Technology and social media create compelling new ways to reanimate the archive.
These new solutions enable producers to tell fresh, award-winning stories, and unlock value from rare, historic footage.
Those are the key Takeaways from our Case Study of the Scandinavian copro Every Face Has a Name.
Our Case Studies on the Archive are sponsored by ITN Source.
Here is the trailer:
1. Development Process
- The original concept came from director Magnus Gertten and Producer Lennart Ström in 2007, when they discovered newsreel and outtakes captured on April 28, 1945.
- The footage had been preserved as the ‘crown jewels’ in the film archive of SVT, the Swedish public broadcaster.
- It shows refugees who had been rescued from Nazi concentration camps by the White Buses, a liberation action run by the Swedish Red Cross and led by led by Count Folke Bernadotte.
- The scenes capture large anonymous crowds and groups of refugees as they disembark on the waterfront in Malmö, Sweden.
- The format was 35mm.
- Magnus Gertten and his Malmo-based Auto Images production team used this footage to create Harbor of Hope (2011, 76 minutes) a feature documentary which was broadcast in 10+ countries.
- Gertten was frustrated that he couldn’t tell the stories of the individual survivors.
- He saw the potential to use social media to locate the families of the refugees.
- This ‘discovery process’ could itself be central to the pitch and story-telling in a new film.
- He also saw that by converting the SVT footage to 4K, he could focus on specific characters amongst the crowds.
- 4K would allow the editor to pan across individual sequences.
- This would both animate the archive into fresh new sequences, and extend the usable time that the footage could deliver into an expanded production.
- According to Gertten, “The archive itself would become a character in the film.”
- Harbor of Hope thus developed into Every Face Has a Name.
“Many documentaries start with taking on a big challenge. I was fascinated beyond belief by a film reel showing WWII survivors arriving at the harbour of Malmö, Sweden on April 28, 1945. I wanted to know: How many of the anonymous faces would it be possible to identify 70 years later?” Magnus Gertten
2. Pre-Production Planning
- The team at Auto Images hired a researcher to help identify more survivors from the passenger lists and footage.
- They were able to name about 60 out of the hundreds of survivors glimpsed in the footage.
- Producer Lennart Ström, Director Magnus Gertten, Editor Jesper Osmund, Researcher Sebastian Claesson.
- Ove Rishøj Jensen is coproducer and publicist. We spoke to Ove at Thessaloniki and MIPTV, and afterwards he was interviewed by Grace Hamilton, author of this Case Study.
- The producers made external pitches at Thessalonik 2013 and at the Nordvision, coproduction pitch for the region’s public broadcasters.
- Pre-sales followed to five more territories
- Auto Images received confirmation from Nordvision, representing the five Nordic pubcasters: Denmark’s DR, Finland’s YLE, Iceland’s RUV, Norway’s NRKand Sweden’s SVT), as well as the Netherlands’ Ikon.
- Additional Swedish funding came from the regional fund Film i Skåne, the Swedish Film Institute and SVT.
- The international sales agent is Rise and Shine (Germany)
4. Original Archive
- “The new 4K scan helped up create new scenes in the footage. We could zoom in on the survivors in the material. It also allowed us to create slow motion sequences and archive loops. These techniques make it possible to create a filmic moment of identification of the up until now anonymous faces appearing in the film.”
- Final delivered film is 2/3 original material and 1/3 archive footage.
“My ambition was to make the film reel one of the main characters in the doc. Sophisticated editing and high-end technology—including a new 4k scan—revealed more detail and helped us create ”new scenes” in the archive footage.” Magnus Gertten
- “Through crowd-sourcing research using Facebook and Twitter, by publishing passenger lists, photos and other information about 28 April 1945, we managed to find ten people who arrived that day and are in the film.
- “We later identified another 50, whose stories will be published in an online project,” said Ove Rishøj Jensen.
- “Among the passengers identified were Bernard Kempler, who was nine years old when he came to Malmö – he had survived the war by being dressed as a girl.”
- “Elsie Ragusin from New York City was visiting her grandparents in Italy when she was accused of being a spy, put in a boxcar and shipped to Auschwitz.”
- “Others were Norwegian resistance fighters, Jewish survivors, Polish mothers with newborn babies and British spies.”
5. Budget / Timeline
- SEK 3,480,000 / USD 409,000
- The film is based on the one archive reel, recorded on April 28, 1945. The rights for this footage is approximately SEK 80,000 / USD 9400.
