Shadow Company - new doco on Private Military Companies


So I thought I'd come over and see what ARRSE is all about...
(actually truth be told I had noticed quite a few links coming into the films website from here)

I figure I may aswell introduce my movie.
Here goes - "Shadow Company" - is a feature length documentary about Private Security Companies (or Military companies depending on who you're asking).

We travelled to Sierra Leone, Iraq, UK, US, Canada to interview operators, owners of companies, political analysts, journalists and historians - to piece together the story of these modern day private soldiers - who are they - what do they do - and why ? (a few brits in there - especially Alan Bell - career veteran of 22 SAS - currently owner of Globe Risk a Toronto based security company)

We recently screened the film for members of the US senate and Congress (it was a special event organised by Senator Kennedy's office) and the discussion panel after the screening was quite involved to say the least - members of Amnesty International discussing the use of so-called "mercenaries" in the Darfur alongside representatives from Hart Security and me as Mr. Filmmaker right in the middle.

We tried hard to make a balanced movie (and in fact we've been offered broadcast deals on two separate occasions ONLY if we would unbalance the movie - i.e. make it one sided and ANTI-PMC - something I have no interest in doing) and we hope that it will find its audience - in my opinion there are far too many documentary filmmakers out there (Greenwald and Moore come to mind but there are others) who are not interested in the truth but simply make films to further a political agenda.

I wanted to encourage people to ask the right questions - The Rules of War have fundamentally changed and it's important everyone is aware of how and why.

This film is entirely self financed (no broadcaster or distributor on board) - you can check out the trailer on the website

If anybody wants to give the filmmakers any sh*it - by all means speak up - I'm the director and producer of the film - so any sh*it is mine to take.

Stay safe.

Nick Bicanic
I hear that the book writing phase of selection getting cancelled is to blame.

Trailer looked good though.. Prob go down better with the spams to be honest.. but not seen the movie yet..
steptoe said:
I hear that the book writing phase of selection getting cancelled is to blame.

Trailer looked good though.. Prob go down better with the spams to be honest.. but not seen the movie yet..
spam centric ??
well I haven't lived in England for a few years but I don't remember spam meaning anything other than canned meat or junk mail...

anyone care to enlighten me (google didn't help)

I'm kind of assuming it means Americans because of the context - the funny thing is there are comparatively few Americans in the film - main guy is Scottish then there are some englishmen, south africans, rhodesian, two canadians and yes ok a few yanks....

Might just be trailer.. I am crap with accents. Are you selling the doc to discovery channel etc eventually?
steptoe said:
Might just be trailer.. I am crap with accents. Are you selling the doc to discovery channel etc eventually?
not sure...we had a couple of offers so far - but some of them demanded that we recut the film to make it more obviously ANTI-PMC which I had no interest in doing since I viewed it as a distortion of the facts...

So let me get this straight, you have shot all of the footage without a distributor? And this is wholey owned by your production Company?
armchair_jihad said:
So let me get this straight, you have shot all of the footage without a distributor? And this is wholey owned by your production Company?
SPAM - ok I get it now...yes you have got it straight.
Production is wholly owned by Purpose Films.
All footage shot with no distributor or broadcaster on board.
I have had a number of offers in the last few months (some from Mc Donald's eating people named Morgan Spurlock) but nothing to write home about....I've decided self distribution is a better model.

as for the broadcaster - I refuse to sign a deal which will take a balanced film and create a politically charged propaganda piece - if I'd wanted to do that I'd have done it from the beginning...

Yellow_Devil said:
Any chance of a screening in London? Could be combined with an ARRSE crawl :D
funny you should ask - yes very much so - I am doing one in Norway on September 11th (deliberate timing - on their part) but since they are paying for flight over I will try to put together a UK event...

how many people do you reckon would be interested - I would love to emulate what we did in Washington DC and have a proper discussion panel afterwards - I will try to get Mike Rose and a number of other high profile speakers in - anyone care to make suggestions or help spread the word to the media - by all means.

Likewise for suggestions of locations - so as not to crowd the crap out of the thread - PM me with details if you are so inclined.

I have to offline for a bit now gents - got a flight to catch to LA in about three hours...but will return in due course

nickybee wrote,
members of Amnesty International discussing the use of so-called "mercenaries"

Not just Amnesty called them 'mercenaries' - from your website:-
Shadow Company, by Nick Bicanic and Jason Bourque, is the
groundbreaking feature-length documentary that reveals
the origins and destinations of these
modern-day mercenaries.

Not tailoring your language for what you see as a particular audience are you?

Mind you, it has received some good reviews...this from by Tobias Peterson

...Shadow Company charts a significant increase in the hiring of private security firms in the time following 9/11. Today, the film reports, these companies constitute a $100 billion per year industry. The film informs us that the ratio of private security personnel to US troops in Iraq is at 1:10, and that more PMC employees have been killed in Iraq than from every coalition country besides the US, combined.

