By Pierre Kosmidis
Photos submitted by Tim Hull and used by permission
“The Site” a WW2 themed movie, is currently in the works and www.ww2wrecks.com has reached director Tim Hull to learn more about this interesting project.
Tell us about yourself, background, interest in WW2 etc.
I was born and raised in Southern California, very close to Hollywood. I own an advertising agency and we do a lot of video production work. About 10 years ago, I became involved in independent film production. After several years of learning film production, I began to work on my film “The Site”.
My interest in WW2 began at a young age. I remember watching a lot of classic war films as a kid in the 70’s such as Sahara, Sands of Iwo Jima, Flying Tigers, The Dawn Patrol, Five Graves to Cairo, and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. There were also a few films during that period that made a big impression on me such as A Bridge Too Far and The Eagle Has Landed. Today, I have all of these films in digital format and I still love watching them.
Tell us a bit about your project, details, website contact info etc.
The Site is an independent WW2 film that I have been working on for the past 3 years. During this time, we have been acquiring the necessary original Afrika Korps and Luftwaffe props from Europe and working on pre-production. We will be using a lot of visual effects, so there is a lot of planning required.
The Site was inspired by the 1943 movie, Sahara, as well as a few others. Our story begins in present day and then transitions back to 1943 North Africa.
Our goal is to have an international cast, just like the original Sahara film. Although our story is completely different, we felt this was a great aspect of that film that we would like to use as well.
What was your inspiration, how did it all start?
I wanted to make a World War 2 film for a long time. Initially, the production costs were just too expensive and there was no practical way to raise the funding we needed. However, as time passed, new ways to raise the money came to light and help get the exposure to build an audience for the film.
As an independent filmmaker, you’re always working on a tight budget. That means, your filming locations need to be affordable too. Many years ago, I lived in Palm Springs, California and I remembered that there were some amazing desert locations out there. While doing research, I discovered that one of my favorite classic war films, “Sahara”, was filmed very close by in Ocotillo Wells. That led to more research and eventually to Brad Blondet, who had already found the original filming location.
Luckily for me, Brad also has a very high interest in World War 2. He has a lot of reenacting experience, so his knowledge of local resources has proven to be extremely valuable. He has been involved in other film shoots, such as the opening North Africa scene of Valkyrie (starring Tom Cruise). That scene was shot in California’s Mojave Desert and includes many extras that we will be using in The Site.
Where are you now with your project? What are your next steps?
Currently, the film is in pre-production. Many of the main props have been acquired and we have begun doing test shoots with them. The script has been completed but is still very fluid as more resources become available.
Up to this point, we have been completely self-funded. The next phase of the film is to begin our crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. This will allow us to purchase the remaining props we need from Europe and begin auditioning actors for the various roles.
A few weeks ago, we completed our first test shoot. It really turned out great and we are all really excited. It was a surreal experience to be standing on the hill where the Sahara mosque was located and where Humphrey Bogart carried his Thompson submachine gun.
We will shoot the 20-minute short film this fall at the same Sahara location after the summer temperatures have decreased a bit (it’s not unusual for the temps to hit 120F / 48C during the summer). This short film is intended to be a teaser to the feature length film.
You are paying attention to historical accuracy, in terms of equipment, props etc. Do you have advisers, do you work with any reenactor groups, if so which ones?
Yes, we are paying extra attention to historical accuracy. Even though our story is fictional, we want the film to be set in historically accurate locations and events. For instance, our main props are five Luftwaffe crates that are all original and have been purchased in Europe (mostly Germany and Poland).
Since we are located in California, there are not many WW2 reenacting groups to work with. However, there is the California Historical Group and although we are not officially working with them, some of our advisors are long-standing members of that group.
The location has many connections to classic movies; can you tell us more about it?
As I mentioned, our filming location is the same area of Ocotillo Wells, California, where the 1943 classic war movie Sahara was filmed. While at the filming site, we found many 8mm and 45 shell casings, and large black casings that were used for explosions.
The film, Five Graves to Cairo was also filmed in this area that same year, near the Salton Sea. In fact, the Salton Sea was used as a stand-in for the Mediterranean Sea.
When looking through my original North Africa WW2 reference photos that I’ve collected for the film, I’m amazed how much the terrain looks exactly like them. It’s easy to see how a location manager choose this place for shooting Sahara back in 1943.
During my research, I also discovered that this area was used by Hollywood as far back as silent films. In fact, Rudolph Valentino filmed several movies there.