Much more than just another film about the war in Afghanistan, Outside the Wire presents the most comprehensive visual capture of the changed character of war in the early 21st century available for viewing today.
Though terror threats to the United States long predate the events of 9-11, U.S. National security policy has focused on countering terrorism in the post 9-11 world. Strategy, policy, and significant elements of national power have been applied to counter terrorism to protect the nation. And of course, policy decisions sent US armed forces once again into harm's way to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I watched all this as a concerned citizen. I, like the rest of the American public with little contact with the military, had preconceived notions of what war is like...from school, movies, and documentaries...my context was that from history and popular culture. Was that what these current conflicts were like?
Scholars and soldiers told me that war has an enduring nature, one that has not changed for centuries: that it is a contest of wills, it is violent and uncertain, and war is an extension of policy with a dominating political dimension. However, though the nature of war remains unchanged, the character of war constantly evolves. I wanted to know what was the latest evolution of war facing our military? How are our policy decisions playing out on the ground overseas? What is victory? What would be considered defeat?
The rationing of information about today's conflicts bothered me greatly. Much of what my fellow citizens and I have been presented are brief news reports lacking context, war drama reality television shows of limited scope, or films recounting embattled troops in valley outposts -- compelling and valorous aspects of the conflict, without question, but only one aspect of what are incredibly complex operations. What else was going on before and after these battles? I needed to know more.
Adding to my motivation to complete the film is the current situation in Iraq (rise of ISIL; poor performance of Iraqi security forces) and the knowledge that the U.S. might be on a timetable to reduce forces in Afghanistan. Was Afghanistan destined for a similar fate?
As a citizen, I wondered how policies such as "deny a safe haven for terrorists," "forge a lasting peace," and "manage conflicts that threaten our interests" are carried out. What do young Americans do to turn these words into reality?
The Department of Defense approved a production assistance agreement that allowed me to embed with ground combat units and other services in order to produce a documentary film and photo exhibit about the military efforts in Afghanistan from Fall of 2010 to the end of Operation Enduring Freedom in December 2014. Over the course of nearly 5 years I have spent more than 12 months embedded with US Army units in Afghanistan, documenting more than 250 combat missions. It’s remarkable footage that ranges from kill capture missions to mounted and dismounted patrols, air assaults and operations that result in kinetic contact, to humanitarian aid and civil affairs efforts. I have been there, done it, and have numerous t-shirts.
Outside the Wire is less of a war film, and more of a journey of understanding. Many questions were answered; important new ones were raised. Along this journey I met the incredible people who volunteer to descend into the violent, chaotic, and complex environments for me, for us. I completed the journey with a better awareness of them, of what we ask them to do, and the nature of the conflicts we find ourselves in with increasing frequency.
Each time I stood in front of a group and tried to describe just what it is young Americans do on the ground to make policy successful, I knew I fell short. I secretly wished the impossible wish of transporting the population of the United States to the battlegrounds of Iraq and Afghanistan so they could see their military and their diplomats in action, see the abject poverty, oppression, violence and destruction we sought to abate, and get a feel for the immense complexity of these environments.
And thus far, 21st Century warfare is certainly proving to be incredibly complex. For the foreseeable future, war will continue to be waged among the world's populations. It is carried out by adaptable, cunning, and often well-resourced enemies who employ all means at their disposal, from crime and terror to the latest conventional weaponry and cyber operations. They ignore all rules of international order and they ignore all aspects of the law of armed conflict -- in fact, they ignore humanity. Success against enemies such as these requires professional, ethical and truly enlightened warriors and diplomats -- and constant communication of clear, adaptive policy goals for them to translate into actions on the ground.
I knew if my fellow countrymen could get a better understanding of the grass roots realities of policy in execution, somehow see examples of it for themselves, I was certain they would take a greater interest in -- and seek to be more informed -- about those policy decisions that send American's into harm's way in these types of conflicts.
When I saw a rough cut of Meg Prior's work while I was at the War College 2012, I knew immediately it had great value to educate and inform the public on the changed character of war in the 21st century and what it is like to be on the whip's end of national security policy. I believe this film does that, as well as give the public the most extensive, engaging, and in-depth view of the people who are currently serving our nation.
It has been an honor to be associated with this project.
Siobhan Prior is a native Californian, born and raised in Los Angeles. She is a third generational vet in the film industry following in her father’s and grandfather footsteps. Her grandfather, Peck Prior Sr., began his career as a commercial producer, and ultimately finished his career as the President of Technicolor. Under the steady tutelage of her father, acclaimed film editor Peck Prior, Siobhan quickly gained the knowledge, training and creative tools necessary in the art of editing and visual story.
Siobhan’s skill set is expansive, ranging from physical production, to managing dailies, to film-outs and digital outputs for theatrical release – her editorial sensibilities have been sculpted by the finest editors in Hollywood. Her career seamlessly spanned the 35mm to digital revolution, working in the VFX departments on films such as “Pleasantville”, “Disaster Movie”, and Sky Captain, World of Tomorrow”
After 10 years working on large scale feature films, Siobhan took her talents to Bandito Brothers – A full service independent media studio. In addition to editing commercials projects, she was given the opportunity to be an Additional Editor, VFX Supervisor and Co-Post Production Supervisor on the film “Act of Valor”. The movie was revolutionary in many ways, one of the most radical was that it was the first film that combined DSLR and 35mm film in a feature environment. The film opened #1 at the Box Office, and changed the way mainstream Hollywood approached feature film making, helping to solidify Siobhan’s standing as an innovator in the world of filmmaking and digital media.
Using her background on “Act of Valor” (which used real Navy SEALs and accessed actual military assets), she joined her step-mom Meg Prior as an Editor and Post Producer on “Outside the Wire”, a documentary film about Meg’s civilian deployment to Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.