The Making of The Terminal List Video Trailer

I wanted a video with a style similar to the book itself: fresh, dark, gritty, and authentic.

When the team at Atria/Emily Bestler Books suggested that a video trailer would be helpful to promote my debut novel, The Terminal List, I knew I wanted to do something a bit outside the norm that would set a new bar in the publishing industry.

Quality video production can be an expensive endeavor, and from my research it appeared that the literary world had decided not to commit an overabundance of resources on book trailer videos.  If I was going to do it, I was going to do it right.  Those who know me understand that “low budget” is not in my vocabulary.  If I commit, I go all in.  But, as an unknown author with limited resources, my vision didn’t necessarily align with my budget. So I did what I did on the battlefield: I adapted.

Friends and readers of The Terminal List know that I am passionate about gear, and I am eternally grateful to the companies that stepped-up after 9/11 to give us innovative tools and kit for the Global War in Terror.  The same industry that built the firearms, ammunition, optics, and body armor to give us a technical advantage in the fight against terrorism also helped make this video trailer a reality.  They not only provided financial support to facilitate the production, they gave us the weapons and gear that we would need to make the video look its best.

The first company to come on board was Black Hills Ammunition, and they did so with no questions asked.  Black Hills is a family-owned company that produces some of the best ammunition in the industry.  As a sniper, I trusted Black Hills ammo to give me the performance I needed, and it never let me down.  When James Reece “liberates” weapons from the SEAL Team 7 armory while preparing for his mission of revenge in The Terminal List, he asks for Black Hills by name.  Jeff and Kristi Hoffman, Black Hills’ owners, supported the military when we were downrange and, by sponsoring this trailer, helped me as I transitioned to the next phase of my life.  That 77 Gr. 5.56 will always have a special place in my heart.  Thank you.

Aimpoint was another company that was quick to support the effort.  Aimpoint invented the red dot sight and has worked to perfect it for decades.  I used Aimpoint sights throughout my time in the SEAL Teams and, when I made my first deployment to Afghanistan shortly after 9/11, my M4 wore an Aimpoint.  Aimpoint’s products are extremely durable and their batteries last for years – I trusted them in combat and I trust them today.  Thank you, Aimpoint, for your support.

As a shooter, I appreciate Kimber firearms for their quality and performance.  I was fortunate enough to be attached to a Marine unit, MARSOC Det 1, for a short time in Iraq in 2004, and to this day I remember being extremely envious of the custom Kimber 1911 pistols in their holsters.  Kimber sent out a Custom Covert II for the video production, which is a full-size 1911 equipped with a Crimson Trace laser.  The 1911 is a tribute to Reece’s friend and teammate, “Boozer” in the novel, and the laser is used with dramatic effect in the trailer.  Thanks, Kimber.

Last, but not least, is Blackhawk!  Blackhawk! was founded by a SEAL and is headquartered in Virginia Beach, near the home of the East Coast SEAL Teams.  Blackhawk! all but invented the modern nylon tactical gear industry, and I’ve used numerous products of theirs over the years.  My friend Josh Waldron is now at the helm, and I can’t wait to see the innovation he brings to this iconic company.  Blackhawk! rushed a care package to the production team that included clothing, gear bags, rifle accessories and more.  Blackhawk! jumped in when we needed them, and I can’t thank them enough.

We had gear, we had a budget, but we still needed a production team.  After interviewing several, the choice was clear.  Ironclad Media produces world-class video content for commercial customers across the globe.  They are amazing storytellers who have produced some breathtaking content for the tactical and outdoor industries, so I knew they would do The Terminal List justice.  Matt Turley and Katie Buchanan at Ironclad were amazing to work with and their product speaks for itself.

The last piece of the puzzle was someone to play the protagonist of the story, James Reece.  I have lived and breathed the James Reece character over the past few years.  His emotions on the pages of The Terminal List stem from the feelings associated with my real-world experiences downrange—he has become family and not just anyone could fill his shoes.  It was also critical that whoever portrayed him would be able to handle the weapons and equipment with the proficiency Reece displays in the book.  We couldn’t have some actor fumbling with a firearm, a Winkler tomahawk, or a Half Face Blades Karambito.  Again, the choice was an easy one: my friend, brother, and Teammate, Dom Raso—former SEAL and owner of Dynamis Alliance and Adaptiv-X.  I count Dom among those warriors whose debts I can never repay.  Dom agreed to portray James Reece and did so in a way that exceeded all expectations.

In the video, James Reece ominously prepares his gear for the mission ahead, crossing names off his list as those who betrayed him, his family, and his Team are eliminated with extreme prejudice.

Why did we wait months after the release of The Terminal List to produce the trailer?  Because, like the book, it had to be something special.  I could not be more pleased with the end result.  It was worth the wait.