by ROBERT WATSON
I first encountered David Axe’s name five years ago while absentmindedly flipping through a copy of Rolling Stone magazine. In the issue, there was a small write-up on David’s autobiographical graphic novel War Is Boring. The book documents David’s travels to the world’s worst war zones as an independent journalist.
I was intrigued at the thought of this lone individual, armed with only a backpack and a video camera, actually seeking out man-made violence in places like Somalia and Afghanistan. And to use a comic book of all things as his medium — I was hooked immediately.
I had been considering making a documentary film off and on since college, and after taking on freelance video work for several years, I had acquired most of the tools I would need to take on such a project. After a quick online search, I found David’s contact information and tentatively sent him an e-mail introducing myself and inquiring about using him as the subject of a film.
To my surprise, he responded within minutes and said yes, he was open to the idea, but that he wouldn’t be able to proceed for a few months. He was planning on traveling to Afghanistan soon.
Honestly, this kind of caught me off guard. I was good at coming up with ideas, but now I needed to actually execute one. Without any real notion on where to start, I bought a plane ticket to Columbia, South Carolina and flew out to meet David when he got back home.
When I arrived in town, David swung by my hotel to pick me up. I immediately started laying out plans on where and when we should start shooting, and he politely but firmly reminded me, “I don’t even know you.”
He was right. He didn’t know me. So I backed off. I wasn’t going to make a movie on this first trip. I jumped in his car and we headed out.
David was articulate, direct, and polite, but told me upfront that he was very skeptical that I would ever actually make this film. He had been approached by many filmmakers over the years, but soon realized that projects like this never seemed to materialize.
Without any film credits to my name, I knew I was a nobody. All I could offer as a counter-argument was, “I’m here. Give me a shot. I’m committed to doing this.” I could tell he still wasn’t buying it.
I ran errands with David that afternoon, including a stop at his local gun shop to buy ammunition for his AK-47. We went to dinner and discussed politics, war and comic books.
I held my own at the bar into the wee hours of the morning and made a Ghostbusters joke that seemed to be a turning point in my favor. As we prepared to part ways that night, David ran into his apartment and brought out a tattered old shoebox.
He handed it to me. “Here’s the footage from my first trip to Iraq. This would be a good place to start.” I smiled to myself as I walked on in the warm Southern air. It was time to make a movie.
War Passenger is available at Vimeo, VHX and Reelhouse. Click on the links below.
I Went On the World’s Deadliest Road Trip
From Turkey to the Syrian war zone in a yellow Hyundai