A PILOT OF PILOTS: WHS grads wrap up filming of WWII docu-drama

The Sims family has made the filming process a family affair, wrapping up a session at Capernaum Studios in Poolville this week as part of their new docu-drama, “Downed Behind Enemy Lines.”

POOLVILLE — It’s not every day you encounter a German military camp in Poolville, much less any city around Texas. 

The tents, Swastika flags, vehicle and guns were props, of course, and the backdrop for a scene for a docu-drama series being shot this week at Capernaum Studios by Fusion Flix Entertainment, a company founded by two Weatherford High grads.

“Downed Behind Enemy Lines” features the stories of several pilots who were shot down during World War II and their journey back home.

“These are not typically pilots who were shot down, then imprisoned and released,” said producer Nathan Todd Sims, who runs Fusion Flix with wife Gina. “These are literally guys who got shot down and started running. They’re incredible stories.”

Sims got the idea from a man he partnered with on another project — a feature film on a race horse in Sweetwater, Texas — after the man began telling him about his father, who was shot down in France and spent roughly three months evading the enemy before making it home alive. His story is one of the two featured in the series’ first episode.

“We found an organization called Air Forces Escape and Evasion Society, which kept a database of a lot of these pilots,” Sims said. “Basically, they would sign a non-disclosure agreement, when they made it home, that they wouldn’t talk about it for 50 years because they wanted to protect the resistance lines.

“They didn’t want word getting out how they received help, even after the war, because they feared for families and people being targeted.”

Originally, Sims planned to shoot the series in Europe, but the COVID-19 derailed those plans. Instead, they scouted areas around Texas, like Rusk, home of the Military Film Fleet, a resource for military props, and Castroville, a town west of San Antonio.

“The town was actually established by French immigrants, so it’s got a lot of that architecture,” Sims said. “It’s also got the Steinbach House, which is kind of like a museum, that was deconstructed and moved there from France.”

In Hearne, the Sims shot some scenes at Camp Hearne, a former prison-of-war camp during WWII.

Way down south, Eagle Pass, which sits right on the border of Mexico, was used as a resource thanks to one of its residents who owns several fighter planes, including the P51 Mustang.

“After that, we were really looking for the Italian side, so we scouted here,” Sims said of Capernaum. “Yes, it’s a first-century biblical village, but we thought if we put the right angle on it, we can play it as 1930s Italian.

“They’ve got everything we want. It’s isolated, and we knew we would be shooting military stuff off.”

Cast and crew filmed for three days in Poolville through Wednesday, which also marked their 11th day of shooting. Sims said they’ve got about two days of shooting left, with animation and editing still to go. The Sims hope to have the pilot — six one-hour episodes featuring two pilots’ stories each — ready to go by October, in time for the big international TV market MIP held in France.

“It’s got some light-hearted stuff, some romance and some messages that our country could really stand to hear right now,” Sims said. “You think about what really made America great? These guys’ stories.”

The cast and the crew

Roughly 40 individuals make up the set of “Downed Behind Enemy Lines,” with many of the extras know for their reenactments.

“We are doing full reenacting of these stories and the reenactment groups we’re working with are amazing,” Sims said. “They’re not experienced actors, but this is their hobby. A lot of the Germans are reenactors.”

And behind the scenes are some familiar faces — Sims’ oldest daughter is the assistant director, his youngest daughter is the associate producer, his son is the general manager and assistant camera and his daughter-in-law does wardrobe.

“It’s a family business,” Sims said.

That shared passion for film goes all the way back to when Sims and wife Gina attended Weatherford High School. He graduated in 1986, she in 1988, and the two got to know each other through film classes and band.

“We spent every weekend together in high school, and his sister was also my best friend,” Gina said. “So if we weren’t doing school stuff, I was at their house.”

The two attended Howard Payne University, where they began dating and were engaged within three months of Gina’s arrival.

The Sims founded their production company in 1990, doing mainly corporate work with entertainment — their real passion — on the side. They released their first feature film in 2005, “Echoes of Innocence,” which helped shift the company more toward the entertainment side.

Around 2008, they began focusing on more TV series work, transitioning fully into entertainment a couple years later. Since then, they’ve completed about 350 projects, including 13 TV series and a couple of feature documentaries.

About a year ago, they launched their own streaming service, twinkle.tv.

“That’s been a long range goal of ours,” Sims said, “to control our own distribution, our own content and the financial end of it.”

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