Published March 26, 2013
LOS ANGELES – The intelligence-themed “Argo” took home Best Picture at the Oscars and made $230 million on a $44 million budget.
“Act of Valor,” a 2012 movie that starred active duty U.S. Navy SEALs, made $80 million on a budget just over $10 million.
Showtime’s counterterrorism series “Homeland” won the Emmy and Golden Globe for Best Drama in 2012.
This so-called “militainment”—movies, TV shows, and video games based on real-life military engagement—is taking off in Hollywood. Enter Zulu 7, a brand new production house comprised of past and current U.S. military formed to make sure these kinds of military-themed projects stay as true to life as possible.
“There is a growing demand for films like these. I would even throw movies like ‘Mission Impossible’ or ‘James Bond’ in the mix,” Zulu 7 CEO Stephan Shelanski told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “We are uniquely able to do these because not only do we have the business side and production expertise, but we have the intelligence personnel who know these stories better, and can provide a much better way, and accurate way, of doing these projects.”
“We want to produce projects with integrity, authenticity and make them commercially appealing as well,” Shelanski added, because when it comes to Hollywood, artistic licenses can turn into unacceptable inaccuracies.
“We watch closely for accuracy and we’re always nit-picking to try and find something wrong,” said Zulu 7 partner Dale Comstock, himself former Delta Force. “I won’t name names, but in one big show, I saw a lot of military inaccuracies. One of the operators actually hung a piece of military equipment upside down. For the average American, they wouldn’t know the difference. But it goes back to bringing authenticity to these projects.”
It also turns out, unsurprisingly, that there are a number of posers in Hollywood, people who pretend to be ex-military to sell their “expert” consulting services.
“There are a lot of guys here that are complete frauds that call themselves ex-military. I am appalled about how many are out there,” Comstock said. “They are touted to be experts, when really they are not even in the ballpark.”
Another Zulu 7 co-founder, A.K. Waters (a pseudonym), who worked on several big budget films, including the multiple Oscar-nominated “Zero Dark Thirty” when on leave from active duty (he can't say where) said working in Hollywood after serving overseas was a healing experience.
“I was helping friends, and it was therapeutic for me just to go to these different sets and help different movies along with aspects of the intelligence world,” he said. “Some of these films became big hits, and so did the television shows.”
Zulu 7, named after a military term that means a mission has been successfully completed, also wants to help other veterans break into the business.
“I was in the Army for 20 years and I worked for the government for nine years. Someone referred me to a producer on the Discovery Channel, and I later ended up on NBC’s ‘Stars Earn Stripes.’ From there I linked up with the rest of the Zulu 7 team,” Comstock said. “And now we would like to help veterans out when we can, too.”
Danielle Jones-Wesley contributed to this report