"In the line of fire" - TWR speaks to Chris Ward, producer of the "Outwitting Hitler" documentary. Interview via e-mail by Alan Hewitt.
TWR: What drew your attention to this particular subject?
CW: I read Marian Pretzel's fascinating book, "Portrait Of A Young Forger". At the end of his story he emigrated to Sydney in Australia so I called him up and told him I wanted to make a documentary about his life. He said "yes" and before I knew it I was on a twenty hour flight (from New York to Sydney) with a film crew.
TWR: How far down the line was the project before thought was given to musical accompaniment, or was that always a prime consideration?
CW: Well, I am always thinking about music when I am shooting a project. But I don't get serious about it all until all of the footage is shot and I am writing the script. I love the music of John Barry, Ennio Morricone, Jerry Goldsmith and Bernard Herrmann. Sometimes I will play one of their pieces against some raw footage to see how it works.
TWR: How did you decide to ask Steve Hackett to produce the soundtrack?
CW: I am a big Genesis and Steve Hackett fan, but the thought hadn't occurred to me until I was playing Steve's "Walking Away From Rainbows" and then later, the Genesis track "Blood On The Rooftops". My instincts told me that Steve Hackett, who has that rare combination of talent and versatility, was the right choice for "Outwitting Hitler". He was the only one I contacted about scoring the music - that's how sure I was about this.
Let me add that at first, friends at Showtime felt otherwise. I had made the mistake of telling them that Steve had been the guitarist in Genesis. Of course, they came back and said that the driving sound of a rock band was totally wrong for a Holocaust documentary. Naturally, they ended up loving Steve's score.
TWR: Was Steve shown rushes of the programme in order to select the music or was this done after the programme was completed?
CW: We were under a terrible deadline on this one. In fact, I cautioned Steve about taking the job, but he assured me that he was used to working under pressure. I was able to send him the script, then assembled segments and then later a rough cut of the entire documentary. All along the way we were talking about the music.
TWR: What was it like working with Steve?
CW: A true pleasure. We had several long conversations about film scores before we started which I felt got us off on the right foot. Bernard Herrmann's score for Hitchcock's "Vertigo" was one in particular that we discussed in detail. Steve's observations about the "Outwitting Hitler" story were insightful and he was bursting with ideas. I found him to be a very good collaborator. I should add that many of the better ideas for this score came from Steve. The poignant violin you hear when Marian visits the "Wailing Wall" in Jerusalem, for example.
TWR: Was Steve free to include new music - because I notice that most of the soundtrack is taken from two of his albums "Defector" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Was that his decision, or yours?
CW: Because of the short time frame, I told them that I was very flexible. In fact I wanted to use "Walking Away From Rainbows", for the Atlith Quarantine Camp in Israel, but Steve came up with a better alternative that I think works beautifully for that segment.
TWR: Would you consider using Steve for further work to accompany programmes?
CW: In a New York minute!
I think we can take it that Steve has another satisfied customer there, folks! We hope to have Steve's comments on this project very soon.