Making No End In Sight, my first film, was unquestionably one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
I first had the idea in 2004, and asked some senior people in the media what they thought. Almost unanimously, they said: don't do it, because you'll be competing with many other people, backed by large organizations. But a year later, nobody was making this film, and I decided to do it.
I made mistakes and I would have made many more were it not for two things. First, filmmaker Alex Gibney (ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM) agreed to consult. Alex was invaluable. And second, my crew taught me my job. They were incredibly patient in working with someone who frequently knew much less about filmmaking than they did.
After fifty interviews in the U.S., I went to Iraq. The Defense Department refused to help; we were on our own. I talked to many people, gathering advice and contacts. We hired Nir Rosen, a journalist with three years' experience in Iraq, and trained him to use our high definition cameras. I also hired a Kurdish personal bodyguard. We flew to Istanbul, but the Baghdad airport was closed (which happens often). So Nir and I drove through Southern Turkey, then through Iraqi Kurdistan to Erbil, where Nir arranged a convoy of armored trucks which drove us overnight to Baghdad. The Washington Post generously let me stay with them, in a fortified compound outside the Green Zone. In Baghdad, I used a personal security detail of ten men in three armored cars. We also hired an Iraqi translator, whose father was recently kidnapped and killed by the Mahdi Army.
We started editing in June 2006, and worked insanely hard. It was a very pure, intense, emotional time. But we made it. And then, our sales agent John Sloss, the Sundance festival, and our distributor Magnolia Pictures made the invaluable difference that means that the film will get seen. As a first time filmmaking experience, one could not hope for more.