And just who is policing this "coalition of the billing" as author Robert Young Pelton terms it? The answer, it's revealed, is simple: nobody. Iraq, in the film, is likened more than once to the "Wild West", an area where 40 percent of the security contracts are granted without bids to outfits that may or may not have personnel qualified to be running around with fully automatic weapons in that extremely volatile environment.

Importantly, though, Shadow Company is careful not to condemn all PMCs. Instead, its job (as director Nick Bicanic asserted in the post-screening Q&A) is to raise these types of questions, not answer them. One of these questions is; In this new era of corporate outsourcing, what is gained and what is risked by farming out the tasks of armed conflict to third party armies? The answers remain to be seen. One thing's certain, however. It's clear that such questions have yet to be asked in any substantial way by the US government, which continues to shower these companies with cash without providing for any official oversight. For now, we're left to rely on films like Shadow Company to press for a more thorough approach to a war that's being increasingly fought by proxy.
hansvonhealing said:
nickybee wrote,
Not tailoring your language for what you see as a particular audience are you?
heaven forbid that would be utterly offensive... 8)

there will always be a certain amount of tailoring of message when one communicates about anything - e.g. if I'm talking to a group of left leaning academics I may not choose to dwell on the fact that the close up of the SIG 552 Commando has been flipped - though a weapons geek may notice.

That aside - I have never hidden from the label mercenary as used in the film for the simple fact that a number of the guys I spoke to have no real problem with the label and will often use it jokingly amongst themselves (as for the ex-EO guys they will be joking much less). The problem is to do with the negative stereotyping that word carries - because it seems to be imply an morally corrupt free knife wielding psychopath of some kind to some people - a concept that is blatantly untrue.

Though there were a few blokes that are a little unhinged with fuses shorter than most people's military haircuts - by and large the people I spoke with were very professional and we are confident that comes across.

One thing I think is vital for the PMC industry is the follwing - embrace the similarities with the past and highlight the differences. If that does not happen (but instead there is an insistence of "No that EO stuff was a different animal and belongs in the history books alongside denard, hoare, callan etc etc) there is an uphill struggle of understanding and education...

We aim to redress this balance.

Thermal_Warrior said:
Looks good.

Hope the trailer isn't showcasing all the best bits etc.

Would be interested in seeing this.
The trailer certainly showcases the feel of the film - but we by no means blow our proverbial load in it. There's tons of meaty stuff there (even the deleted scenes on the DVD have some hilarious and insightful storytelling by our interviewees)

Thanks for the kudos...I look forward to a healhy discussion when people start actually receiving copies and commenting about the film itself.


Mr Happy

Shadow Company.

Official ARRSE review.

I'm not sure I'm the most suitable person to write the review of the documentary SHADOW COMPANY from Purpose Films but I have had old colleagues working in the PMC industry since the year 2000 for companies like Aegis, Kroll and Control Risks and have heard some stories and opinions, so here goes:

Shadow Company is predominantly a documentary featuring interviews with security industry professionals (both operators and owner/managers) and a limited number of non-industry characters (politicians, serving soldiers, journo's etc). The interviews are broken up with archive or actual footage from various hot spots in the world that have featured PMC action (particularly Iraq but also Afghanistan, central europe and Africa). Filming is a consistent style and demonstrates the professionalism of the production team throughout, included in this style is the info bar scrolling text giving background information to the spoken word.

The characters chosen for interview are all lifesize and answer off camera questions well with clearly PMC experience or, in the case of the non-PMC industry interviewees, some opinions behind them. The bulk of the filming and story discusses Iraq and the roles of the PMC's there and the industry as a whole. The film does not, in any way, come down on one side or another, though, given the majority of interviews are with PMC operators there is a certain leaning towards "I am doing good" but several non-PMC Industry individuals discuss the value and morality of employing PMC's to give balance.

The documentary in DVD form is fairly long, knocking on 2 hours but during its time it maintained its interesting flow and quality from start to finish.

To buy the DVD direct from the website costs 32 USD including postage, or almost 17 pounds in real money but it is without doubt one of the finest documentaries I've seen on the industry and gives you an interesting view on the business and raises some questions you will need to ask yourself might you be considering going out there yourself. The best one being "do I want to serve alongside these guys".
Mr Happy said:
Shadow Company.

Official ARRSE review.
Thank you sir - for a solid review. I appreciate you taking the time to watch it - for those who are interested in such things the DVD that was review was the "preview screener" - the actual dvd you buy from the site here contains the full movie, a 5.1 surround audio track, a feature length commentary, the discussion panel after the Washington DC screening and over 20 minutes of additional scenes - including one of cobus talking about blowup dolls that needs to be seen to be believed.

Thanks for spreading the word

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