Friday, April 11, 2008

The Golden Goose. The use of historical aircraft as "Hollywood Props".

In the previous post on this site about the Intrepid and the use of Article #122 as a movie prop in the movie "I Am Legend", there should be no cause for joy. Intrepid has only done what they always do, they misuse the historical aircraft and artifacts entrusted to them by the various military and private sources, only this time they attempted to hold down the clamor by coming clean with it first. Except for one thing, they tried to twist the misuse by letting everyone know so no one would be alarmed, the aircraft wasn't physically used. In correspondence between myself and the National Museum for the USAF, I was assured in that letter that the aircraft was approached on common ground and nothing touched it. Wrong! The Intrepid sent a photo to the Roadrunners Association (the organization of retired OXCART/A-12 employees) who printed it in their newsletter. In that photo you can see all of the Hollywood types gathered around the aft section of the A-12, the scaffold in place. Having worked for and with movie makers for 25-30 years in the photographic and digital discipline, it wasn't hard for me to figure out how the shot was made. I told the National Museum for the USAF, they said way.....then I showed them the photo. I never got an answer back. The Intrepid Museum went to the USAF to okay the shot, the USAF told Warner Bros. that they didn't want the shot to be made, however the shot was made anyway. According to the USAF, they had no control over what Warner Bros. did. Now I know from working in the industry that was the wrong answer. So not only is the Intrepid to blame for this, the USAF by their lack of presence in the situation also allowed this to happen.

And you know, its not the shot or the scaffold or the golf shot that angers me.....its the use of a historical artifact in a movie about mutant cannibals!!! Tell me what that has to do with the A-12's history. Nothing! It's just another cheap ploy for Intrepid to make money on the artifacts that cost the blood of the men and women who fought and flew for this country in hot and cold wars. That is the disgrace that the Intrepid handlers foist on the history of this country. As a military aviation historian and author/researcher, I am totally disgusted with this practice. I have no issue with a generic V-22 or P-51, B-17 or any other digitally created image being used in a movie. Create with a MAC to your heart's content. What I do have a problem with is using an aircraft, tank, ship what have you that has seen action used in something as stupid as a mutant or any other kind of trash movie or commercial product. It not only demeans the service of the artifact but it attaches money to the memory and service of that military serviceman and artifact.

This is not the first time that Intrepid has done this. Back in the day, Intrepid has lost artifacts, allowed them to be vomited on due to their various evening functions on the hanger deck, allowed slinky models to writhe all over them for the sake of a photo shoot in a men's magazine. How do I know? I cleaned that Hellcat model that was upchucked on and I also cleaned the A-7 Corsair that the model was slinking over. All was done in the name of "funds" aka money. In all these years, in all these different management and foundation changes that Intrepid Museum has undergone, they still can't figure out what it is to be a museum. Yes, they claim that they do all of this for our men and women in the service and they love to use their marketing department to laud it to themselves how wonderful they are, and then Hollywood calls or some other big attraction like Robbie Kneviel and then let's use the A-12 or the Mig 21 for the money and the credit. They have no idea what a museum is and sorry to say, I doubt that they ever will. Unfortunately the Intrepid, great ship and history that she is, must suffer the burden with the artifacts entrusted to her management because the money comes first.

If you take a moment, and go to the American Association for Museums site, ( look at the listing for museum ethics. That is the operative word ETHICS. In the listing under Collections it says: “Collections-related activities promote the public good rather than financial gain”. You show me where in the recent history of the Intrepid Museum that they have done anything that hasn't been for their commercial gain. Oh yes, there are the kiddy parties and the exhibition of tug boat races and that's fine but WHERE does it say using an aircraft as rare as the A-12 in a mutant movie is for the public good. You won't see it in the AAM. It's also another reason why the Intrepid is not a member of the AAM because there is no way that they would adhere to AAM's standards. Accreditation in the AAM would make it less profitable for the Intrepid’s bankers.

When seeing wonderful films like Independence Day or Transformers enjoy them because they truly are all digitized. When watching a heartbreaker movie like the Memphis Belle” note that it is a model of a B-17 or a real B-17, which is getting the honor of portraying the Belle, that aircraft is being used in the context of it’s history.The aircraft used in “Top Gun” were under Navy supervision. There is nothing wrong with using aircraft when portraying their use in a film about their history or even if digitized in a fantasy flick. However, historic aircraft are not for commercial use, no matter what the situation or how much money it will bring in. We would all do well to remember that Museums are responsible for the protection of this country’s heritage, our heritage. Museums are public trusts and publicly accountable institutions. They are not meant to be “side show” entities that work for their financial benefit but for the protection of the artifacts and history that they keep. Intrepid would do well to remember that the next time Hollywood comes knocking on their door.

Jeannette Remak

Phoenix Aviation Research