Friday, March 4, 2011

Filmmaker Q&A: Allan Smith,"Rescue Men: The Story of the Pea Island Surfmen"

“Rescue Men: The Story of the Pea Island Surfmen” documents the extraordinary story of an all African American rescue crew based in North Carolina in the 1890’s. The crewmembers posthumously received the Gold Lifesaving Medal but their story has never been told before. Learn the historic tale of these rescue men whose accomplishments contributed to the creation of the U.S. Coast Guard as part of Program 11, Sunday March 13th at 1:00 pm. Click here to watch a clip of the film.

What is your overall summary for the film?

On the night of October 11, 1896 in hurricane force winds, one crew known as the “Pea Island Surf Men” accomplished the impossible. Led by Keeper Richard Etheridge, this historic all black rescue crew etched themselves into history rescuing stranded sailors whose ships had succumbed to the harsh Atlantic. “Rescue Men” is the story of the men that manned the Pea Island Lifesaving Station on the outer banks of North Carolina. Due to the heroics and accomplishments of these brave men, we now have what is called “The United States Coast Guard.”

What was your inspiration for creating the film?

My inspiration for creating this film was knowing that these men deserve to have the world know what they accomplished and that the story lay hidden for over 100 years.

These men 100 years later posthumously received the Gold Lifesaving Medal, and now they finally receive a film about their heroic actions and accomplishments.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in making “Rescue Men”?

The most challenging part of creating was garnering the trust from the African American community and locals in rural North Carolina.

What message do you want your audience to take away?

That regardless of our race or ethnicity, these men lent a hand when normally it never would have been taken. They swore to do a job and they did it to the best of their ability.

What was the most enjoyable part of creating the film?

The most enjoyable part of the creating Rescue Men was traveling to the White House to meet and film Admiral Steven Rochon. He is currently the Chief Usher at the White House for President Obama.

Who or what is your inspiration?

My inspiration is a gentleman I met some time ago in Alaska named Norman Vaughan who, at age 87, summited a mountain named after him in Antarctica by Admiral Richard Bird. Atop that mountain Norman stated “Dream Big & Dare to Fail”. That is my inspiration!

What was the most memorable moment in creating the film?

For us, the most memorable moment in creating Rescue Men was when Daniel Gardner, the great-grandson of Captain Gardner from the ES Newman rescue, looked at us and stated, “if it was not for these African American heroes, were it not for these men, then I would not be here today”.

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