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

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About the Film

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What was it like filming the veterans in Normandy?
David: The experience of being in Normandy interacting with the veterans, hearing their stories, visiting the battlefields where they fought, seeing the unveiling of their memorial was very powerful. On the trip, there were a total of 53 veterans and each had several family members and friends with them. The group probably numbered about 250 plus. I think there was a strong sense among the larger group that the trip was really important, particularly on a personal family history level. Everyone seemed to press forward when a veteran would speak and listen so intently, perhaps to hear an untold story that Granddad had never spoken of. I remember a couple of times feeling like I was part of press-pool based on the number of audio recorders, still cameras and video cameras rolling. It was a good feeling.

For my work on the trip, I chose to shoot by myself. My thoughts at the time were that what I was capturing would first be used for a short keepsake-style presentation and then later become a component of a larger more refined story for broadcast. Shooting solo led to an intense week as I captured close to 30 hours of footage, including interviews with nine veterans. In retrospect, as much of what I captured became the principal footage for the film, I certainly would have done this differently.

Phil: It's worth noting that at this point in the project I was not yet involved. David and I have often lamented that we wish I had made the trip as well, and that we'd taken along a full crew. But perhaps his solo, unobtrusive shooting allowed him to capture a number of intimate moments that may have otherwise been missed with a larger crew rambling about. I think David did a remarkable job of capturing so much significant material by himself…well, he did have some help.

David: Perhaps the greatest help in acquiring the trip imagery, (in addition to my wife's being there with me—thanks a ton, honey!), was the assistance of Marty Morgan, research historian of the National D-Day Museum. Marty was on the trip to provide historical context to the memorial tour group and gather information on the 507th story. He did an unbelievable job imparting a greater sense of the war and how the men of the 507th fit into the big picture of the D-Day invasion. Marty was interested in recording the veteran comments to continue the valuable oral histories that the D-Day Museum collects, so we decided to combine our efforts and co-produce the interviews. He would ask the questions, and I would shoot. This relationship proved to be of great benefit to the interviews and ultimately to the final film.