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“We all can participate. I’m not a millionaire, I’m not upper middle-class, I have a blue collar background, I’m really involved and we all can make a difference. I just get up and do something.” – Mike Geary

By Ben Cable

On August 24th Cable Muse Network (CMN) interviewed Edward Nachtrieb the producer/director of All The Way Home: Bravery on the Home Front and Mike Geary, the outfitter that has changed many lives of our veterans.  

All The Way Home director/producer, Edward Nachtrieb started his career as a photo journalist. “When I was 23 or 24, I basically just picked up my camera bag and moved to Asia, in search of glory. I just wanted to do something. I covered stories about Marcos, in the Philippines. I’ve done Korea, India, Australia, eventually I moved to Beijing, China as chief photographer for Reuters. During the two years I was there (1987 -1989); I was in Beijing and had the chance to cover the biggest story of that time, which included western China and Tibet. I smuggled film out in my underwear. It actually involved the Dalai Lama getting a Nobel Prize that year. Prior to that, there had been no images of Tibet and what was happening there. In the case of Tiananmen Square, I was there April 15, at the very beginning. The first week of late August at the monument of people’s hero, in Tiananmen Square on that day, I was there photographing all the way through. After, I was so physically exhausted that I finally took a break.”

Nachtrieb on location Made in America

Ed:  It’s always vaguely disturbing or, I don’t know if that’s the word… but, when somebody tries to kill you. You’re in a crowd and they open fire, where you are. I remember being a kid, (and thinking) what would it have been like to be in the Boston massacre, you read about it. It was scary. You were in the crowd and they were shooting at you, and all of the sudden there I am in Tiananmen Square with little flecks of white light and you hear the report of the rifles. After that, you know, you hear the rush of a bullet and after that, it’s all weird, it’s surreal, and how things happen to you. Yet, at the same time, it’s “hyper-real.” I’m not sure how to explain that. It’s a different experience than street violence. It’s hard to explain to people. I also think that I had my own miniature experience of post traumatic stress in a way, because, it was hard to relate that kind of experience to people or to even understand how I would react to it. I’m not sure how to explain it. It did effect me, I’m not sure if I could be very articulate about the way it did, but, it certainly gave me great empathy for the guys I talk to in my show.

Ed Nachtrieb

CMN: Ed how did you hear about Mike Geary and his river and fishing trips for veterans?

Ed: I was at a fourth of July picnic with my in-laws, my wife’s uncle, and we were talking about the war. I was actually on my other show, Made in America. (Ed was Supervising Producer and Director for the Travel Channel’s John Ratzenberger’s Made in America). I literally traveled in a red, white and blue RV around the country. So the idea of American identity was very much on my mind. In that discussion, they mentioned casualties and that they contributed to, gave money to a friend of theirs who would take guys down river in Montana. I was intrigued by this because these people were just doing it on their own. They just wanted to make a difference instead or waiting or groaning or other avenues they could take, they just decided to take a positive step and I found that very inspirational and I wanted to learn more about it. Over the next few months, I contacted the outfitter that was doing this, Mike Geary, to learn more about what he did. I decided it was great metaphor, just what he was doing and where it was happening, at this river. The river, I just thought it was an opportunity to tell a great story. ..That was the genesis of it. For me, I just saw this was a river; that was the heart of Mike, the heart of nature.

Mike Geary

CMN: This morning in an interview with Mike Geary, he said, “Ed is one of my heroes. And the reason why, is Ed acts on his dreams. None of this would have come to anything…I mean, being able to show this to a larger audience if it wasn’t for Ed Nachtrieb. Ed just acts on his dreams.”

Ed: Well, I love that (laughter)! He’s a great guy, that’s nice. He’s a guy that took action. He’s kind of my hero, really, because he just on his own did this. I think it’s remarkable and he’s very clear about it in the movie, about what he gets from that too. Which I think is a true thing, I mean, that people, when they give, it’s good for them to give, if that makes sense. It feels good giving and that’s kind of what I would like to do with my films as I go forward.

