Director and Retired SEAL ‘Running With The Devil’ Through Hollywood

Hanging out of a helicopter is nothing new for screenwriter and director Jason Cabell. The retired Navy SEAL who was based in Coronado did plenty of jumps during his 20-year career.

So of course, he wasn’t going to miss going along for the ride in a Black Hawk helicopter during action scenes in his new movie “Running With The Devil.”

“I was holding onto the DP, the director of photography. We all had bail-out parachutes on,” he told NBC 7.

But what made Cabell decide to jump into the world of filmmaking?

The combat veteran said he dedicated the first part of his life to being a warrior and knew that in the second half, he needed to be creative.

“I can't dance and I can't sing, so the writing and directing was a natural progression,” Cabell said.

He started as a background actor and the more time he spent on set, the more his creative juices poured out on paper.

“I've been around the world twice in over 100 countries, so I have a lot to write about,” he said.

To boot, the retired Chief Petty Officer spent a significant amount of time towards the end of his Navy career documenting operations in great detail. And it appears Hollywood likes what Cabell has to say.

In seven short years since leaving the military Cabell has sold a few screenplays. But he didn’t want to hand this screenplay over. Cabell wanted to direct, and Patriot Films gave him the chance. Actors Nicolas Cage and Laurence Fishburne and signed on for the film.

“They trusted the story; they trusted the script,” he said about their interest in “Running With The Devil,” which follows the dangerous trail of drug distribution from the fields where drugs are harvested to where those drugs end up, and how they impact the lives of people along the way.

Cabell said the impact of drug operations on people is a story he knows all too well.

He has seen the effects of war on his fellow SEAL team members and says Post Traumatic Stress is something nearly every member of the military who has served in combat experiences, including himself.

“It changes everybody,” he said. As a result, Cabell is an ambassador for the Navy SEAL Fund.

As Navy leadership implements new measures to restore SEAL morale and improve conduct after a string of scandals, Cabell said, “I think it’s good order and discipline.”

“I think anytime the commands have grown as quickly as they have you’re going to have some growing pains,” he added, saying the SEALs are overall doing a good job in their expanding role in protecting the country.

As for the skills it takes to be a Special Operator and a Hollywood director, Cabell said they aren’t too far apart from one another.

Running logistics on a movie set is much like a military operation, he said.

In the military, Cabell would oversee a 70 to 80-member crew. In his movie, he also supervised a big team.

“We had in Colombia and New Mexico and Arizona, almost 300-person crew and 65 actors,” he explained.

He shot the film in extreme temperatures and altitudes, dealing with shifting schedules and lots of risk.

“I hung Nick and Laurence off the side of a cliff at 11,000 feet with just one cable and they trusted me. I mean, it was a mutual trust thing,” he said.

A lot like the trust in the SEAL teams.

In the end, Cabell said this transition into the world of writing and directing has been the perfect one for him.

“You know the pen is mightier than the sword…it truly is,” he added.

“Running With the Devil” opens in theaters this September.

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