Michael B. Chait
Michael B. Chait

Prior to embarking on Wolf Hound, Michael Chait was directing commercials and music videos for 15 years.

At the age of 12, Jewish filmmaker Michael Chait, who grew up in the West Bloomfield and Bloomfield Hills area, wanted to be an actor. Other days, he wanted to be a pilot like his father. “I grew up with movies and I always liked aviation,” Chait, 37, says.

Yet everything changed when Chait saw The Rock, a 1996 film directed by Michael Bay. “Something just snapped in my head,” recalls Chait, who to this day is impressed by the film’s camera work and directing style. “I was like, ‘Oh, this is what you want to do.’”

Now set to release World War II action film Wolf Hound, his directorial feature debut, on June 3 through Lionsgate’s Grindstone Entertainment, Chait, who currently lives in West Bloomfield after 11 years living in Chicago, is still inspired by the films of his childhood.

“I realized how much directing really tells the story even more than the script sometimes,” he says of watching The Rock. “It totally changes how an audience experiences a film.”

Having poured his blood, sweat and tears into Wolf Hound — his self-described process — Chait wants viewers to have that same experience as he had watching The Rock.

Wolf Hound poster

A Chance Experience

As a 2006 graduate of Columbia College Chicago, where he met his best friends (and later crew members for Wolf Hound), Chait is no stranger to the filmmaking world.

He worked on films all through high school and was later selected by Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett as one of the final top 50 directors out of 12,000 filmmakers for the premiere episode of Fox’s On The Lot (2007).

Prior to embarking on Wolf Hound, Chait was directing commercials and music videos for 15 years. In 2010 and 2012, he tried to get two other feature films going, but neither worked out. Then, in 2013, inspiration struck at an unlikely place.

He was directing a commercial for the Yankee Air Museum at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, which advertised taking rides in a restored B-17 bomber. Chait was familiar with the plane, but never spent much time with it. “When I stepped onto it, it was like a movie moment,” he recalls. “I put my foot in the door and a rush of emotion hit me.”

On the same plane many decades back, Chait envisioned 18- and 19-year-old kids standing in the exact spot during World War II, fighting the Nazis and fighting for freedom.

“I thought, ‘I have to do this justice,’” he remembers.

Doing justice, however, was for a commercial only, but Chait knew deep down that the 90-second creation could be an entire movie. With only nine B-17 bombers left in the entire world, Chait had a unique slice of history to work with that had been seldom told.

Building a Storyline

Yet Chait didn’t know how unique that history truly was until his writing partner, Timothy Ritchey, discovered a story on Wikipedia about a German Luftwaffe squadron called KG 200 that neither had heard of.

“They were a special forces group that forced down American and British planes and captured their crews,” Chait explains. “They were very mysterious and there was hardly any information on them.”

Pursuing the story further, Chait wondered if they could create a fictional version inspired by the truth. While the German squadron was ultimately unsuccessful, what if their success had changed the course of the war? And what if the hero was a Jewish-American fighter pilot? It seemed to work perfectly.

“All the dots were connecting,” Chait says of Wolf Hound. “This is the movie we had to make.”

It was the ultimate story, and one that Chait and Ritchey began to bring to life and film in 2018. 

“It was fighting the greatest evil, the Nazis,” Chait explains. “I was passionate about having a prominent Jewish-American hero at the center of the movie because, to me, it’s like David and Goliath.”

Filmed over the course of two years, Chait shot several scenes at Yankee Air Museum in the same B-17 bomber that inspired it all. He also shot scenes at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, using real World War II aircraft.

Overcoming Challenges

Working with such old planes was a delicate process — and Chait says they all broke down at some point during filming — but the end result was worth it.

“We were flying them really hard, and the dog fights were intense,” he explains. “But these planes are priceless, so we treated them like gold the whole time.”

With filming wrapping up just two weeks before COVID-19 shut everything down, Chait was faced with a new challenge. “The pandemic ground things to a halt and we had to figure out how to finish editing the movie across the country,” he says. Working entirely remotely, even up to this day, the film was edited by laptop on Chait’s kitchen table.

It was a miracle, and one that he’s proud to finally share with the world. “It’s important to keep telling the stories of World War II,” he says, “so the next generations don’t forget it.” 

Details

Wolf Hound, starring James Maslow (Big Time Rush) and Trevor Donovan (Hallmark), premieres in theaters on June 3 with several showings throughout Metro Detroit. 

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