- “Then we have made a lot of effort in making this footage work with our new archive approach. Meaning a new 4K scan, graphical clean up as well as the technical details for the slow motion, looping and zooming of the footage. The total expense for the digital work with the archive is DKK 250,000 / USD 37,000.” Ove Rishøj Jensen
- The process from the beginning of the research in 2007 to the premiere of EFHAN was about 7 years.
- April, 2015 in Sweden (SVT) and Netherlands (IKON).
- Length: 76 minutes
- Languages: English, Swedish, Polish
- “We received an overwhelming number of emails and calls from people identifying additional faces.”
- Awards and nominations: international critics’ FIPRESCI Award at Thessaloniki, Ecumenical Prize at Göteborg, Minneapolis, and numerous festivals.
- The European Parliament scheduled a special screening of Every Face Has a Name screen in Brussels on June 24th
- Press coverage includes Cineuropa here
“This is a film with huge contemporary relevance. Every week via international news media, we see endless streams of war refugees arriving at harbours and border stations. For quite some time I’ve had the idea of comparing the situation in 1945 to the present global war refugee situation. Finding the right harbour was tough, but finally I was lucky. On July 1, 2014, my team and I were present at small Sicilian harbour when close to 600 refugees arrived after a dramatic journey across the Mediterranean. Being there had a great impact on me. If I in any way can change people’s views on the displaced people coming from horrific circumstances all over the world today, then my work has truly accomplished something.” Magnus Gertten
- The Every Face Has a Name website
- The Red Cross mission bringing thousands of survivors to Malmö is often referred to as “The White Buses”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Buses
- Folke Bernadotte, vice-president of the Swedish Red Cross during WWII and leading figure in the White Buses mission: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folke_Bernadotte
- The Red Cross report on The White Buses (English): http://harbourofhope.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/HoHTheWhiteBuses.pdf
Dedication & Thanks
This post honors a happy day for two families in Sweden. Our son James Hamilton marries Malin Heyman in Uppsala on Friday, June 26. James and Malin are architects who practice in Stockholm.
Grace Hamilton coauthored this post. Grace is a student at the University of Michigan and is on the editorial team of the Michigan Daily.
Many thanks to Ove Rishøj Jensen for his enthusiastic collaboration on the EFHAN Case Study.
DocumentaryTelevision.com Case Studies on the Archive
We research and publish detailed Case Studies of documentary films and television specials.
We tell the story of each project, from development through funding and production to delivery.
Here is a select list of my unique coverage of the business of the business, all published in the five years since I launched DocumentaryTelevision.com.
On the archive:
- The LOST Kennedy Home Movies – Unlocking an Archival Treasure
- The Plimpton! Kickstarter Crowd-funding Case Study
- We covered in depth MLK: The Assassination Tapes at MIPDOC 2013.
- An Aussie Abba Love Doc
- AIDS: ‘The Rise of the Killer Virus’ A Case Study in an International Co-pro
- ‘BESA: The Promise’ – An Established Nonfiction Producer Carries off a ‘Passion’ Theatrical Documentary Project
And a film which I co-EP’d:
- A SHOT: Five Takeaways on a special on Jonas Salk with Bill Gates for the Smithsonian Channel and now the BBC.
Other valuable Case Studies:
- Flight of the Butterflies grossed $40mn. How? ‘Giant Screen’ is key to the answer!
- Learning from the Right: A highly profitable documentary polemic against president Obama.
- Slamdance 2015 hit and passion project ‘Sweet Micky’ covers an upset Haitian presidential campaign from the inside.
- An Aussie copro deal and development process is revealed in Dinosaur Stampede
Thanks to the many producers and network execs who collaborated on this original work!
Sunnyside of the Doc, La Rochelle, June 21-25
- Trends in US Factual Market, Orientation, Sunday June 21, 330p
- SVOD Explodes. What It Means for Docs, Tuesday June 23, 300p
- Meet the Executives, moderator: Tuesday 23 (Science) + Wednesday 24 (Wildlife), both at 1000a
- Trends in Contracts, with Michelle Bruce: Tuesday 23, 230p
- Expert Consultations: Monday 22, 330-500p, Tuesday 330-500p
- Disney Nature and ‘African Cats’ with Jean-Francois Camilleri: Tuesday 600p