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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has inspired countless hours of television and cinema, from X-Files to Silence of the Lambs. But, as it turns out, the bureau’s own directing chops aren’t too bad either.
On Thursday, the FBI released a cheesy but surprisingly well-made short film, The Company Man: Protecting America’s Secrets. It tells the true story of Robert Moore, a stressed-out father and engineer who’s worried about paying for his kids’ college tuition when he’s approached by two conniving Chinese businessmen. They offer him $200,000 for his company’s insulation technology secrets, but Moore — made of tougher stuff than he seems — turns down their offer. He tells his bosses, they go to the FBI, and the agency sets up a successful sting operation to catch the crooks.
It follows last year’s Game of Pawns, a half-hour film warning college students about the dangers of being recruited to become Chinese spies while studying abroad. That film tells the true story of Glenn Duffie, who was spending a year in Shanghai when Chinese government agents coerced him into applying for a job at the CIA and becoming a double agent. Duffie, of course, ended up in a federal prison. The movie is enough to scare anyone straight.
If you had no idea the FBI made films, you’re not alone. The concept seems somehow dated, conjuring up memories of Red Scare propaganda from the 1950s and ‘60s. But media has a powerful hold on life in the US, with countless hours being clocked on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. The agency apparently recognizes that.
Both films were directed by Tom Feliu — who was also behind the bureau’s 2011 film Betrayed — and produced by Jan Garvin at the FBI Academy’s Training Development Unit in Quantico,Virginia. According to Creative Planet, the multi-million dollar facility has all the bells and whistles of a Hollywood studio, though a much smaller budget — between $500,000 and $800,000 per year. It seems to do well on that, though. Its YouTube channel is filled with educational and training films, some of them just as slick as Company Man and Game of Pawns.
That the FBI’s biggest budget films have all been directed against Communist China seems to support suspicions that a new Cold War might be brewing. They also reflect a sentiment held by many security analysts that it’s China — not Russia — that poses the biggest threat to US security. Economic espionage, much of it from China, costs the US billions every year. “We’ve had cases, and it’s outlined in the video, where we have people literally walking into warehouses and factories attempting to steal secrets,” said FBI official Randall Coleman in a statement. “It’s actually shocking the lengths they will go to try and steal information.”