Actor Gary Sinise didn’t jump at the chance to be the subject of a documentary feature.
The “Forrest Gump” star works relentlessly on behalf of the troops via his rock outfit the Lt. Dan Band, but he’s much less willing to toot his own horn.
Director Jonathan Flora convinced the humble star that a documentary could help spread the word to people and places Sinise would otherwise never get the chance to visit.
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“Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good” hits streaming devices everywhere July 4th. People who want to screen the film can pay a $3.99 fee, with $1 going to The Gary Sinise Foundation which continues his work on the troops’ behalf.
Flora had met Sinise several years ago, but he recalls the first time he saw the actor’s band on stage: “I was on pins and needles,” he recalls, echoing a common fear about actors who pick up a guitar. “You hope they don’t stink.”
Flora quickly learned what soldiers, sailors, and their loved ones have over the past eight years: The Lt. Dan Band rocks.
“They play songs everybody knows. [Audiences] can reflect back and remember where they were when those songs were a hit and forget where they are for a while,” Flora says.
But he didn’t want to make a straightforward rock music documentary.
“We used Gary and the band as a vehicle to introduce viewers to other people who support the military, like the first responders,” says Flora, a veteran himself.
It’s not enough that Sinise gives so much of his free time to the troops. He also travels to places other entertainers wouldn’t, hot spots where real danger lurks.
“Our military, they’re pretty perceptive. They know who’s there for a photo op and who’s got their back,” he says.
Flora recalls accompanying Sinise on a trip to entertain some troops. Sinise met the soldiers, shook hands with them, and posed for snap shots. Two days after Sinise returned home from the trip one of the soldiers who had had his picture taken with the actor was killed by sniper fire in the area where they formerly stood.
“Gary treats the last guy [he meets] just like he treats the first guy. He knows that tomorrow’s not promised for some of these guys,” he says.
Flora says he could have released “Lt. Dan Band” in theaters, but he eventually decided to go the streaming route.
“As a filmmaker you always want to be on the big screen with that perfect Surround Sound,” he says, adding the film will be released on DVD later this month for people whose movie rooms sport top-notch speaker systems.
And, he adds, the movie doesn’t have to live or die by its first weekend grosses.
Flora hopes the film’s investors will be rewarded by the streaming method, and that other filmmakers benefit from its potential success. Streaming doesn’t limit the number of cities the film can be shown in. Even big name documentaries often find themselves restricted to art house venues.
Other films have debuted online before, but Flora can’t think of another documentary like “Lt. Dan Band” which hopes to both entertain and inspire others to action. Should viewers be moved by “For the Common Good,” they can simply surf over to the Sinise Foundation website and make a contribution
“This movie is all about giving back,” he says. “When people watch this movie, something we found in all of our screenings, they’re right away motivated and want to do something.”