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BANGOR DAILY NEWS
FEBRUARY 2, 2006

TROOP GREETERS TO BE SUBJECT OF MAINE NATIVE'S FILM

BANGOR - They don't look for it - the visibility and notoriety of it all. They do it because in their minds it simply is the right thing to do. They are the dedicated group of troop greeters who meet planes coming to Bangor International Airport, welcoming their occupants with hugs and cell phones in appreciation for their service in dangerous locales.


The world has started to take notice of the dedication of these individuals, and their efforts will be showcased in a full-length documentary produced by Dungby Productions Inc. The company was founded by Aron Gaudet, a 1996 graduate of the New England School of Broadcasting, the forerunner of today's New England School of Communications.


Titled "The Human Toll," the film has been more than a year in the making, with some 180 hours of filming completed. Gaudet seeks to document the stories of those staring at death and relying on strangers to help them through their fears. It will be filled with stories taken from soldiers and Marines who have just taken their first steps on U.S. soil after months in battle, and capture the essence of the war in Iraq.


Approximately 75 percent of all troops heading to and from Iraq must fly through Bangor's airport, according to Gaudet.


Key characters who will epitomize the efforts of all the greeters will be William Knight, leader of the troop greeters and a World War II veteran; Kay Lebowitz, a former state representative and current volunteer; and Jerry Mundy, also a military veteran.


Gaudet became interested in the topic after visiting his mother in Bradley and going with her to greet troops. He saw great possibilities for a film in the experience and returned with her for a 2 a.m. flight, bringing a camera.


That snowy, near-zero day in January 2005 was the first shoot in what was to become a series of trips to Bangor to record the activities and lifestyles of the greeters.


According to Gaudet, he is hoping for a rough cut of the film by the end of September in time for the Sundance Film Festival, with a completion date by the end of the year. There already is a four-minute trailer for the movie that has been getting positive response every time it is shown, he added.


He hopes to have a Web site for the film set up soon. Both tools should help get the film entered in the more prestigious film festivals, Gaudet said.


Now working out of Chicago, Gaudet has just returned from a four-month stay in Jordan, where he and a colleague worked on a film profiling older Palestinian refugees in various camps. They also worked on a short film of Muslim women working in a village in the middle of the desert, another film on HIV-AIDS street children in India and one on the art of elephant bathing.


His goal for "The Human Toll" is to get into theaters. Other possibilities include a showing on a 24-hour cable station, the History Channel, Independent Film Channel, CNN or perhaps even a deal to get it on DVD. But he is convinced the film could have an even bigger audience.


"If I have to take it city to city, I am convinced this is a story that would appeal to anyone who has a friend or family member serving in the war," Gaudet said. "Plus, it is a human drama and a look at a group of people doing something from the heart because it is the right thing to do, and that doesn't happen often enough anymore in this country."


Gaudet said he and a crew plan to be in Bangor on Monday, Feb. 6, to continue work on the film.


Since his graduation from New England School of Broadcasting, Gaudet has worked at television stations in Maine, South Carolina, Vermont and Michigan. His first job was at WVII-TV Channel 7 in Bangor as a part-time studio cameraman.