Telling the stories of young American servicemen
By: Film Producer Gail Downey
From: Whirlwind Productions/Nose Art Films
This is the second of three blogs from our friend Gail Downey, the Director and Producer of Nose Art & Pin-Ups. Following on from her previous blog in which she told us how she got the idea to do the film, she tells us how she set the wheels in motion and the help she received along the way…..
Like so many things the idea to make a film about Nose Art and Pin Ups on the aircraft of World War Two came about by chance. I have made history programmes for the BBC and The History Channel before and while doing some research came across the title “Nose Art & Pin Ups.”
Curious to find out exactly what that was about, I read through the article and discovered it was the artwork on aircraft painted, sometimes by the crew, sometimes by commercial artists like Don Allen, who had been drafted into the United States Army Air Force in WW2.
What I found fascinating was what the images meant to the crews, fighter and bombers, who risked their lives every day in missions in which one in seven of them died. They were all part of the Eighth Air Force or “Mighty Eighth” when the USA joined the war against the Germans in 1942.
The article focused on their Nose Art and offered moving footage of aircraft, which to a film producer, was like gold dust. Here was the artwork on the actual planes in WW2 and provided I paid for the rights, I could use that filmed material.
But where to start on a subject which is so big? That is always the hardest part of making any film. Make the subject too niche and the audience will be too small. Make the subject too broad and you miss the point .
So being a Brit, I decided to tell the story of the American servicemen based here in England in World War Two and concentrate on the Nose Art on their aircraft rather than that of the RAF. For a start there was much more Nose Art on the USAAF aircraft and it was easier to find in terms of actual film footage. So now you see how a producer’s mind works.
What I really wanted to do though was to tell the stories of these young American servicemen, who saw friends killed and captured, some severely wounded and others who, to this day, have memories, which thankfully my generation, will never know.
Finding the servicemen was the first task. I had tried to get the BBC and The History Channel to pay for the film to be made but was told no – it was too niche so I decided to fund it myself (which producers should never do).
Thankfully I found Michael P Faley, an American who loves history and like myself, has huge respect for the pilots and crews and what they went through.
Mike is on the board of directors of the Eighth Air Force Historical Society and with his help found Don Allen, who was a crew chief looking after aircraft of the Fourth Fighter Group based at Debden near Saffron Walden in WW2……….he was and thankfully is, still alive. And so the journey began. More on that next week.
Please support this project and help keep these veterans’ stories alive.
Gail Downey, Nose Art Films