USS INDIANAPOLIS DOCUMENTARY NAMED
OFFICIAL SELECTION FOR THE GI FILM FESTIVAL
GI Film Festival – May 21-29, 2016
SCREENING LOCATION: ANGELIKA FILM AND CAFÉ AT MOSAIC in FAIRFAX, VA
SCREENING TIME: May 28, 2016 at 10:30AM EST
Washington D.C.— USS Indianapolis: The Legacy, produced by filmmakers Sara Vladic and Melanie Capacia Johnson, is an official selection at this year’s GI Film Festival. Known as “Sundance for the troops”, the festival helps preserve veterans’ stories in film and television, provides job training for veterans in the entertainment industry, and helps heal PTSD through film therapy workshops. GIFF brings Hollywood and the Military together for unforgettable events that help connect society and soldiers.
The film’s subject, USS Indianapolis (CA-35), was flagship of the largest and most powerful fleet to ever sail the seas–the US Navy’s 5th Fleet in WWII. She fought battles throughout the war, and delivered the first operational atomic bomb to the island of Tinian on July 26th, 1945. Relieved of her cargo, she was ordered to the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of Japan. After stopping in Guam, she traveled onward without an escort. Hundreds of miles from land, at 14 minutes past midnight on July 30th, she was hit by two torpedoes fired from I-58, a Japanese submarine. The first blew away the bow, the second struck amidships near a fuel tank and powder magazine. The resulting explosion split the ship to the keel and knocked out her electric power. Within minutes she was down by the bow, rolling to starboard. In the 12 minutes before she sank, around 800 of the 1,197 aboard managed to safely abandon ship. Most of these men were left floating in kapok life jackets designed to last only 48 hours. Shark attacks began when the sun rose, and continued until the men were finally rescued, nearly five days later.
This epic story captured director Sara Vladic’s interest when she was 13 years old. “I couldn’t believe it was a real event when I heard about it, so I immediately went to my local library, and started searching. There was little information to be found, but it was indeed a true story.” After graduating college and realizing nobody had truly done the story justice, Vladic began reaching out to the USS Indianapolis survivors–and the journey began. That was nearly 15 years ago. “I never imagined that the research materials I gathered for a screenplay would turn into a full-length documentary. At the start, I simply wanted to get the story right, and I knew I had to interview the men that lived it.”
Vladic–often accompanied by her husband Ben, who helped to film the interviews, or by fellow producer Johnson– traveled to more than 22 states to visit those directly involved. Over roughly ten years they conducted more than 104 interviews, creating 170-plus hours of irreplaceable footage. Johnson recalls, “It was challenging to piece everything together with all the different cameras we used through the years. But with dedication, perseverance and the development of new technology we were able to make it all come together”. Reflecting on the experience, Vladic is grateful “to have made some of the best friends I’ve ever known, and been adopted by the survivors and their families as a granddaughter and keeper of their legacy. It was for them that I made it through this rocky roller-coaster of a process, and for them that I’ll make sure this story is told as it should be. My hope is that when viewers finish watching this film, they will know the survivors and understand how ordinary 17 and 18 year-olds fought and paid the price for their freedom.”
For 70 years, the story of the USS Indianapolis has been told as a sinking story, or a shark story, or a story of military justice gone awry. But INDIANAPOLIS: The Legacy, is different. Johnson states, “I feel what is so powerful about our film is that the survivors tell their story in their own words. There is no narration.” The USS Indianapolis Survivors’ Organization has enthusiastically endorsed Vladic’s film, giving her their trust, and their full support. Supplementing the story, the documentary includes testimonies from the family members of those who were lost at sea–sailors and marines who paid the ultimate price.
After holding private screenings for the survivors and family members of the Indianapolis crew, Vladic and Johnson were overwhelmed by the positive response to the film. After the screening, Vladic remembers “crew members shared with me that it’s the first time their story had been told accurately on the screen, and in its entirety.” The film follows the crew from the early days of WWII, when they joined the ship, to the present day, including their fight to exonerate their captain, Charles Butler McVay III.
Johnson and Vladic could not be more pleased and honored that their documentary is an official selection at this year’s GI Film Festival. The event enjoys the support of personalities including: Adam Driver, Gary Sinise and Danny Trejo. First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, who, in 2011, launched Joining Forces, an initiative supporting the troops and their families, participated in the festival kickoff with a message recorded for the event. The first lady says the festival “shares a mission that … film and TV can play a role in bridging the divide between our military and civilian communities by combating stereotypes and raising awareness about the unique challenges and the extraordinary strengths and contribution of our troops and their families.'” Kicking off the first night of the festival this year will be Gary Sinise and his LT Dan Band.
Following the release of the documentary film, Vladic teamed up with NYT best-selling author Lynn Vincent to pen INDIANAPOLIS, a historical non-fiction book to be published by Simon & Schuster in 2017. The book will be rooted in the lives of the men who lived the story— unfolding against the larger war and the historic actions of the era—which will set the book apart from other treatments of the subject.
ABOUT SARA VLADIC (DIRECTOR): Prior to taking on directing feature films, Sara spent 16 years working in various departments on set. She filled roles such as: Production Office Coordinator, Production Manager, Editor & Post Supervisor, Writer & Director for commercials and live news, Talent Coordinator, Live Event Producer, and even Stunt Woman. Having hands-on experience in all these areas helps her understand the dynamics of filmmaking, and what it takes to run a crew. Sara is a member of the Producer’s Guild of America, and her directing and producing credits include: Kid’s Choice Awards International Director/Producer, National Geographic Producer, Fight or Flight Music Video Co-Producer, Good Morning America Director/Producer, NS Live News 6 (Los Angeles) Director, among others–and she treats her PAs well.
ABOUT MELANIE JOHNSON (PRODUCER): Melanie has a rich and varied background as a producer in traditional film and television which forged an additional path into the creation of innovative and engaging digital programming for several widely-celebrated entertainment commodities, including MTV’s Video Music Awards, MTV’s Movie Awards, The Critics’ Choice Awards, MTV Cribs, VH1’s T.O. Show, Nickelodeon’s Kid’s Choice Awards, and XFactor USA. Melanie is a Co-Founder and Managing Partner to Tiny Horse, a company that produces original programming and helps clients grow audiences efficiently and build trust with consumers by leveraging premium IP and native distribution strategies. Current clients include Paramount, Nickelodeon, Open Roads, NBC, Amazon, Walmart and more.