with aspirations of lowering the amount of times a flag-draped casket is carried before it’s time.

DANIEL: Somewhat regretfully and inappropriately, I have to comically bookend, Doc’s incredibly important and truthful closing with… he hated me when we first met that day. I was the,“Loud, obnoxious Marine of the group.” I’m forever counting my many blessings that he saw through that façade because the man is my savior, my best friend, and he will truly never know how much I look up to him and how much he means to me.

Project 22, directed by Daniel Egbert and Doc King, is playing at Angelika on May 23, 2015. Click here for tickets.