2014-03-14 / Front Page

D-Day film is made locally

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — World War II history will come alive this spring, thanks to a South Portland television production company and the beautiful environs of Scarborough.

In honor of the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, France, Lone Wolf Documentary Group is producing a fourhour television special for the History Channel.

Producer Adam Costa said the special, which is tentatively titled “D-Day in HD,” is four hours split over two nights. The first night will focus on the first 24 hours of D-Day and the second night will be devoted to the aftermath of the invasion. Costa expects the special to air close to the June 6 anniversary.

“D-Day was more than just a day,” Costa said. “There is a lot of belief from people not familiar with it that we had one tough day of fighting and once we took the beach, it was easy. That is not the case. Most of the fighting was not fought on the beach.”

Costa said the special is mostly told through archival footage and in-person interviews with close to a dozen surviving veterans, including Charles Shay, a Penobscot Nation elder who served as a medic.

“The guys in our show were there on D-Day. A lot of them were first wave. A lot of them were wounded in combat. The youngest guy is 87 and the oldest, 95.”

It was important, Costa said, to tell the story of D-Day from those who know it best, the men who fought to make it a success.

“It is not a top-down look at the planning or strategy. It is a bottom-up look of the soldiers on the ground. We are telling their personal stories,” he said.

“You hear directly from these men who are still alive, still incredibly sharp and tell their stories like it was yesterday,” said Tony Bacon, a director on the film.

The archival footage and personal narratives help to convey what D-Day was like for those American soldiers. Bacon said that gives the documentary a “really sincere and really powerful feel.”

“The large majority of the show is archival footage, which helps with authenticity,” Bacon said, “You are seeing footage that was shot during that stretch of history.”

Costa said to help fill in the gaps in footage the television special will rely on historical reenactments.

Lone Wolf also purchased 8mm film cameras to keep its filming consistent with the quality of the archival footage and to keep the special from looking too “overly produced.”

Bacon, who is overseeing the reenactment scenes, said the hope is for a seamless transition between the recreated shots and the shots directly from Army archives.

“We are doing this in a way where we want to be true to the story being told by the veterans and keeps you absorbed in their stories,” Bacon said.

Because of logistics, Costa said Lone Wolf, which films all over the world, chose to film the reenactments locally instead of filming in a warmer climate or traveling to France.

“We could have gone down south, but visually it looks different. In many ways the sand and sea we have here is a good stand-in for Normandy,” Costa said.

After scouting out particular beaches to film at, Costa said Pine Point Beach provided the best replacement for Omaha Beach.

“We picked Pine Point specifically because it had the largest uninterrupted section of beach,” Costa said, adding Pine Point Beach provides “enough sand and enough opportunity to shoot out without seeing anything but water.”

Crews will be at the beach Sunday, March 23 for a full day of filming with reenactors from New England, who will be in period costume with weaponry.

“There is a vibrant reenactor community in New England, who are passionate about this sort of thing. They self-censor better than we would. They come with the right gear and they come prepared,” Costa said.

The Normandy project is the latest in a series of projects Lone Wolf has done for the History Channel. Recent projects have included a special on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination last year and the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic in 2012.

“We have been working with the History Channel for over a decade. We’ve done a lot of programming with them over the years,” Costa said. “In the early 2000s, we had a series called “Deep Sea Detectives.”

Lone Wolf is also working on a twohour special on the history of the atomic bomb for PBS, as well as a reality series for Animal Planet about DEW Animal Kingdom, an animal sanctuary for animals from all over world in Mount Vernon, just outside of Augusta. Filming on the project, which will have a primarily Maine crew, will begin in late April.

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