Inspiration: Saving Private Ryan


It is hard to believe that it was 15 years ago this summer that Steven Spielberg presented us with arguably the greatest war movie ever made with “Saving Private Ryan”.

I recently came across this Indiewire blog post that features some scenes from a documentary about the making of the movie and the original review by “Siskel & Ebert”. Watching these videos reminds me of how important “Saving Private Ryan” is as not just a movie but also as a historical document that graphically depicts the horrors of war and forces us to not forget the enormous sacrifice that these every day “Joes” made to stop Hitler’s brutal advance through Europe.

Yes it is a Hollywood blockbuster that blends fact and fiction but in the deft hands of Spielberg, he transports the audience directly to the chaos and carnage of D-Day. No one who has seen the movie will forget the breathtaking intensity of the first 25 minutes that starts when the landing craft door drops onto Omaha beach. It is this opening scene that helped to inspire me to become a filmmaker. This scene (and movie) also inspired Doug and me to create “Soldiers of Paint”.

It is this opening scene that helped to inspire me to become a filmmaker. This scene (and movie) also inspired Doug and me to create “Soldiers of Paint”.

When we first learned about Oklahoma D-Day, we didn’t know what to expect. It sounded on the surface like it was just a really big paintball battle out in Oklahoma. But when Doug and I first arrived in Wyandotte back in 2007 – we realized it was much more than just a game. Yes, thousands of dedicated paintball players come from around the world to play in this “Superbowl” of scenario paintball. Yes, the players take winning very seriously (perhaps a bit too much at times). And there’s no doubt the main reason that these players take their vacation time to play in this event is to simply have some fun.

Yet after meeting the event owner, Dewayne Convirs, and talking to some of the players we realized the significance that comes with the fact that this event is based on the invasion of Normandy. Indeed, it was the greatest invasion force in modern history and understandable that a paintball game of this scale would use D-Day as a scenario.

But upon learning that Dewayne’s grandfather landed on the actual Omaha beach 69 years ago and that Dewayne held the very first OK D-Day event in 1996 to honor his grandfather’s service in WWII – we knew that this event was also very much about history and remembrance.

Dewayne held the very first OK D-Day event in 1996 to honor his grandfather, who landed on the actual Omaha beach 69 years ago.

Dewayne takes a lot of pride in permitting children and young teenagers to play at OK D-Day. Of course he wants them to be safe, have fun, and learn to play with honor. But the greater vision he has achieved is that these young people are learning about history and sacrifice as they play.

Instead of reading about Pegasus Bridge in their history books, they are actually taking part in trying to take the bridge themselves. Of course this is only a game and the players are thankfully firing paint instead of bullets – but to a person we talked with – all come away with a deeper understanding and appreciation for what those brave men faced in Europe back in 1944.

Like “Saving Private Ryan”, “Soldiers of Paint” is a movie that is meant to entertain. We were inspired by the amazing battle sequences and wanted to depict the intense paintball battle action of OK D-Day in a similar way. But the success of “Saving Private Ryan” is not due solely to the unprecedented “inside the action” cinematography.

Spielberg succeeds by giving his story a heart and soul with the touching, yet seemingly misguided mission to rescue Pvt. Ryan. He challenges us as an audience to ponder the value of one individual life. As storytellers, we knew that our movie would not be a success if we didn’t have a similar heart and soul.

We found this through documenting the story of Dewayne and his resolute dedication to honor his grandfather and the sacrifice of all veterans. It was a story that we knew was relevant and important to tell and we’re happy to have had the opportunity.

Mike DeChant
Co-Director, “Soldiers of Paint”


About Gritz

Denver, Colorado, based filmmaker, cinematographer, and photographer.
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