Bobby Shelton is the first subject in what we hope to be a series of mini docs entitled American Patriot. This is the story of Vietnam veteran Bobby Shelton’s time in the service and the bond he shared with the man who saved his life. Bobby recounts his memories from the war and the impact and burden it left him with.
I’d heard Bobby’s story by chance as I was looking for subjects for a series of veteran stories I’d been commissioned to make. His story stood out to me as it was both incredibly powerful but also narrow enough in scope that I felt we could feasibly tell it. After asking Bobby several times, I finally convinced him to come in for an hour and tell his story to me again on camera. His hesitancy to share extended to his not wanting to be involved in any structured shoots or b-roll outside of the initial interview. I totally understood, and went away with the interview wondering how we could compile the story. I ended up using archival footage to fill in most of the gaps, as well as doing a small 2 day shoot on a tiny budget for some stylized reenactments. I decided to play the tone of the documentary very straight for two reasons: 1) The amount of material that needed to fit a relatively short run time. 2) I felt the story was good enough on its own merit. Out of respect I didn’t want to embellish too much and tried to supplement the narrative Bobby was telling rather than shape it in my image. The current trend of experimental docs, while great, sometimes are more representational of the filmmaker than the actual true subject they’re framing. I wanted this story to be accessible and edifying first and foremost to Bobby and other veterans, and to filmmakers second. That said, I tried my best to strike a balance for a wide target audience. Bobby’s story has inspired me to meditate and reflect on the merits of friendship, loyalty, and sacrificial love. I hope it does the same for everyone who watches.