The United States Army’s 18th Airborne Corps recently held their annual Dragon Cannes Film Festival, the Department of Defense’s premier film festival. The only rule service members wishing to participate in the festival had to abide by was keeping the film under two minutes and 20 seconds. Other than that, everything was fair game.
Over 70 Soldiers throughout the Army submitted videos for this contest, but only the best 16 videos were selected by a panel of judges to be released to the pubic for the chance to be crowned the Dragon Cannes 2 Champion. Of those 16 videos selected, two Soldiers from the 111th Theater Engineer Brigade, Sgt. Davis Rohrer and Sgt. Forrest Moreland made the first cut. After four days of voting, it was down to the final four contestants for the final round of voting – and both Moreland and Rohrer were among the four to advance to the finals.
Rohrer submitted "The Reunion" and Moreland submitted "Fire Season."
The final round consisted of a 24-hour Twitter poll hosted by the 18th Airborne Corps. The rules were simple – whichever video had the most votes at the end of the poll was crowned the champion. After a wild ride and multiple back and forths, Rohrer of the 111th TEB pulled out the victory securing almost 50 percent of the near 9,000 casted ballots for his film, The Reunion.
I recently had the chance to sit down with Rohrer and learn more about him, his film crew, and his thoughts on the victory.
Q: What went through your mind when you were announced the winner?
A: Honestly speaking, I was drained. Since the voting was done through a Twitter poll, it was very stress-inducing to watch the votes shift constantly. This is a film I want people to believe in, and ultimately, a film I want people to watch. It was exhausting to constantly wonder if people if thought the film was worth their vote, let alone their time. In the end, even as I saw the final tally, I thought I had lost. Then, I refreshed Twitter, and boom, I had won. When I finally got some rest, I woke up and finally mentally digested the fact that we did it. We actually won this thing, and then the joy finally set in.
Q: Why were you so passionate about this competition?
A: Filmmaking is the thing I want to do in this life. This is how I want to leave my legacy, it’s how I want to succeed, and it’s how I want to affect the world. This competition in particular was the first opportunity I had for, “The Reunion,” which is a proof of concept for a full-length feature film, to grow and become a fully realized film. The prizes that this contest offered seemed like the golden ticket for two things: 1) getting the exposure the film needed to be made into something greater, and 2) solidify the fact that West Virginia is full of excellent filmmakers that deserve proper representation. SGT Moreland, responsible for, “Fire Season, was right there with me proving that second fact.
Q: Although this film wasn’t specifically about the military, do you think that the military gave you opportunities to grow as a filmmaker?
A: For over a year, I worked as a Public Affairs Specialist for the West Virginia National Guard, and my leadership was very accepting of my style and approach to videography. With the plethora of projects they had me on, I was able to constantly sharpen my skills, and also think of new ways to attack problems because of how different each project was. Thanks to that work, I was able to practice filmmaking every day,
Q: What would you say to the people who made this victory possible?
A: The crew should always know, this is not my film, it is our film. “The Reunion” is not a product of Davis Rohrer. It is an achievement of the tireless work of everyone who was on set. They deserve all the glory and I’ll never forget how much they believed in the story I wanted to tell. As for the people who donated and voted, this victory belongs to you. So many West Virginia Guardsmen pitched in whatever they could, and a few made substantial donations that helped secure logistics and food for the cast and crew. As for the voters, I could not believe the support myself and SGT Moreland received. I could never forget the awe-striking support of my family and friends back home in the states. My mom, father, and siblings were nonstop with reaching out to people, and my girlfriend was practically my publicity agent to get people involved and to believe in the project. This list of people I need to thank is endless. Anyone who voted should know, that I am forever grateful, and will never be able to repay the debt.
Q: Did you feel supported by the 111th Engineer Brigade during the competition?
A: From the very first email that was sent out telling the unit that SGT Moreland and I were competing in this contest, they had our backs. They were always asking about where they can vote, whom they can share with, and how can we help. Our Public Affairs Officer was on point with showing us that the contest existed and getting our partnering units involved in the voting and advertising. It was comforting that our Command Team took the time to make sure we were supported while tackling various other tasks as the Theater Engineer Brigade. We could not have asked for a better group of people.