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'Once in a lifetime'

Former WL resident worked on 'American Sniper' film


Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO: WARNER BROS - Actor Bradley Cooper portrays Chris Kyle in the film American Sniper. Kyle was Lake Oswego Mayor Kent Studebaker's son-in-law.During the course of five months working as a production secretary on the film “American Sniper,” Debbie Damron’s biggest challenge wasn’t handling scores of phone calls, or distributing the paperwork that went to and from the film’s sets in California.

It wasn’t maintaining an expansive filing system or assisting with cast, crew and stunt contracts.

No, what really got to Damron was the feeling that she part of a “one in a million” experience — and she never wanted to leave.

“I just wanted to be there all the time,” Damron said. “It sounds terrible because you love going home, but there were times when it was really hard to leave. The production coordinator would say, ‘Debbie, go home.’ I didn’t want to miss anything.”

The film, which opens in theaters nationwide tomorrow, is a biopic based on the life of Chris Kyle, a U.S. Navy SEAL known as “the most lethal sniper in American history.” Kyle, who was murdered by a military veteran in 2013, is played by Bradley Cooper, and the film was directed by Clint Eastwood.

On Thursday, the film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including "Best Picture" and "Best Actor."

Kyle’s widow, Taya, is the daughter of Lake Oswego Mayor Kent Studebaker.

Damron, meanwhile, is a former West Linn resident who lived in town for six years before moving back to Los Angeles in 2011. She’s built a career in the entertainment industry, having served as an executive assistant at companies like Viacom, Universal and now Crown Media.

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Debbie Damron, a former West Linn resident, has worked as an executive assistant in the entertainment industry. She worked as production secretary on 'American Sniper.'

The opportunity to work on “American Sniper” was a first for Damron, and it came by chance. Damron was in between jobs when “American Sniper” Executive Producer and Unit Production Manager Tim Moore asked if she’d like to interview for a position as production secretary.

The day after her interview, the call came in — Damron was in.

Over the course of filming, from the end of March 2014 to the first week of June, Damron worked primarily out of the Warner Bros. production office in Los Angeles. Beyond fighting the urge to work all night, the most distinct challenge she faced was matching faces to names and titles — then translating that knowledge over the phone.

“It was a clear challenge on my very first day, one that I always take pride in being able to do — quickly,” Damron said.

Though she spent most of her time off set at the production offices, Damron did visit the set on four different occasions, twice during the construction of the Iraqi city Fallujah and also on the final day of shooting, in Malibu.

“In between scenes and takes, there was lots of chattering going back and forth,” Damron said. “We always knew when it was time to be quiet.”

Indeed, “quiet” was the operative word in Damron’s limited dealings with both Eastwood and Cooper.

“I was standing right next to them a couple times on set,” she said. “But Clint is so focused, I wasn’t going to interrupt to introduce myself. As far as Bradley (Cooper), he always appeared extremely focused and in character, as if he never wanted to leave Chris.”

A portion of the filming was done in Morocco, which only added to the logistical web Damron had to deal with.

“The time difference was horrendous,” Damron said. “We’d get in in the morning and they’d be wrapping. It was long hours — early mornings and late days.”

But ask Damron about the experience, and she’s nothing if not positive.

“It was the most amazing team of people,” she said. “The camaraderie was incredible, the way everyone worked together.”

Damron was working and thus missed the film’s first screening at the studio. It wasn't until last week that she finally saw the finished product at theatre in Los Angeles last week, and it lived up to her already sky-high expectations.

“After reading the script and working with everyone, to see the finished product was thrilling,” Damron said. “The movie is incredible and I’m honored to have been a part of it.”

One of Damron's most memorable moments working on the film was when she met Kevin Lacz, a former Navy SEAL himself who played Kyle’s friend Dauber in the film.

“The fact that I met a real life SEAL, that took my breath away,” Damron said. “Throughout my life in entertainment, I’ve met many celebrities, but these men and women who keep us safe are the real celebrities.”

As much as she enjoyed the experience of working directly on a film, Damron said she plans to focus now on her new role as an executive assistant at Crown Media.

“That (film) was a once in a lifetime,” she said. “The best of the best.”

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