Channel 4 Specialist Factual Commissioning Editor John Hay and Channel 4 Factual Multi-platform Commissioning Editor Kate Quilton have commissioned Windfall Films to make D-Day: As It Happens, a 24-hour history event due for transmission across TV, web, mobile devices and social media on 5th & 6th June this year. Digit, Windfall’s digital partner on this project, will deliver the website build.
The project will enable viewers and users to experience this pivotal moment in twentieth century history in real time, by tracing – moment by moment – what happened to 7 real participants on the day. New, unpublished research has been used to assemble archive film, photographs, radio reports and other records of D-Day on a 24-hour timeline and play it out in parallel with the present, so that each element of the timeline is released out at the minute it happened in 1944. Through this research, the programme will trace the progress of the ‘D-Day 7’ (among them a paratrooper, a midget submariner, a nurse and a military cameraman) via the footage. An hour-long television programme on 5th will tell the backstories of the 7 and set out their missions over the 24 hours to come, and another on 6th will recap the day and reveal what happened to each. In between, users will be able to keep up with their progress online, via Twitter, and through short-form updates on the channel.
The television coverage will be presented by Peter Snow, with Channel 4 Paralympics presenter and former marine Arthur Williams and experts including former British Army officer Colonel Tim Collins and front-line journalist Lorna Ward. The project draws on new and unpublished research by Colin Henderson, a British historian who has spent the last 15 years meticulously analysing the archive material on D-Day to identify individual soldiers.
Channel 4 Specialist Factual Commissioning Editor John Hay says: “Channel 4 has a mission to try new things, and this feels like innovation with a real purpose – there’s something about experiencing an event in real time that makes you feel it, and connect with it, in a new way. We’re trying to make the first TV programme that delivers the past in the way that many of us experience news in the present. I hope it’ll be emotional as well as illuminating.”
Channel 4 Factual Multi-platform Commissioning Editor Kate Quilton says: “By tracking the events of D-Day in real time across platforms we’re aiming to create an experience that allows the audience to fully connect with the events of the day. It’s an incredibly exciting experiment in form.”
Executive Producer Ian Duncan says: “D-Day was one of the most photographed days in British history, covered by over 50 cameramen specially trained by the military. Colin Henderson’s painstaking forensic analysis of much of the visual material has allowed us to identify and accurately track the movements of seven individuals moment by moment through the drama of the day.
On June 5th and 6th, when we play out the experiences of our D-Day seven in real time, at the precise minute of the precise hour at which they actually occurred 69 years ago, hopefully the viewer will be given something of the feeling of being caught up in a live event.”