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

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The film has what you call a "group narrative approach." What is that, and how did it develop?
Phil: "Group narrative" is the term used to describe storytelling from multiple perspectives. In this case numerous interviewees are used to carry the story along with short sound bites. It's a complex but powerful way of constructing a narrative. This technique has been widely used throughout the history of documentary filmmaking, but the advent of computer-based editing has made the process more accessible—though not necessarily easier.

Editing the film would have been much easier if we'd written 30 minutes of voice-over narration and then used the occasional sound bite from a veteran or historian. We chose the opposite approach, using as much personal testimonial as possible and augmenting that with factual information from our narrator and historical context from Marty Morgan.

Also, it's important to understand that most veterans only know the war from a singular point of view—what happened in this foxhole on this day during this battle. It is an incredibly valuable point of view, of course, but it requires a group narrative approach to tell the larger story of even one battle. The editorial process here is complicated but it can also be very satisfying. Cutting quickly between sound bites from multiple perspectives allows one to create a nice cadence and vary the dynamics of the film. For me there's a powerful subtlety in hearing numerous voices describe an event. This technique is best exemplified in two sections of the film—the training segment called "The Frying Pan" and the "D-Day jump" sequence from "Into the Fire."