Treading the fine line for military dramas

Retired Navy Seal Mitchell Hall (above) is the technical adviser for the military drama, Six.
Retired Navy Seal Mitchell Hall (above) is the technical adviser for the military drama, Six.

Hollywood loves big explosions and heroic gestures in its military dramas. And even though retired United States Navy Seal Mitchell Hall knows this is far from reality, as technical adviser to such productions, he has to accommodate Hollywood's penchant for theatricality at times.

"At the end of the day, it's entertainment," says Mr Hall in a telephone interview with The Straits Times. "Sometimes, I'll give in a little and sometimes they'll give in a little. It's about finding the perfect balance between authenticity and entertainment."

The 44-year-old, who is based in San Diego, US, is the associate producer and technical adviser for History channel's new military drama, Six, which revolves around the lives of the operators in US Navy Seal Team Six.

The military veteran, who retired in 2011 after 21 years in the Navy, also has to remember to toe the line when providing expert advice about the Navy Seals.

"It's a rather secretive organisation and they don't talk to the public often, so I had to ride a pretty fine line between giving the (production team) just enough to be authentic, but not so much that I was giving away secrets," says Mr Hall.

He takes care not to jeopardise the safety of his friends and ex-teammates who are still in the field.

Despite such restrictions, Mr Hall, who counts the film Saving Private Ryan (1998) and television miniseries Band Of Brothers (2001) as some of his favourite war shows, feels there should be more real stories on screens.

"There are 15 years of war that directors and creatives can tap into, so there's no reason not to get it right," says Mr Hall.

"The truth is that all the drama, all the extreme stories are there for real. You don't have to make it up, you just have to do the homework."

Mr Hall, who was also the technical adviser for war movies Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and Lone Survivor (2013), notes that Six is the "most authentic" project he has seen.

The eight-part series is inspired by real missions undertaken by Seal Team Six - the combat unit famed for taking down Osama bin Laden, leader of terrorist group Al-Qaeda.

Real-world conflicts are also referred to within the series. In one episode, the lead character is taken hostage, along with a group of schoolchildren, by Boko Haram, a Nigerian terrorist group

While the combat scenes will be "fun" and "entertaining", the family scenes will be the more memorable ones, says Mr Hall.

"The show is about cost, it's about the impossible balance between the operator's professional life and his family life," says Mr Hall.

"It's important that the audience sees that and appreciates what these people give."

Like the operators in Six, Mr Hall is a father. He has a 12-year-old daughter who was four when he left for his last deployment.

"When you have kids and a family, it changes what you might be able to do out there and what you risk because you want to go back home to your family," says Mr Hall.

"It is an entirely different game from when you were single."

•Six is showing on History (StarHub TV Channel 401) on Thursdays at 11pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2017, with the headline 'Treading the fine line for military dramas'. Print Edition | Subscribe