I have enjoyed some of my favorite moments at AMS Pictures while working on our Tuskegee Airmen documentaries. Four years ago, when Tom Rubeck (my creative, talented and extremely enjoyable co-producer) and I began the first story on this revered group, there were several docs and an HBO movie already on the market. One of the major challenges we faced was how do we produce a unique doc about this legendary group? What can we say that hasn’t been said? Well, once we began talking with the airmen we realized they had many unique stories to share.
In case you aren’t familiar with the Tuskegee Airmen, they were young, educated black pilots who were instrumental in the US military’s success in WWII. The team of pilots, mechanics, parachute riggers, and so many more were determined to prove the idea false that blacks were not capable of flying airplanes. Not only did they dispel that belief, but in doing so they achieved the best record in the US Army Air Corps during their service.
Now with this month’s release of, A Defining Moment, our third Tuskegee Airmen documentary I’m happy to say I’m still learning new things about the men and women we have grown to love and am feeling a bit reflective. This final story focuses on four men who are now, like others of this esteemed group, in the twilight of their lives. As they travel to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama they see a lifelong dream realized.
We have lost many friends since we began this documentary collection, and while their passing has brought deep sadness it also brings a well of gratefulness. Individuals like Howard Baugh a sharp, witty man who encouraged me to be assertive and courageous in my career or Lee Archer a resilient, accomplished gentleman who generously gave an interview late one evening after a full day of engagements or the beloved Mildred Carter who was the epitome of delightfulness – bright, present, and lovely. To have known them and through this creative platform get the opportunity to share their stories for posterity has been more than a blessing. These experiences will be lifelong gifts to me.
I’m proud to help spread the word about these greats, who are the best examples of courage, preparedness and possibility. And with the upcoming release of the George Lucas film, Red Tails, I couldn’t be more excited that people who have never heard of the Tuskegee Airmen before will now learn a little about these giants. One example of the word spreading can be found in a recent publication from The Root that lists ten Tuskegee Airmen products in pop culture. And guess whose documentary made the list?