Captain story told on Radio

Posted in Captain on October 30th, 2013 by Dave

On October 23, I filmed my friend Dick Updaw, Captain, USMC 1966-1970, as he was interviewed by Cpl. Tim Thornton, (shown above),  of the Military Exchange/Military Talk Radio, (1040 AM, WYSL and 92.1 FM  covering upstate NY). Dick has become a polished presenter when asked to tell the story of Cpl. Robert Hodes USMC,  who was killed at the battle for Iwo Jima in World War ll . His story  subsequently became the basis for my film, “Captain, Story of a Fallen Soldier“.

I decided, on the spur of the moment to film the event, (albeit with a handheld camera – so please excuse a bit of camera shake !). Radio host and former Marine Corporal Tim Thornton did a great job conducting the interview. Tim is the owner of Iron Mikes Military Exchange, located in Canandaigua, NY.

This place is a both a veritable military museum and a fully stocked store  of all things military: memorabilia, gear, “trench art”, etc. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, and I by no means did  due to time limits, there’s another room further and further away from the front of the store with more items of interest…A really cool place.

If you’re interested in viewing the trailer or purchasing Captain, Story of a Fallen Soldier, please click here.

Working with a film subject…

Posted in Artist Profile, Captain, Documentary, Filmmaking on April 28th, 2013 by Dave

This will be the first of three posts on lessons learned from three of my films: Captain, and two artist bios…
Many and wondrous are the rewards garnered from working with a film subject. I mean “film subject” as in a person I’m interested in filming – and not a theme or topic per se.

The people I’ve filmed are people I like, find interesting, and who I find inspirational in one way or another. Someone I can learn from, someone who has something to share or who has qualities or traits that are elevated – even virtuous. Richard Updaw, the character I followed in Captain is certainly such a person. After meeting, getting to know, and ultimately making a film with Rich, I can finally say that I’ve met a man’s man, (I’d heard that expression throughout my life, but never really knew what it meant – or maybe I never knew an individual I could apply it to!). Dick is good looking, calm, confident, charming, down to earth, – and a born leader. Those were my impressions of him the day Ann, my wife, and I met him and they still hold true today. Amazing how those first impressions can be so dead-on… He rendered us Good Samaritan assistance by jump-starting our car which had developed a dead battery due to a case of my leaving-the-headlights-on-negligence. He was glad to help out. I noticed his Marine cap, of which he has an amazing assortment, and within moments were were talking about his days as a United States Marine, his time in Vietnam, and his own personal quest to learn more about a dead World War 2 vet that eventually became the basis for the film we made.

We socialized for at least a year (with no thought of making a film on my part), just enjoyable, regular get-togethers, until it finally dawned on me that Dick’s story about a long dead Marine could make a good film. And once I proposed the project, there was complete buy-in from Rich. So the timeline for the film was thus: we became friends, got to know each other pretty well, and then we made a film. I realize now that the trust bank that we had built up prior to making the film was the foundation for the success of the project.

There was never a time that Dick didn’t give complete cooperation to the needs of the film. He was always willing to accommodate my, “just one more shot”, requests. He respected my judgement during the editing/shaping of the story. And I learned to respect his wish that the story be focused on Robert Hodes, the 19-year old killed at Iwo Jima, and not himself. Ironically, in doing so I believe Dick’s character comes through all the stronger.

An example of Dick’s cooperation-and commitment to the project: when he became tearful during one interview, he didn’t pull in and ask me to remove the shot from the film. He realized it was true and authentic and was enough of a man to be easy-going about this private moment going public. Dick’s agenda was simple: to tell this forgotten Marine’s story. To that end he put his own ego a distant second … at least that’s the way I perceived it.

The film has received some good reviews, and our friendship has continued. Rich still comes to dinner regularly even though he’s a busy guy. At 67, he drives school bus everyday AND maintains a 60 acre farm by himself. He has lots of pets. Cats, dogs, horses, goats, and a mule with that lets go, when he thinks he should be fed, with a bray that reminds me of the alien mother ship from Close Encounters of The Third Kind letting loose with that window-shattering volley of notes…(go to 5:58 in this utube clip to understand my rather obscure reference)

Anyway, looking back I know the film benefited from the trust brought about by our prior relationship. We both knew enough about each other to know that we had each other’s best interests at heart – and that ultimately came to include the best interests of the film as well… So the takeaway moral, for me at least from this experience, is do your homework! Develop a relationship with your film subject. Find out who they are and go with your gut about first impressions, but in the words of Ronald Reagan, “trust but verify”. Do it not only to make a better film, in the sense of delving deeply into your subject, but to ensure that you ultimately avoid the disaster of not having a film at all.

