UDOT Region 2 Preconstruction’s Ray Meldrum, has an interesting hobby: he’s a producer of the locally made Word War II “Saints and Soldiers” films.
Ray became friends with Ryan Little, the director, in 1998 when he was a promising BYU film school student. For Ryan’s first short film, “The Last Good War”, Ray provided all the military uniforms, equipment, vehicles and weapons. This short film received an Emmy, as well as the Jimmy Stewart Award and the Heartland Film Best Picture Award. This success began the seed that spawned the Saints and Soldiers film series.
The first “Saints and Soldiers” movie was produced in 2003 and followed a group of American soldiers behind enemy lines who somehow managed to escape the Malmedey Massacre that occurred during The Battle of the Bulge in early 1945. For a locally produced film, it was very well done and was highly regarded by critics and audiences. Because of its success in the U.S, it was eventually distributed worldwide where it was also highly successful. At the time of its release in 2004 it outsold more copies in the UK than Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan.”
The success of the original Saints and Soldiers movie and the continued interest in WWII films, eventually led to a second film in 2010 called, “Saints and Soldiers; Airborne Creed.” Airborne Creed followed a group of troopers from the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment in, “Operation Torch”; the allied invasion of the south of France in August 1944. This film was also highly successful worldwide and gained the attention of entertainment investors.
On the heels of the second film’s success, a third movie was quickly funded. “Saints and Soldiers: The Void,” was filmed in September 2013 and January 2014, and is scheduled to have its theatrical release in August of this year. The film depicts the end of the war in Europe as the German forces are making a last ditch attempt to harass and defeat the American Army as it moves into Germany. This film follows two M-18 Hellcat tank crews that are sent on a fateful mission through the Harz Mountains of Germany, and are ambushed by three German Panzer tanks.
Ray has co-produced all three films, which means he has a wide variety of responsibilities including; Technical Advisor, Armorer, Vehicle Wrangler, Extra Coordinator, Costume/Set Designer (e.g., helmets, gear, tents, bayonets, blanks, props etc.).
Ray says he has always enjoyed reading American History, but his passion is WWII. “I am fascinated by the sacrifice of the people at this time and the accomplishments they achieved during a short period of time. They out produced every other nation on earth, defeated two great enemies in two theaters of war and on opposite sides of the globe. They demonstrate when a nation, team, or department is united and individuals are dedicated to a cause, it creates a practically unstoppable force.”
This guest post was originally written by Ray for his division’s newsletter but was edited slightly for broader use by Region 2 Project Management Specialist, Heather Barthold.