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First Lady Michelle Obama, American Sniper star Bradley Cooper and the veterans’ advocacy group Got Your 6 are bringing together a group of film and television notables in Washington today to announce a novel certification program designed to encourage an authentic depiction of US veterans in movies and TV shows.
Called “6 Certified” by its originators, the program will grant a kind of seal of approval to film and television productions that “accurately and responsibly” portray the lives of veterans and employ returnees in some creative or advisory capacity.
The effort to expand public understanding of veterans through popular culture grows out of the first lady’s personal Joining Forces initiative, which works on behalf of the roughly 250,000 ex-soldiers, sailors, Marines and Air Force members who reenter civilian life each year. Got Your 6, a spin-off of the initiative, takes its name from the military shorthand for “I’ve got your back.”
Joining Obama and Cooper at today’s announcement in Washington are Academy Award-winning producer Bruce Cohen (American Beauty and Silver Linings Playbook); reality TV producer Charlie Ebersol (USA Network’s NFL Characters Unite and CNBC’s The Profit); Got Your 6 managing director Chris Marvin; National Geographic Channel CEO Courteney Monroe; Greg Silverman, creative development and worldwide production president at Warner Bros. Pictures; Berlanti Productions president Sarah Schechter; and Producers Guild of America co-president Lori McCreary.
“As Hollywood continues to tell powerful stories about veterans and the military, we want to acknowledge those who work hard to get it right,” said Marvin. “‘6 Certified’ will recognize films that portray veterans accurately and responsibly. This is an important first step in challenging misconceptions about veterans in popular culture and fostering understanding between veterans and civilians.”
Ebersol, who conceived the certification idea, told The Hollywood Reporter, “We’ve gotten to this point where the depictions of veterans are so extreme: They are either heroes or they’re victims. There is nothing in-between.”
Ebersol added: “Hollywood is comprised mostly of people who live largely on platitudes, like ‘we support the troops,’ but little actually gets done. I wanted to help Chris and the group figure out how to create a system that would ensure that the vast resources and the power of the entertainment industry were finally focused.”
Under the program, film and television producers with movies or shows in post-production will be able to submit their work to a board staffed by Got Your 6. To obtain a certificate that can be displayed with the credits, the productions will have to meet at least one of a number of criteria, including: presenting a balanced depiction of veterans; consultation with veterans and their families, casting of veterans; employing a veteran as a writer or as a consulting presence in the writing room; and portraying a multidimensional veteran character.
Cohen told THR that he began working with the White House on the first lady’s Joining Forces initiative after its inception five years ago. “We kicked off the collaboration between Joining Forces and Hollywood with a series of public service announcements with the first lady along with Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg,” he recalled.
He believes the certification program, which will allow filmmakers to display a “6 Certified” logo in their credits, will take industry involvement to the next level.
“We’ve all been aware of the entertainment industry’s incredible capacity to educate by entertaining,” Cohen said. “As beautiful as a book or a documentary can be, it’s incredible to how much power a feature film version or a hit TV series of that same work can have. When done right, a feature film can really bring an issue to a much larger audience and have real impact.”
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