Professor’s film makes festival circuit debut

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An image still from "Buzz One Four." Courtesy of Matt McCormick

Matt McCormick, a film professor at Portland State, has a few decades of filmmaking under his belt. His works have ranged from the feature film Some Days Are Better Than Others to music videos for bands such as The Shins and Sleater-Kinney. His latest film, the documentary Buzz One Four, is a very personal project involving the story of a pilot and a plane crash along the East Coast.

The plane was a B-52 carrying two nuclear bombs, and the pilot was McCormick’s own grandfather.


Watch the interview with the director of Buzz One Four. Video by Dylan Gansen/PSU Vanguard. Photo courtesy of Matt McCormick

“The film is not only about the historical event of the crash,” McCormick explained. “It is also a family portrait, if you will.”

This particular plane crash was the result of mechanical failure, but McCormick learned while making the film that life was extremely exhausting for the pilots operating the bombers on their long missions toward Russia. To offset exhaustion and keep the planes in the air, the Air Force gave the pilots drugs.

“At 28 hours, that’s a long time to be in the air,” McCormick said. “Pilots and crews were starting to have problems with fatigue. So basically, crystal meth as we know it was developed by Air Force scientists for these pilots.”

If you did not have the chance to catch Buzz One Four during its run at the Portland International Film Festival, you may still be able to watch it at other festivals in the coming months. McCormick said that the film may also stream on Netflix after its wide release at the end of 2017.

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