New movie features local actors and director

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – That’s a wrap on a new documentary feature film hybrid, where three of the film’s team members happen to be from the Binghamton area.

The film is about Lieutenant Royal Stratton, a pilot with the 4th Emergency Rescue Squadron during

World War II and is entitled “Journey to Royal: A World War II Rescue Mission.”

Stratton died in the waters of the Pacific, after leading a mission to save 9 downed airmen.

Writer and Director Christopher Johnson, who grew up in Chenango Bridge, has been working on the film for the past 12 years.

Stratton was his mother’s uncle.

While the film has some features of a documentary, it also required actors.

When Johnson was in the casting process, he realized just how small of a world it is when two of his actors turned out to be from Greater Binghamton.

“Having people that you instantly have connection with really help engender that team spirit. And that sort of shared background that allows you to know that okay, I can rely on these people,” says Johnson.

For Johnson, Dan VanHart of Conklin and Shawn Hawkins of Harpusville were those people.

Both men found themselves in Los Angeles, where the film was shot, after attending college.

Hawkins says this experience was truly unlike any other.

“The sets on this project are just so unique, what we got to work on and be a part of. Being in these planes was remarkable and shooting on the ocean and on these air force bases and what not, I mean it was really unique experience, one that I will treasure forever,” says Hawkins.

While both actors enjoyed the sets and shooting on the open ocean, for VanHart, it was about connecting to his childhood love of World War 2 fighter planes and preserving memories.

“I love the fact that it tells a story, there’s so many of these missions that happen in World War 2, there’s so many incredible stories, but to get these type of stories documented, especially in this type of way that can make them live on forever, is a great thing,” says VanHart.

The film is getting ready for its wide release date on Tuesday, and will also be available to stream on apps such as Google Play and Amazon.

DVDs and Blu-rays are also available for pre-order at Amazon.com.

Johnson adds that once the pandemic eases, he hopes to have a showing for the Binghamton area.

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