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Producing A History Documentary During A Pandemic 101

Posted by RTH Real Time History on

Happy belated new year greetings from Berlin - where we just entered the 6th week (what is time?) of a 2nd lockdown. The editing and post production of our last documentary 16 Days in Berlin was largely done during the first lockdown back in March/April 2020, now we need to adjust a bit further for our current project Rhineland 45. So, here is a quick overview of where we stand.
In short, we are on track and if you want to experience the making-of of our documentary while it's made, you can always join our Virtual Production Team. It's like the bonus features of a DVD but while the documentary is still being made: https://realtimehistory.net/vpt
In a bit more detail, we are in the middle of the so called pre-production phase meaning that we are setting everything in motion to film in the first two weeks of March. The first thing we needed to decide on was a structure for the documentary. Unlike the two and half week long Battle of Berlin, the Rhineland campaign doesn't really lend itself to a day-by-day retelling. Instead we decided that we will go with a 5-part approach:
  1. Strategic and operational background, fighting begins West of the Rhine
  2. heavy fighting continues
  3. breakthroughs
  4. last German holdouts and preparing to cross the Rhine
  5. crossing the Rhine
Right now Jesse is working on episode 3 and the rest of the team is scrutinizing the first two scripts to mold them into their final shape. We are also working with our team of experts to see what segments of the documentary they will cover. This week we will talk to Christoph Bergs, our aviation expert, about the strategic bombing campaign that preceded the fighting in the lower Rhine region.
Our firearms historian Matt is working with Vickers machine gun expert Richard Fisher on a live fire demonstration to show how this heavy machine gun was used in the Rhineland campaign. He is also looking into first-hand accounts of other infantry weapons, so that we can show you how they were used and not just how they function. Since we cannot travel to the UK at the moment, we are also looking for a freelance camera operator in the greater Bristol area.
2020 was the first year we haven't visited the Tank Museum since 2016. A real bummer because it's always great to work with their great team and with the historic tanks - and they have very good soft serve. Luckily the museum has a very talented production crew on location and for Rhineland 45 they will take over the filming. The amour used in the Rhineland campaign is quite fascinating because we aren't just talking about "normal" tanks here but about amphibious tanks, bridge laying tanks, tanks that can be dropped via parachute and more.
We will also be talking to the talented crew of Project 44 who will assist us in bringing you the most accurate battlefield maps for our documentary. Last but not least, we are in touch with a local archive to cover the fate of the forced laborers in the middle of the fighting.
If COVID permits, filming for the documentary will be underway the first two weeks of March. Part of the documentary will be filmed in our studio in Berlin and the other part will be filmed on the former Battlefields. There are a few logistical challenges to solve. For example restaurants are closed at the moment or only offer takeaway which is not ideal for a film crew. And as any general can tell you, feeding you troops is of the highest priority.
So, that was our first big production update of 2021, I will probably send another one once we start filming.
Thank you for your support
Flo & the entire Real Time History team

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