A technical advisor is an individual who is expert in a particular field of knowledge, hired to provide detailed information and advice to people working in that field. For example a construction company might hire a technical expert in fluid dynamics to advise them if seeking to move a small water course or a company operating in adventure education will frequently hire technical experts to ensure that their policies and procedures are robust enough to handle the hazards they are going to face.
Movie or television directors, will often hire a technical advisor to ensure that a complicated area is portrayed accurately in the production. For example, a director for a show involving combat aviation might hire one or more current or former combat pilots to serve as technical advisors. Similarly, a period movie may include one or more historians of the period, or eyewitnesses if possible, for the same purpose.
Technical advisors typically answer to the director. Their expertise adds realism both to the acting and to the setting of a movie. Some advisors for military movies have been known to run miniature boot camps to give actors a first-hand experience of a military setting. Captain Dale Dye is a noted technical advisor and provider of military training for actors through his Warriors, Inc.. The US Army has often provided technical advisors to war films.
Technical advisors who have become actors include George Kennedy (an Army advisor to the Sgt. Bilko television show) and John Dierkes (an accountant working for the U.S. Treasury, who provided technical assistance to the makers of To the Ends of the Earth). A former child actor, Frank Coghlan Jr, enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and later became an advisor to Hollywood on Navy-themed films.
R. Lee Ermey, a former U.S. Marine who became a technical advisor on several Vietnam War films lensed in the Philippines became a lead actor in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket as well as an advisor. Ermey said "A technical advisor must be a salesman. He's got to be able to sell the producer-director on his way of doing things" Ermey told of battles with Kubrick over realism, and what could be shown onscreen and be appreciated by a cinema audience. Ermey lost battles over such items as a recruit having concealed a fully loaded magazine in his footlocker rather than a few stray rounds, and the way Marine Corps Drill Instructors hit recruits in the solar plexus rather than slapping their faces. Ermey won over Kubrick in other points of Marine Corps decorum.
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- Coghlan, Frank They Still Call Me Junior McFarland & Co 1993
- p.158 Smith, Larry The Few and the Proud: Marine Corps Drill Instructors in Their Own Words 2006 W.W. Norton & Co
- ibid p. 159