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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 were the most challenging aspects of producing the film?
Phil: Understanding the larger story and developing the narrative were big challenges. It's important to note that we are not historians, and we knew it was critical for us to apply some credibility to our efforts and the 507th's story. I began to read as much World War II literature as possible, but of course, it's an enormous and complex subject. Fortunately Marty Morgan from The National D-Day Museum was just a phone call away. And he'd already been involved in the trip. In fact, independent of us, he'd decided to write a book on the 507th. A symbiotic relationship ensued, and Marty became our chief historical consultant on the film and a good friend.

Developing any narrative is a complex process, especially if there's no formula or outline to follow. We reviewed the existing 30 hours of location footage and interviews over and over. There were many good story threads within the 507th's history that we could have followed or developed more fully. The battle at La Fière alone could have been a one-hour documentary. Instead, we distilled as many stories as we could into small vignettes. From there we developed a very straightforward outline for how we thought the film should flow.

The film is basically a linear narrative broken into two distinct parts. The first 40 minutes of the film is a fairly straight historical biography using a "group narrative" approach. The final 15 minutes jumps forward about 60 years and documents the veterans' decision to commission a monument and their trip back to Normandy in 2002.

Another important element here is how quickly the work expanded. As David mentioned above, we'd originally planned to create a short piece with highlights from the trip and then later try to create a long-form work for broadcast. Instead, we decided to go forward with the long-form version and present that as the "keepsake" presentation to the veterans. This would provide us with two advantages. First it would give a very good sense of what elements we were lacking and how the larger story held up over 45-50 minutes. Secondly, we'd have a much more convincing presentation to show potential broadcasters. Also, we realized there was no way to tell this story in 20 minutes without shortchanging the veterans.