The Long Road Home, Discussions With Shows Director Phil Abraham and Creator Mikko Alanne

 
At the event of The Long Road Home. From left to right Mikko Alanne, Edward McGurn, Phil Abraham.

At the event of The Long Road Home. From left to right Mikko Alanne, Edward McGurn, Phil Abraham.

 

Between director Phil Abraham and writer Mikko Alanne, there is a pretty impressive body of work. Phil has directed episodes of many big name televisions shows including Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and Daredevil; while Mikko has written screenplays for both movies and television like The 33, 5 Days of War, and History Undercover: Terror Strikes Moscow. It’s no surprise that bringing these two together would make for a quality duo. Side by side, along with the help of many other talented filmmakers and actors, they brought to life National Geographic’s short series The Long Road Home, the true story of the soldiers and the families affected by the events of “Black Sunday”.

When asked what the process of filming was like for them both men had very positive comments. Mikko said, “to me, this is absolutely the most meaningful and profound thing I've ever been a part of”. Phil not only agreed with Mikko’s feelings but went on to say, “I was looking for something a little bit more long form that I could really immerse myself in but, I truly had no idea how meaningful this experience was gonna be and I say that in the most sincere way”.

 
Fort Hood, Killeen, TX - on set of The Long Road Home at U.S. Military post, Fort Hood, Killeen, Texas. (Photo: National Geographic/Van Redin)

Fort Hood, Killeen, TX - on set of The Long Road Home at U.S. Military post, Fort Hood, Killeen, Texas. (Photo: National Geographic/Van Redin)

 

When dealing with true stories there is a certain amount of respect for the situation and the people involved you need to have, and Mikko and Phil certainly have a lot of it. “it was the true story that created these transformational relationships. We had a lot of the real-life people who came to visit the set. They would come to Fort Hood during the weekends, and it's just been the most astonishing family-like experience” said Mikko. Phil stated that “the way we all feel about it, there was something I think very special, and different from what we're used to doing [...] being involved in a true story these are real people”

There was a level of authenticity that both Phil and Mikko wanted to bring to the show, and that required a wide variety of practical effects. “first of all so we shot this whole show out on the Texas range in Fort Hood so and we were shooting Fort Hood for Sadr City, Jeffrey the production designer ended up building a long stretch of actual buildings and retrofitting existing buildings and even as immense as that was like I was constantly saying it's not enough it's not enough [...] we’re going to see out the windows and how quickly is that going to disappear”. Phil goes on to state why shooting it practically was so important. “part of the fabric of the show was to be as truthful and as real to the experience that the soldiers sort of went through and that guided sort of the decision to not have sound stages and not do green screen or rear-projection and just have everyone be in it”

 
Fort Hood, TX -Jorge Diaz-Spc. Israel Garza (L) and Karina Ortiz- Lupita Garza (R) on set of The Long Road Home, Killeen, Texas. (Photo: National Geographic/Van Redin)

Fort Hood, TX -Jorge Diaz-Spc. Israel Garza (L) and Karina Ortiz- Lupita Garza (R) on set of The Long Road Home, Killeen, Texas. (Photo: National Geographic/Van Redin)

 

Mikko went on to detail exactly how intensely they used practical effects. “I was looking at the statistics today to our special effects that Matt Kutcher (special effects supervisor) sent me we used one mile of primacord explosive five thousand detonators and sixty-five thousand feet of wire to wire the charges” He also specified how big the production really was “Our set was 35 acres, which is half the size of Disneyland, and there were 12 acres of scenery, so it was the largest working set in North America at the time”

Mikko goes on to talk about the significance of the series not just to them but how they how it will last the long haul. Mikko stated “I would say that fundamentally this is a story not necessarily about war but about the people who fight in it, and about the cost of war. As I said before this is the single most meaningful thing that I've been a part of I think that the cast, we've all formed incredibly close bonds with the real-life soldiers and families that I am certain will last a lifetime and it's been beautiful to see” Mikko closes out the discussion by saying “the vast vast majority of people in this country don't serve in the military and if there are two things that I hope that the series can illuminate is bridging that gap between the civilian families and the military families.”