Father & Daughter Film Report




Writer, Director, Story Artist, & Documentary Filmmaker

Mark Kirkland is a three-time Primetime Emmy award-winning director and filmmaker, widely known for his work on The Simpsons. He studied film and graduated from the California Institute of the Arts. 

He is an associate member of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and former Governor for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Kirkland’s film A Letter From Home screened at the 2010 GI Film Festival and we ran into him at this year's GI Film Festival (GIFF17) to see his moving documentary 

Bud's Odyssey:

On a mission over the Mediterranean, B-17 Pilot Bud and his crew are shot down.

Bud becomes the sole survivor by swimming 32 hrs to the Italian shore, and then spends 20 months in Stalag Luft III. After years of suffering with sole survivors guilt and severe PTSD, he finally found a road to healing and reconciliation.

Click on the image above to see the trailer

We managed to corner Mark after his well received showing and asked him a few questions about life, finding this story, and film making in general:

1.) What life event would you say activated your interest to work in film?

My dad is a photographer (Douglas Kirkland), so visual story telling was always part of my family. I loved sci-fi movies and comedies. I started making films when I was 13 years old with a Super 8 camera. Later I attend CalArts and studied film and animation. 

2.) What series of events lead to the discovery of and the motivation to do Bud's Odyssey?

Meeting and becoming friends with Bud himself. Also, I had a stepfather who was a rifle platoon leader/ infantryman during WWII. I've always been interested in WWII history and I am empathetic to veterans.

Mark Kirkland (left) & Bud Kingsbury (right) after meeting by chance aboard the B-17 "Nine O' Nine", the same type of bomber Bud flew on his odyssey.

3.) Other than money, what was the most difficult thing you had to deal with producing this film? 

It was a shoe string budget, for sure. Bud had such a rich life and there is so much story to tell. His story could sustain a feature, or even a mini series. Knowing what to include and what to leave out in the editing. Then how do we show such important events. We ended up using all kinds of source materials, photos, video interviews and then we reenacted important scenes. 

4.) What did you learn about yourself personally by making this film?

I was experimenting with elements and hoping that the story would "hang together" and that the viewer would be engaged. 

My guess was that if the storytelling was clear that it would be an emotional story.

 So far people have responded strongly and emotionally to the film and I said;

 "yes, my filmmaker's hunch was good."

5.) What advice can you give others who wish to make a film?

There's a lot of ways to make a film and a lot of different types of films. Only work on a project if you love the story. Bounce your ideas of other people who you think have good taste and shape your material off their reactions.

6.) What have you done to get this film ‘out there’? How do you feel distribution is changing?

So far film festivals. We're still in the early stages and I'd like to see what opportunities present themselves. We can go in many directions, but I hope lots of people will see our film.

Along with his wife Producer Letty Kirkland, Mark along with Producer Collin Fowler, Executive Producers Jennifer Kingsbury (Bud's Grand-daughter) and Bob Kingsbury (Bud's Son) and Cinematographer Luke Szczygielski,   created a unique project that has been a collective effort that  certainly inspired and captivated all who were in attendance at this year's G.I. Film Festival in the Greatest Generation shorts film block held in the U.S. Navy Memorial Theater. 

7.) Where do you see the future of films heading? As an industry?  As content?

Well, I see at least two, or three different directions. Big business films seem to want for-sure money-makers, hence we have franchise super hero films, and lots and lots of sequels and reboots of established characters, etc. 

Occasionally we have an original film like "Sully" which is terrific. Indy filmmakers are able to make and find ways to get there films out (often using film festivals as show cases and I think that's a pretty strong, fertile area for fresh ideas.

 The tools are now more affordable for the beginner film maker, or someone with a limited budget, to make and showcase their work. We made Bud's Odyssey with equipment that I own and I edited and mixed the project using my computer at home. That wasn't possible even a dozen years ago. 

8.) Any examples in the making of this film that seemed to involve unexplainable forces?

Filmmaking is a lot of work, no doubt. 

When I would get tired, I would think of everything that Bud went through and of my friendship with him and it never failed to reinvigorate and inspire me.

9.) In your own words, what makes this film unique from others you have made?

It is a documentary, with reenactment, which is a new format for me. 

Also, early on I showed Kingsbury family a short example of what I thought would make a good film and they fully supported the idea of making the film. 

So collaboration, which has been rewarding.

Bud's Odyssey has only started making the festival rounds and has already been recognized by some pretty prestigious film festivals.

10.) Whatever you can think of you wish to be known that I'm not asking (or no one else has ever asked) that you would like expressed....

I think you've asked a lot of great questions. 


Here's a good question I once got at a festival for one of my earlier films:

What reward have you received for making this film?

I often choose a film subject because I'm curious about the subject it and want to visualize it. So seeing what I've imagined "come to life" is rewarding in it's own sense. Also, importantly, seeing and hearing the audience's reaction to the film is rewarding.  Many viewers of "Bud's Odyssey"express that they cried and that they feel gratitude to Bud and his fellow "greatest generation" members for their sacrifices. 

Thank-you, Mark, for sharing your experiences, thoughts, and of course a wonderful film that we wish you the best with....!