June 2 2017

WIP #1: Lost Souls – a ten-minute screenplay


Living history

A glance right to the Friends and Links section of my sidebar will show that, of the four listed there, one appears to be out of keeping with the others. Indeed, whilst three are of a genre-specific literary type, 21 Infanterie Division is at odds with these, being a WW2 living history and re-enactment society.

The reason for their inclusion is twofold: one, my twenty year old son is an active member — recently promoted to the rank of Obergefreiter — and two, I have been called on a couple of times to provide writing for the society. This is something I’ve been thrilled to undertake as I’m a keen historian myself and 21 Infanterie are a terrific bunch of guys.

Run by Luton-based Dave Forde, the society has undergone several ‘impression’ changes since its inception, from Panzergrenadiers to Pioniers, to their present identity — that of the multi-functional infantry division, 21 Infanterie.

Background to a rout

The German infantry division was created in 1939 and used throughout the war. As with all forces, German kit and insignia changed between 1939 and 1945, making it vital that Dave Forde and his comrades elect a specific period on which to base their impression.

The period chosen is late-war, 1944-45, a time when the division, together with the whole of Germany’s Army Group North, is in high retreat from the advancing Russian Red Army — a rout that will eventually lead to a Dunkirk-style evacuation from the Baltic port of Memel in 1945.


English Heritage

At each stage in the re-enactment group’s evolution, their emphasis has been on absolute accuracy in their portrayal. Such dedication has earned them the respect of many, among them English Heritage, the UK’s premier steward of over 400 historically important sites.

With a remit to not only preserve the nation’s monuments, but to educate and entertain the public in matters of national history, English Heritage repeatedly turn to 21 Infanterie Division to provide the German viewpoint at events held around the country. They know they can rely on the society’s zealous adherence to historical and military authenticity to reflect an accurate representation.

Even a brief visit to the group’s site — http://www.21infantry.co.uk/ — reveals their rigorous attention to detail. Not only that, it amply demonstrates Dave Forde’s skill in creating distinctive grainy photographs and footage that are in keeping with the period and of a quality seen in multi-million dollar productions such as Saving Private Ryan and HBO’s Band of Brothers series.

Film-making opportunities

This competency, together with the group’s previous involvement in several dramatic productions in which they’ve been called on to provide supporting artists, has recently come to the notice of the wider film industry and is beginning to open doors to exciting opportunities.

It is one such film production, with Dave Forde wearing several hats, including director, cameraman and production coordinator, that led to his request for me to write a ten-minute screenplay. Filming is scheduled to commence in the autumn.

This project, in which society member and professional actor Chris Wilson plays a key role, has the working title of Lost Souls and is based on the true story of Guy Sajer, a young Panzergrenadier tasked with evacuating badly wounded soldiers from a disintegrating German front line to a rearward aid station while being harried by the rapidly advancing Red Army.

On location

The screenplay, which will be filmed near Market Bosworth and other locations in Leicestershire, will contain German dialogue and have English subtitles. As it stands (the script is currently at first draft stage), there will be a cast of approximately twenty performers, and hardware will include various military vehicles, such as a WW2 covered wagon, motorcyle and sidecar combination and Kubelwagen, together with several artillery pieces and numerous historically-accurate props.

Stay tuned …

The first draft of Lost Souls is presently under review so I’m unable to provide even a taster here. If you’re interested in following the film’s progress, I suggest you keep an eye on this site for further developments.