About the Film
On the Wings of Eagle
This film represents a very personal experience for filmmaker, Tam O’Connor Fraser. As a child, his father presented him with a model of the Cutter Eagle. This early fascination with the Coast Guard led him to enlist at the age of 19. Unfortunately, a back injury forced him to leave the service less than a month later but the injury did nothing to dampen his appreciation of the military’s only branch with a heroic peacetime mission. In the late 80s, O’Connor Fraser and partner and wife Susan O’Connor Fraser, by then owners of a thriving production company, made contact with the Coast Guard Television & Motion Picture Liaison Office and began exploring opportunities to work with them on film and television projects. Their first venture to make it out of development was “Coast Guard”, a reality television series, which ran for three seasons in syndication (1995 – 1997). Five documentaries with the Discovery Channel would follow in the late 90s. As they were finishing their last documentary, they were afforded the opportunity to join Eagle on her first West Coast visit. It was a dream come true for Tam to not only be aboard Eagle but to sail with her from Portland, Oregon into San Francisco Bay as she led the Tall Ships Parade under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the Bay.
The film was shot on HDCam with a camera supplied by Sony. Because of limited sleeping quarters, the shooting crew for the cruise was limited to the O’Connor Frasers—Tam as Director/Cinematographer and Susan as Writer/Producer, and Sound Recordist/Second Camera, John Barrett
It would take six years for Tam to finish the film that meant so much to him. “I thought I was close to finishing it on a couple of occasions but when I sat back and watched it, I realized it wasn’t there. I hadn’t gotten it,” notes the Director. “I knew I had it on tape. I had experienced the dream. I just needed to edit it in a way that allowed others to experience what we had.” With other projects requiring his attention, it meant putting the material aside and then coming back to it a year or so later when time permitted.
The final 76-minute experience reflects not just the expedition down the coast but also the journey that young Coast Guard cadets take as they begin their transition from student to officer. These young men and women will soon be in command of active duty Coast Guard assets and stations, and will need to make decisions that could save lives. Gaining the confidence to make those decisions, to give orders and stand by them, begins on Eagle. It’s the beginning of the transformation. And for Tam…being able to be associated with it was the fulfillment of a life-long dream…one he can thank his late Father for starting many, many years ago.