Filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested on their 2018 duPont-Columbia Award winning film, “Hell on Earth.”

 Nick Quested and Sebastian Junger at the Columbia Journalism School, following a Film Friday screening.

Nick Quested and Sebastian Junger at the Columbia Journalism School, following a Film Friday screening.

The 2019 duPont-Columbia Awards are open for entries.

Deadline July 1. Enter at duPont.org.

To celebrate and inspire, take a listen to this episode with last year’s winners. 

“For the first time in my life I made a film that was I was not on the ground shooting - it was sort of done by remote.” 

Filmmaker and author Sebastian Junger and his co-director Nick Quested spoke with J-School Executive Director of Prizes Abi Wright about the filming challenges they faced, following a screening of their  2018 duPont-Columbia Award winning film “Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of Isis.”  

“Going into Syria itself at the point where we started shooting was basically a suicide mission,” Junger told the audience of students and Columbia University community. 

“Not so much the risks of combat, but the risk of being kidnapped, sold to ISIS, and having your head cut off. So we were making a film about the Syrian civil war and we couldn't shoot in the Syrian civil war.” 

That meant dozens of trips overseas for Quested to work with surrogates - on the ground activists, freelancers and the subjects themselves, many of whom he trained to his specifications. It meant sifting through over 1000 hours of graphic file footage, and life or death judgment calls that would affect both the filmmakers and their proxies. Junger and Quested go behind the scenes of this epic and haunting story - part history lesson, part political treatise, part human drama - and explain why they felt it was so important to get these sprawling themes right. And why they felt the need for that unexpected interview with Michael Flynn. 

Originally produced for Nat Geo, you can watch “Hell on Earth” now on Amazon.