My next post will talk about lessons learned from an experience that didn’t turn out so well…

PBS Affiliate WXXI in Rochester to air “Captain” Once Again

Posted in Captain, Informational Video on March 26th, 2013 by Dave

I’m happy to learn that our local PBS affiliate, WXXI, will be broadcasting “Captain – Story of a Fallen Soldier” for a second time Saturday, May 25th at 6:30pm.

“Captain” to air on local PBS Affiliate

Posted in Captain, Documentary on June 18th, 2012 by Dave

We at Agricola Media are pleased to announce that the documentary Captain will be aired on the PBS affiliate here in Rochester New York on Veterans day 2012, as well as other dates to be announced. This marks the first Agricola Media documentary to be aired on a Public Broadcasting station. Needless to say we are pleased and honored that this story of a fallen soldier, remembered by a man he never met, will reach a wider audience. Close captioning will be added to the film before its PBS debut. If you would like to view this film in its entirety online, it can be viewed here.

Agricola Media’s “Captain” Now Available on Amazon

Posted in Captain, Documentary on May 27th, 2012 by Dave

I’m very pleased to announce that Agricola Media’s documentary “Captain” is now available here or on Amazon. The film is the moving story of a USMC Marine Vietnam veteran who made it his mission to learn about a forgotten nineteen year old Marine killed at the battle of Iwo Jima near the end of World War ll. Production for Captain began in December, 2011 and finished up May 20, 2012. The story is told by Captain Richard Updaw, USMC, who served in Vietnam from 1966-1970. His chance observation at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester, NY was the trigger that drove months of research to find out
the the details behind the life and death of Cpl. Robert F. Hodes, a nineteen year old marine who died at the battle of Iwo Jima at the age of nineteen. For me, the experience of producing this film has been both moving and educational…I now have an inkling, just an inkling, of what it must have been like for those who fought and died, and I am in awe of what they gave up-and what their surviving comrades live with decades later.

“Captain” Opens Memorial Day on this site!

Posted in Captain, Documentary on May 23rd, 2012 by Dave

Agricola Media’s Captain, will be available for viewing free here on this site this coming Monday, Memorial Day! This film project began in December 2011, and is in the very final stages of editing at this moment. The film draws on interviews by film subject Richard Updaw, a USMC Captain who served in Vietnam and who lives in Rush, NY. The film brings together interviews, archival film, and photos in a very personal story about one man’s mission to keep alive the memory of a long dead 19 year old Corporal killed in the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. Read the article in the Democrat and Chronicle this morning about the project.

A Visit to the Military History Society of Rochester…

Posted in Captain, Documentary on April 25th, 2012 by Dave

My wife and I were out an about Saturday afternoon and we decided to stop by  the “Cultural Crawl” over at the Anderson Alley artist studios in downtown Rochester. The large old factory building has a number of artists/craftspeople doing their thing. The variety and quality of the works on display were very high and we took it all in as we strolled from floor to floor and from studio to studio. So it was a surprise amidst all the artists and craftspeople to come upon the Military History Society of Rochester at the end of one floor. I walked in and was amazed at the well thought out displays and the sheer amount of exhibits on display in, I’m guessing, a 20×40 foot area. Weaponry, photographs, flags, and two interesting gentleman; Director Chuck Baylis was on hand to show me around and although I spoke at length to the fellow on the right, I don’t have his name.                     .


I would have probably walked in and out of this museum a year ago, but things have changed since I began my film project Captain.  Hollywood and other cultural institutions may be accused at times of glorifying war, but these places are not about that.   It is to remind people, (me at least), of what those who served gave up for others. Good war, bad war, it doesn’t affect how I feel about the people who have gone through the most extreme of human experiences with honor.


A Beautiful Letter to the Mother of Robert F.Hodes…

Posted in Captain, Documentary on March 1st, 2012 by Dave


This is an exerpt of a  a letter of condolence which was sent to Ella Margaret  Hodes on the death of her son in combat on Iwo Jima in 1945. The letter was sent by the Mother of a family on Maui that Corporal Hodes  formed a strong relationship with in the months before his death. I’m not sure of the mother’s first name as I read the handwritten letter. It’s either Mildred or Hildred… nonetheless, I’ve never read a more  beautiful expression of condolence.

Italics are mine…

…”Closing, and in thinking of Bob, it has helped us to remember that our beloved dead are the only ones of all our family circle who are constantly with us, since time and space no longer have power over their spirits. We again send you and the family our love and assure you out of our own experience that God is merciful and that time heals the first unbearable sharpness, leaving always the tenderness of the grief to deepen and sweeten our lives.

With profound sympathy,

Johnny, Mom and M(H)ildred