TSJ talks to documentary filmmaker, Jedd Thomas, about working on VICE’s video series exploring modern warfare. Thomas’ film, Troy Hurtubise – Indestructible, follows an inventor in Northern Ontario who’s hellbent on constructing a RoboCop suit to make Canadian military troops invincible in war (and so that he can withstand an attack from a grizzly bear).
Thomas, a London-born/NYC transplant, made the three-part series in conjunction with Ubisoft’s new game Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.
The Smoking Jacket: How did you decide to do a documentary about Troy Hurtubise?
Jedd Thomas: Troy appeared in a documentary in ’96 or ’95 called Project Grizzly, which is a fantastic documentary that I always loved. And that I came across an article about Troy in a magazine, and the article was touching on areas that Project Grizzly hadn’t really touched on. And it was definitely a different story — I wouldn’t have been interested in remaking Project Grizzly – there’s nothing really interesting in remaking someone else’ work. But the magazine article talked about how the work had progressed and what he was doing now. I was amazed that he was still working on the suit, and just the direction he had gone in. And then I started working on Ghost Recon, and I threw this story out, and they were like, ‘This is great, go and do it.’
Obviously he had moved forward since ’96, and I felt like the story had progressed. And with everything that’s been going on in terms of looking at the war on terror and stuff like that, it just felt like the story was relevant again.
TSJ: The notion that global militarization would affect this one dude up in Northern Ontario enough that he’d try to contribute to North American arm technologies is pretty incredible. You don’t think about someone going to these kinds of these extremes out of his own.
JT: I would have given up ages ago. I think anyone would have done. He just had the most incredible drive and determination and I really respect it. Before I went to shoot the film with him we talked a lot on the phone and he felt like his story had never been told properly. He felt like what he was doing was serious. We kind of worked together — he had things he wanted to say that he felt mainstream media had never really let him say.
Above: Troy describing the arm of his suit.
TSJ: So was he happy with the final result?
JT: Yeah, he loved it. I was really worried that he wouldn’t. Obviously you talk to someone and you go down to film them and they’re putting a lot of trust in your hands. You can make anyone appear however you want them to appear by kind of taking clips out of context and moving things around and stuff like that. I really didn’t want to him a dishonor. I was really pleased when his wife contacted me and said that they loved the film.
TSJ: In the film, Troy keeps talking about how he’s willing to give his body armor technology to the Canadian government for free. I wonder if the film will have any repercussions, if anyone’s going to buy the suit. What do you think?
JT: I think sometimes when people are doing things and they’re so far out there on their own it’s difficult for people to take it seriously. I think the point the film captures is that he’s sort of done this on his own, but it doesn’t have any academic gravity behind it. And I think people struggle to take it seriously.
TSJ: Had you worked with VICE on projects before?
JT: Yeah, I’ve done a few things with VICE before. If you love documentaries, it’s a great place where you get to make lots of really cool stories.
You can check out more here: vice.com/grfs.