Capturing survival stories on film

"Who’s Jerry Bruckheimer?” Bill Erfurth, a 26-year veteran of the Miami-Dade Police Department, wasn’t exactly a big fan of movies. So when he received the phone call twelve years ago in which the big Hollywood producer asked Erfurth to join...


"Who’s Jerry Bruckheimer?”

Bill Erfurth, a 26-year veteran of the Miami-Dade Police Department, wasn’t exactly a big fan of movies. So when he received the phone call twelve years ago in which the big Hollywood producer asked Erfurth to join him and another Hollywood heavyweight, Michael Bay, for dinner, Erfurth was somewhat unimpressed. “I didn’t even know who he was at the time, to be honest with you,” he says.

That meeting turned into an acting role and technical consultant position on the 2003 movie “Bad Boys II,” and ended up being the major jumping-off point of Erfurth’s future career in film.

After “Bad Boys,” Erfurth continued working with Bruckheimer on movie and television projects, and eventually had the opportunity to produce an independent film, “Canvas” starring Marcia Gay Harden and Joe Pantoliano.

Erfurth retired from the police department in 2007 and has since been involved in many movie and TV projects, as a technical advisor, an actor and a producer.

In late 2012, Erfurth’s company, Modern City Entertainment, in collaboration with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, released “Heroes Behind the Badge.”

“When we set out to make this movie we primarily produced the film with the public in mind,” Erfurth says, “because we wanted to change perceptions” about what police officers really do, and the kinds of danger they face on a daily basis.

Directed by two-time British Academy Award winner Wayne Derrick, “Heroes Behind the Badge” told the stories of law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty from the perspective of the families, friends and coworkers they left behind.

Along with Craig Floyd, chairman of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, Erfurth and his crew chose to feature stories representative of diverse areas of the country.

“We wanted to have a big town and a small town, and different types of agencies. We wanted to make the point that crazy crime, murder and cop killing goes on in big cities, but it can happen anywhere. We demonstrated how that happened in a small town like Fond du Lac, Wis., which is basically a farm town. And then we also demonstrated how a wildlife officer was involved in a situation in which he’s doing battle with extremists with AK47s, and how truly, this can happen anywhere, any place.

“I can’t tell you how many people are shocked by the one stat in the movie: that every 54 hours, a law enforcement officer is killed in America. Most people have no idea, and it’s been a tremendous wake-up call for the folks that have seen this film. And we want to do that—we want the public at large to have a greater understanding,” Erfurth says.

Stereotypically, cops aren’t big on sharing feelings. When asked how he managed to draw his subjects out, Erfurth replied, “We were extraordinarily lucky that they’ve all been very forthcoming, very articulate, and seemed to be comfortable on camera. Our director had done over 50 documentary films around the world, and has a real knack for making people feel comfortable. I think the third component is, I’m a retired cop. Because we’re talking cop to cop, I think they realize there’s a trust factor there, and I’m not going to exploit or embarrass them. All these things were helpful in having these people really blossom on camera.”

Now there’s a sequel called, “Heroes Behind the Badge: Sacrifice and Survival.” “We decided to do the second film because of the reaction to the first,” Erfurth says, “The new film is going to focus a little bit more on survivors, rather than those who have been killed in the line of duty.”

The sequel features stories of some of the officers Erfurth met while crisscrossing the country promoting “Heroes Behind the Badge.”

“We’d have countless people come up and say, ‘Oh, you should talk to this guy,’ or, ‘You should see this story,’” says Erfurth.

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