Mike Geary in an interview with Cable Muse Network earlier had stated, “We all can participate. I’m not a millionaire, I’m not upper middle-class, I have a blue collar background, I’m really involved and we all can make a difference. I just get up and do something. Do anything with your VA, Red Cross; go do something. Don’t sit around and watch TV to decide your life.”

All The Way Home

CMN to Ed: In your editing of All The Way Home, you did not use any music. You only used the sound of the river. Why? You did not want to distract from the men?

Ed: That’s a very good observation. There are a lot of answers to that question. One of them is that I feel like the power of the place is strong and I did some research and from my own experience, traumatic events when people are experiencing them, they often connect to natural objects. Whether it is dogs, a river, an ocean and they find great comfort in those things. People haven’t really explained what that is. I have my own ideas about people that experience genocide or Rwanda or whatever it is. In the darkest moments and look up at the sky or some other kind of eternal thing in their environment. So, that’s one level. I hope that I’m not getting too esoteric. The other reason is that I really did not want to manipulate or have anything subtract from what these guys were saying. I guess, maybe the reaction like so many shows, I’ve been involved in shows where you’re just tweeking and pushing music and all the things you can do just to whip an audience around. I just didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want the movie to be about me, if that makes sense. Allot of movies are about preaching to the choir or saying what you want to hear, or manipulating your feelings. All those things I just spoke of, that was all subtracting and distorting and I felt that by not subtracting that we’re able to get a clearer more honest picture of what’s happening. Even down to what’s not happening. For example, there are places in the movie where I did not cut, where normally you would. There are moments that communicate tons of information and they’re often sliced out and they should be left in, and it’s interesting because you learn more in those spaces that are normally cut out.

CMN: Mike how did you start taking vets on fishing trips?

Mike: Because of the experience I had with Paul Newman’s Hole In The Wall Gang. I felt I could raise the money, and then I counted on the people to work for me and donate their time. So really, it was never a problem, and I have all the boats, the river and everything that we need.

CMN: Has the film, helped promote the excursions and cause?

Mike: Sure, yeah absolutely. It sure helped me this year. And now we’ve hooked up with Healing Waters, which is a terrific organization started by Ed Nicholson, a 67 year old retired captain in the navy. They work solely on fly fishing, go out to the hospitals and teach soldiers how to tie flies and how to cast, take them out onto local waters extend their programs to Montana and good areas of the country. And so the young men saw the DVD. It just keeps growing and the Project Healing Waters has really exploded because they will have different chapters though out the country.

American Heros

Mike continues: I’ve shown (All The Way Home) in Dallas. And, one of the people that attended said, “You know, I’ve got a ranch in east Texas and if you bring the soldiers, we’ll pay for everything.” So I took them bass fishing in April and then another person offered their facilities for the first of September and so we do that and then this year we’ve a Smith river trip, so it’s been a good year for taking that.

2008 is Mike’s fourth year taking wounded veterans on fishing excursions on the rivers of America’s heartland. He anticipates, with his affiliation with Healing Waters the number will reach 70 wounded vets.

Edward lives in the Hollywood Hills with his wife Michelle and two boys Evan (8) and Quinn (6).

Ed: I'm developing a project at the moment concentrating on the International Human Right Court for the former Yugoslavia based in the Hague.  I want to learn more about the people who are making tremendous efforts to try improving the situation. They are willing to expose their psyche to all the traumas because they feel that some justice in these cases will serve the cause of humanity. Not much more to say about the project at this point, except that I hope to start shooting this fall.  It's similar to my other work because I'm trying to find the empowered, positive forces at work in what at first appears to be a very dark story. I find that interesting...and inspiring.

Cable Muse Network correspondent, Marcial McCarthy contributed to this article.

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Related Links:

All The Way Home DVD Review

All The Way Home Purchase DVD

National Veterans Foundation

Project Healing Waters

Hole in the Wall Gang

Lewis and Clark Expeditions

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