In May of last year I was accepted into the Writers Guild Foundation Veterans Writing Project. The program accepts 50 veterans each year (I was turned down the previous year) and holds a 3-day Retreat to launch the year's activities.
We were divided into groups of about 8 veterans and paired with working screen writing professionals to brainstorm our topics and refine our writing process. Then we were mentored throughout the year by more professional writers, with meetings twice each month. those of us who did not live in the Los Angeles area were able to participate via Facebook video and telephone conferences.
I based my script on my Hamfist novel series. I quickly discovered that a screenplay is totally different from a novel, and my script evolved dramatically, mostly due to the feedback of my mentor, Sabrina Almeida. With her help and guidance, my script went from not-ready-for-prime-time to pretty darned good.
And now the yearlong program, for me, is over, and I was invited to "pitch" my script to industry heavyweights. So, two days ago, I went to Los Angeles for the pitch-fest.
Here’s the pitch:
I'm Major George Nolly of the US Air Force
Author of the Hamfist Novel Series, with multiple Best-sellers that have been ranked #1 Fiction in the Vietnam War - History category with over 151,000 units downloaded and paperback sales on Amazon.
I teach Aviation at Metro State University, and I'm a Flight Instructor at United Airlines, where I flew for 26 years after active duty.
I have two masters, and a doctorate in Homeland Security, but before that, I was a cadet at the US Air Force Academy because I wanted to be a pilot, just like my father.
I did two tours in Vietnam with 198 combat missions flying an F-4 fighter jet, and let me tell you, there is nothing in this world that compares to being strapped to two J79 engines pushing 36,000 foot pounds of thrust at Mach 1 while a SAM is closing in on your ass.
It was everything I hoped for and more.
But before I got into my first dogfight, I had to get through my first combat tour.
After pilot training, I went over as a FAC, a Forward Air Controller, in an O-2, which was a tiny, twin-prop Cessna used to fly low to the ground, and spot high-value targets in enemy territory.
It was NOT what I signed up for.
He's sent to Vietnam in an O-2, one of the slowest planes in the service, where he meets SPEEDBRAKE, fellow pilot and mentor, who shows him what a FAC really does:
He loiters in the area long enough to direct fighters in for an air strike. The way you do this is at night is by GOING CHRISTMAS TREE, where we would turn on all our exterior lights and light up like a christmas tree to attract enemy ground fire, so that Charlie would reveal himself to our fighters for an air strike.
It's on a close call going Christmas Tree where our hero earns the call sign HAMFIST.
When the Base Commander offers winner's choice of aircraft for the pilot with the highest kill ratio, Hamfist sees a way into an F-4, that is, if he can beat his nemesis, Tank, the squadron Top Dog.
However, Hamfist's relentless pursuit leads him to fly fast and loose. When his flying puts others in jeopardy, he is deemed reckless, and sent on mandatory R&R.
While on R&R in Tokyo, he meets SAMANTHA - SAM, a recent Harvard Law Grad. Samantha has just signed up to join the Air Force as a JAG, and has a thing for fighter pilots. For the first time, Hamfist has dreams of something big in his life, other than flying fast.
That dream is interrupted when Hamfist gets word that his Mentor SPEEDBRAKE is shot down, and Hamfist must return to Vietnam to pack up Speedbrake's things for his family.
On his first mission back, distracted by how he left things with Sam, Hamfist gets shot down over the trail, and injured during his rescue.
After he's patched up, he persuades the doc to clear him to fly, even though the full extent of his injuries are not yet known.
The deadline arrives for the competition, and he has just enough time for one more sortie to secure his lead over TANK.
However, when as he enters the target area, he hears a distress call from a downed F-4. Hamfist forfeits his target to rescue the pilot.
Hamfist returns to base as a hero, however, he loses the competition to Tank, and along with that, his dreams of piloting an F-4.
A medical exam reveals that his injuries were more severe than previously thought, and he also loses his Air Force Flight Clearance.
Hamfist is overcome by the failure in his pursuit to follow in his father's footsteps.
Unable to turn to Sam, for fear that her affections will change, now that he will never be a fighter pilot, he severs his relationship with her while she is still in Officer Training.
Hamfist is given the option to leave the service at the end of his tour with an Honorable Discharge, or remain grounded for the rest of his career.
When word of his heroism reaches the private sector, however, Hamfist is offered a job as a civilian test pilot... in an F-4.
Assigned as the Interim Squadron Intel Officer until a replacement arrives, he witnesses the dedication of the men left behind on base while pilots flew their combat missions.
- The maintenance crews that perform 20 man-hours to every one hour he was in the air.
He sees how each person's contribution to the war effort is critical.
Hamfist understands that the War Effort comes before his personal desires, and extends his tour in Vietnam as a Ground officer.
That's when his replacement Intel Officer arrives on base, and Hamilton walks in to brief... Samantha, freshly graduated from Intel School.