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TIGERLAND

Making The Film
"TIGERLAND is very much based on reality -- on the things I saw in training," screenwriter Ross Klavan explains. Klavan, who enlisted in the Army Reserves (stateside) and did his Advanced Infantry Training (A.I.T.) at Tigerland in 1971, translated his experience into a screenplay.

A reservist, Klavan watched the military machine "shovel guys off to war." "If you went to A.I.T. at Tigerland and you were drafted, you were going to Vietnam," he maintains. And, after six years of American involvement in Southeast Asia, few of the men held any illusions about their prospects. According to Klavan, "there was a lot of fatalism about [the war]. There wasn't a lot of patriotism. Guys went because they had no other choice."

Central to TIGERLAND, however, is a character who refuses to accept this fate. "I based [Roland] Bozz on one particular guy," says Klavan. Someone who tried to "find his way out of the machine." While Klavan incorporated elements of many people into Bozz, the man he met at Fort Polk left a lasting impression. "He was a genuinely rebellious person, who was faced with the overwhelming authority of the military." And a man whose disobedience exacted a brutal toll. "They basically ground this guy into the dirt." But his spirit never waned. "Even if they were going to execute him," Klavan imagines, "he'd make jokes all along the way - just to make himself feel alive."

Similarly, the character Bozz finds himself in an Army that beats him up physically, emotionally and spiritually, exerting the harshest possible discipline outside of prison. Whatever his personal aims, Bozz begins to embody the terrible moral burden shouldered by the young men who faced death prematurely in support of an ethically questionable war.

The strength of TIGERLAND's central character, combined with the script's gritty realism appealed to director Joel Schumacher. "I felt a strong affinity to Bozz whose rebelliousness makes him a relatively sane person in an insane situation," says Schumacher. And the uniqueness of this situation was a draw in itself. "There have been a lot of movies set during Vietnam, but I thought TIGERLAND was quite different," Schumacher observes. "It is a small, very personal and internalized story that takes place before the men leave for the war."

TIGERLAND came to Schumacher as he was making an effort to move away from big-budget "event" films. "I really wanted to withdraw from the summer blockbuster market for a while," he points out. "It had been very good to me, but I was at a point where I felt the box office had become more important than the movie."

Schumacher had already begun moving to smaller, more personal films with "Eight Millimeter" and "Flawless." But TIGERLAND, shot in twenty-eight days on a military base in Starke, Florida, was a complete reversal - a film conceived in the spirit of Danish director Lars von Trier's Dogma 95 movement. The Dogma philosophy, which Schumacher encountered during a visit to Scandinavia to promote "Eight Millimeter," rejects Hollywood artifice, abandoning the use of elaborate lighting, special effects and music.

Partnered with cinematographer Matthew Libatique ("Pi," and "Requiem for a Dream"), Schumacher established a "documentary" look for TIGERLAND in keeping with the "grunt's point of view" of the script. Inspired in part by Frederick Wiseman's "Titicut Follies," the filmmakers chose to shoot in sixteen millimeter and largely abandoned tripod and dolly in favor of hand-held cam

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