The Producers

Photo by Sarah Beal. (c) 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Director Patrick Fries, Writer and Producer Cheryl Fries, and Senior Producer Richard Gaylord, all of Austin’s Arrowhead Films, have produced three award-winning Vietnam War documentary films, and their work on military and veteran programming continues.

In the Shadow of the Blade was conceived out of Patrick’s passion for flying and former high-school teacher Cheryl’s passion for history.  As their idea to find, restore, and fly a Vietnam War UH-1 Huey helicopter across America to capture the stories of war veterans came to fruition in a powerful and instructive film, Patrick and Cheryl grew committed to finding ways to use their talents to create other documentaries that could make a difference in helping America understand the men and women who serve.

When the remains of a U.S. Marine who’d been Missing in Action for three decades were identified and scheduled for repatriation and burial, Discovery commissioned Arrowhead Films to produce An Ocean Away: The Donald Matocha Story.  

Photo Michael Hanneman for Arrowhead Films

This Telly Award winning documentary captures the ongoing commitment of the United States Joint POW Accounting Command to find and return the nation’s missing servicemen.  Director Patrick Fries and Arrowhead Films followed Lieutenant Donald Matocha’s sisters to JPAC headquarters at Hickham Air Force Base in Hawaii to bring their brother home, then took them – and members of Matocha’s combat recon squad – back to the Vietnam mountain where he had died.  The poignant meeting of the sisters and Marines with the former enemy soldier who’d aided JPAC’s search resulted in a dramatic coming-to-terms climax for all of them.

Next came A Touch of Home: The Vietnam War’s Red Cross Girls, the story of 627 remarkable young American women who went to Vietnam to work in an American Red Cross troop morale program.

Angel Fire, NM

The Fries had first met some of these “Donut Dollies” during filming of In the Shadow of the Blade, and were intrigued by their untold story of being flown to the front lines to play silly games and sing songs with troops in the field.  Recognizing that serious themes about war, women, and the changing nature of female roles at the time lay under the surface of the story, Cheryl Fries made her directing debut with this enlightening women’s history documentary that won the GI Film Festival.

In the decade that Arrowhead Films has been documenting stories of people affected by the Vietnam War, a new generation has been called to service, and the Arrowhead team is now in production of a feature-length documentary about the history of Army helicopter medical evacuation known as “Dustoff.”

Director Patrick Fries

Director Patrick Fries embedded in Afghanistan’s Helmund Province with a Dustoff unit commanded by Major Patrick Zenk, whose father flew Dustoff missions in the Vietnam War, to capture material for the film which will explore the origins, evolution, and ongoing life-saving mission of the four-person crews who fly unarmed into combat to save the wounded.  It is being produced for the United States Army Medical Center for History and Heritage and is now in post-production, with expected release in early 2012.

On the Arrowhead Films hope-to-do list is a documentary about the Vietnam Prisoners of War, which will include the little known story of those captured and held in South Vietnam. Arrowhead is seeking funding for this project, which has been concepted and partially shot.  In the meantime, the Arrowhead military storytellers are at work to create a special ten-year anniversary edition of In the Shadow of the Blade, and working to help the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument raise the necessary funds to honor the state’s veterans. Arrowhead Films’ commitment to telling the story of America’s heroes continues.