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Community: War hero is subject of director’s fourth entry in local film festival

Community: War hero is subject of director’s fourth entry in local film festival
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kevin Traw (retired) reenacts his grandfather, 1st Lt. Robert E. "Bud" Kingsbury's 32-hour swim in the Tyrrhenian Sea. (Courtesy of Mark Kirkland)

Burbank filmmaker Mark Kirkland has a knack for pulling together resources for his independent projects, whether it’s people or backdrops.

That expertise was invaluable for creating the 26-minute documentary, “Bud’s Odyssey,” which will be screened from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on Sept. 9 during the Burbank International Film Festival at the AMC 16 — Theater #11.

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By day, Kirkland is a director on the animated TV series “The Simpsons.” He has worked on the show since 1990, has directed more episodes than anyone else — 83 — and has won three Primetime Emmy Awards.

His independent projects, which he co-produces with his wife, Letty, allows him to explore the live-action genre.

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Robert "Bud" Kingsbury holds a photograph of himself taken while he was serving in the Army Air Corps during WWII.
Robert "Bud" Kingsbury holds a photograph of himself taken while he was serving in the Army Air Corps during WWII. (Courtesy of Mark Kirkland)

The documentary relates the story of U.S. Army Air Corps pilot, 1st Lt. Robert “Bud” Kingsbury, whose B-17 bomber was shot down over the Tyrrhenian Sea in 1943 during World War II. He was captured and spent 22 months in a German prisoner of war camp.

Kingsbury came home to his family and started his own plumbing business. He rarely talked about his capture, but the memories continued to haunt him. The military provided emotional therapy, and he eventually started opening up about his experiences.

“Once he was retired, he would go to schools and tell his story,” Kirkland said. “Being a pilot, he kept track of the number of visits he’d made, and it was over 100. He was also a VIP in parades.”

Kirkland met Kingsbury in 1998 aboard a B-17 bomber at a historic aircraft show at the Burbank airport, and they formed a bond. Kingsbury told him his story and later gave Kirkland some photographs and his typewritten biography detailing his survival.

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First Lt. Robert "Bud" Kingsbury, kneeling right, with the crew of Big Jeff, the B-17 bomber. The dog Bud is holding, Little Jeff, was the crew's mascot.
First Lt. Robert "Bud" Kingsbury, kneeling right, with the crew of Big Jeff, the B-17 bomber. The dog Bud is holding, Little Jeff, was the crew's mascot. (Courtesy of the Mark Kirkland Archives)

A fun fact is that the B-17 bomber Kingsbury flew was built by the Vega Aircraft Corp., a subsidiary of Lockheed Aircraft Co. in Burbank., Kirkland said.

After Kingsbury passed away in 2009, Kirkland kept in touch with the family and, as a tribute to his memory, they decided to work together to create a documentary about Kingsbury’s heroic story. Family members who are the project’s executive producers are his son, Robert “Bob” Kingsbury, granddaughter Jennifer Kingsbury, who narrated the film, and grandson U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kevin Traw (retired).

In the film, Traw reenacts the scene in which his grandfather survives the 32-hour swim in the Tyrrhenian Sea before civilians pulled him ashore. He is captured by Italian soldiers who turned him over to the Germans. The crew shot the scene just offshore of an Orange County beach. Kirkland used a Go-Pro for the water scenes and a Canon 5D MKII (Mark two) for the others. He did all the editing in his home.

Filmmaker Mark Kirkland, left, and Robert "Bud" Kingsbury after a chance meeting aboard a B-17 bomber at the Burbank airport in 1998.
Filmmaker Mark Kirkland, left, and Robert "Bud" Kingsbury after a chance meeting aboard a B-17 bomber at the Burbank airport in 1998. (Courtesy of the Mark Kirkland Archives)

The majority of the filming was done at Kirkland’s Burbank home and during a flight over Burbank in a B-17 bomber. Sets were built in Kirkland’s backyard, including the German prisoner of war camp. With his attention to detail, Kirkland even built a simulation of the B-17 cockpit in his garage.

For the past 18 months, the documentary has been screened at film festivals across the country and the Burbank event is its final showing.

The family has created the nonprofit called Bud’s Odyssey Foundation, which raises funds to provide therapeutic treatments for military veterans and first responders (police and firefighters) who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. For more information, visit budsodysseyfoundation.com.

Burbank Chorale schedules audition date

The Burbank Chorale is looking for talented singers, 18 years old and older, who have the ability to blend well with other singers and want to work as part of a team.

Auditions are scheduled for Sept. 11. To try out, call (818) 759-9177 or email membership@burbankchorale.org.

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Established in 1920, the Burbank Chorale is the longest continuously performing arts organization in the San Fernando Valley and one of the oldest musical organizations in California. Its mission is to attract individuals who share a love of music, want to achieve musical growth and have the desire to excel in performance.

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