Projection Sequences

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I met with Barry and Jay over the course of a week, reading through the screenplay and making a list of all scenes in which projection sequences were to appear. Although the screenplay specified projection in a limited number of scenes, it became clear that the director envisioned projection in over half of the film, meaning that more than 60 minutes of film needed to be prepared in advance. This realization of the amount of required footage occurred about six weeks prior to the scheduled start of principal photography.

Earlier in the process, crude video copies of many Nazi-era films were obtained from the National Archives. As we watched these films and studied the script, occasionally we knew precisely the imagery we wanted. However, for most scenes, we struggled to define how the imagery would fit with the dialogue, with the psychology of the character, and with the theme of a scene. Would the images reinforce or undercut; would they be coherent or disjointed; and would they be presented straightforwardly or be manipulated - for example, slowed down, optically processed or enlarged?

Once we had a set of rough projection sequence notes, I immediately went to the National Archives in College Park, Maryland and began screening Hitler-era films of all kinds: propaganda films, military training films, films which supposedly documented the war's progress, and newsreels. I watched films made by Germans, Americans, Russians, Italians and Spaniards. Other than in the opening title sequence, for which the director had a very specific film sequence in mind (see Creation Narrative), the films would play silently, so the fact that the narration was in Spanish or Italian was of no consequence.