After surviving the charges of propaganda and a grilling from David Gregory, the film I directed Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden, is coming out on DVD this week. Back in October 2011 when Kendall Lampkin and I were working on the screenplay, neither Mark Bissonnette's No Easy Day, Mark Bowden's The Finish or Peter Bergen's Man Hunt had been published, so we had our hands full poring over the official reports as well as a slew of anecdotal information from sources we had developed in the intelligence and military community. We had no "official cooperation" from anyone in the White House. As each new "account" of the raid was published or reviewed I was anxious that our already filmed version would be rendered obsolete, so I was relieved to discover that our movie was lining up well with growing accounts of the mission. Although to this day, with all that's been written and filmed, there is no consensus on the specific details, and perhaps that's as it should be. I'd been told "off the record" that the real reason that the Black Hawk went down will never be disclosed as that information could be used by the "enemy" to thwart future helicopter raids.
Although our film is more focused on the military component of the mission then Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty, we also had to make choices about how critical "enhanced interrogation techniques" were to getting the information about al-Kuwaiti, the courier who led us to the compound in Abottabad. There is certainly an argument to be made that torture played a role in finding OBL but we chose to use the "threat" of being sent to Saudi Arabia and facing their "torture chambers" then depicting torture itself as useful in obtaining any credible information. Like so many other things in this mission, this argument will never be fully resolved, but it seemed more interesting to see the critical information obtained by a carrot then a stick. I'm confident torture was used many times during our war on terror but I'm also fairly certain it resulted in as much false information as real, actionable intelligence.
We shot the majority of the Pakistan sequences in Khopoli, a town in India about two hours from Mumbai, that served as a stand in for Abottabad. Our biggest challenge was avoiding the ubiquitous Sari and shooting guerilla-style in the markets and jammed streets with Go Pros and iPhones. The minute a Red Epic film camera appeared, massive crowds materialized and confused authorities came a calling. Much like the actual raid, we made sure we had disappeared before the big guns appeared. We had to move quickly and stealthily -- there was no other option.
But the politicians in India had no interest in hosting an American military base or Osama Bin Laden's final resting place, so we built the compound on the grounds of a partially abandoned prison in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This created a series of complications -- thorough searches coming in and out of the grounds, the necessity for all weapons, even our prop guns, to be catalogued and locked away every night for fear of a prisoner getting ahold of one and the near riots we caused when we brought in choppers and set off explosions that made restless inmates and some of the guards thinking an escape attempt was underway.
The film originally aired on November 2nd, 2012, two days before the presidential election amidst an avalanche of press and politicians questioning the timing and Harvey Weinstein's involvement. Although the margin of Obama's victory was in line with the record setting viewership, we received, I believe at the end of the day that the film was entirely non partisan -- a testament to a mission in which the intelligence community and the military's special forces were able to work in sync and pull off an incredibly risky raid that seems like a "no brainer" now but was fought with incredible risk.