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D-Day: Down to Earth—Return of the 507th

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About the Film

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Where did you find so much relevant archive footage for the film?
David: Nearly all of the motion picture archive footage in the piece comes from the National Archives, and perhaps one of the easiest ways to search the archives is through its online search page. The footage from the National Archives is public domain, so it represents a fantastic resource for material. The problem is just getting your hands on what you want, and really the only way to do that is to go on-site, pull reels, and see what you see. We felt it was very important for our project to find the right archive footage for our story, so we devoted a tremendous amount of energy to looking at archive footage. In total, we uncovered information on about 230 reels, pulled over 180 reels for viewing and transferred 85 reels for actual use in the film. A typical reel has about 10 minutes of footage on it.

Phil: For me the National Archives and the Library of Congress represent something that I feel is remarkable about this country—an abundant resource of American history that is available to anyone who's willing to do the research. Searching the archives is both exciting and daunting. There are thousands of reels of raw footage on World War II alone.

A great sidebar to our archival work is that we connected with one of the combat photographers who jumped into Normandy with the 82nd Airborne. At the beginning of most raw footage reels you will often see a small chalkboard with the name of the photographer, the date and location…if you are lucky. They did this in the field to keep track of what had been shot. Then they would hand off the exposed but undeveloped film to someone and move on. The film would then be processed and used in Army films and newsreels during the war. Interestingly, many combat photographers never saw their work.

On many of the reels depicting 82nd Airborne shots, we saw the same four names over and over—Bates, Legault, Witscher and Weiner. David did some research and tracked down Reuben Weiner, who shot many of the images that appear in our film. We had the great privilege of inviting him to a screening of the film several months ago. Most of this was footage that he'd never seen. It was a very rewarding experience to watch the film with him and to see how his efforts during the war came to fruition 60 years later in a completely different context with our project. Several times during the screening he turned to my wife, who was sitting next to him, and said, "I shot that, yeah, I remember that." For David and me, that was great.