Thursday, May 21, 2009

D-M pilot instructor aids film's authenticity

By Phil Villarreal

Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 05.21.2009

If the fighter plane action in "Terminator Salvation" looks accurate, much of the credit will go to a Tucsonan.

Capt. Jenny Schroeck, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot instructor with the 358th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, served as a consultant when the film was shot last summer at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

The film, which opens today, stars Christian Bale as John Connor, who leads the human resistance as it battles machines in 2018. Moon Bloodgood co-stars as a fighter pilot for the resistance who falls for Connor's sidekick, Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a cyborg who believes he's human.

Schroeck, 30, trained Bloodgood to behave like a real fighter pilot, and also sat down with computer animators, suggesting tweaks to make the flight action more believable.

"A lot of it was talking with Moon, getting her perspective on different scenes she was involved in, looking at the script with her and making sure some of the verbiage was realistic. We talked through the design of the gear they were using, which was somewhat realistic based on their interpretation of what they wanted to come across."
Schroeck, who wasn't paid to help with the film because her work was considered part of her normal military activities, certainly knows what it's like to fight in combat. She flew 158 combat hours while deployed in Afghanistan from January to May 2006.

A self-described Air Force brat who was born in Germany and moved around throughout her childhood, Schroeck said she won't get to see the movie this weekend because she'll out of town, but hopes to see it when she gets back.

How did you get involved with the film?

"It was actually by chance. A friend of mine who's in public affairs, (Capt.) Stacie Shafran, received information that the studio wanted help with the movie. Because we knew each other from previous assignments she thought I could give the female perspective of an A-10 pilot and help them out."

Did you have to take time away from the Air Force?

"It was embedded within my own work schedule. The Air Force supported me as much as possible."

How did Bloodgood do with the training?

"She did an outstanding job, from my perspective. She tried to embody the female fighter pilot personality. ... She took that and applied it to her role. She had a really good sense of how she wanted to formulate herself into the role and did a really good job with that."

What was your favorite part of being on set?

"The coolest thing was to see how actors and actresses worked together and had big camaraderie. The Hollywood organization is similar to a military organization, with everybody assigned to multiple tasks."

Were you able to take Bloodgood with you in flight?

"No. An A-10 is a single-seat aircraft so you can't take passengers. I did get to sit in a flight simulator with her and take her out to show her how I maneuver inside the aircraft and how I would have faced certain situations. I talked her through the scenes."

Do you think you'll advise on other movies?

"It was a fantastic opportunity for me. I enjoyed it. It was an amazing thing to be a part of a huge production that was interested in what we do. ... I don't know if this is a career change. I think I'll stick to flying."

What do you think of the "Terminator" movies?

"They're great movies, sure. 'Terminator 4' will exceed the expectations of many people. It's well put together. (Director) McG and everyone involved did an outstanding job from my perspective, with my limited Hollywood knowledge."
How did you consult on the special effects?

"The big thing was just how an aircraft actually functions in flight. We sat in front of a computer-simulated model they put together and I'd say 'Yes, the aircraft does perform this way.'

What movie has the most realistic fighter pilot action?

"That's a hard question because a lot of them are kind of hokey. Everyone has to say 'Top Gun' is at the top of the list."

You must have been 8 when that movie came out. Did "Top Gun" influence your career choice?

"It was not influential on my career, but it's definitely something we can always rely on as a good joke for the way fighter pilots are seen and portrayed."


Related info:
Kirtland provides Airmen, location for 'Terminator Salvation'

Extended trailer with A-10 sequences:

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