Emotion on the First World War Homefront

Hello, Daisy here. I am going to talk a little bit about my experience in researching and developing a script for our film as part of the Make Film, Make History project.

I was keen to use the Make Film, Make History project as an opportunity to create a film that explores emotion on the Homefront during World War One. We are all ardent historians so we wanted to use primary source material to make an authentic and thought provoking film based on real life testimony. We wanted the film to make people reconsider life on the homefront, and ask themselves questions that they had perhaps never thought about before… What was the experience of war like for women at home? What experiences of the home front brought together people of all different nations? How did people cope without their husbands, fathers and sons?

None of us have never made an animation before, but we are excited about visualising the testimonies we have found. Our film will be a mixture of animation and images…maybe even paper based to reflect some of the diaries, and letters we have read.

We looked at lots of different types of animation styles and found this film particularly inspiring:

Twice, by Little Dragon. Directed by Johannes Nyholm. Puppet Masters: Yukimi Nagano, Håkan Wirenstrand, Fredrik Källgren Wallin, Erik Bodin, Elias Araya, Aime Hellrand, Henrik Malmgren, Andreas Korsár and Kurt Lightner

This animation really spoke to me as the simplicity of its style created such a melancholy atmosphere. I think this idea of black paper on a plain background will work really well for our film, as it will allow the emotion of the testimony to speak for itself.

For us, it always comes back to the testimonies we are reading. Each diary, letter, or story was ‘emotional’ in different ways, some of them evoking laughter, some sadness, some a sense of comaderie.

So after a LOT of research (we are historians after all!) we developed a couple of ideas. Our film isn’t a standard dialogue driven story. We had lots of different testimonies and lots of different ideas around visualisation, that we had to transform into script form. Dialogue didn’t always work, especially as our final film can only be 5 minutes. This is why we wanted to rely on image more to bring the emotion to the fore.

I learnt that organisation was key. Our testimonies were split up by country ( UK, Germany and Denmark) and then we organised all the emotions. We wanted to not only to find a balance between German, Danish and British sources,we wanted to also find a balance between each emotion that we hoped to portray. Initially we assumed life on the home front would of course be sad, we were surprised to encounter other emotions. We found that civilians were bored, confused, angry, hopeful and sometimes even happy! We wanted our film to reflect this wide range of feelings, rather than just focus on the usual, which are soliders’ experiences at the war front. We are diverging from this.

We also wanted a good balance between portraying life on the British home front, as well as the German and the Danish homefronts. We wanted to give each nation equal standing and respect to their memory, which is sometimes not the case in other popular films and literature about the First World War. Whilst there are some obvious differences between the different national home fronts there are also some not so obvious similarities. We have found our own similarities being from three different nations, and working on one film. This is something that, for us, is very important to portray, when emotion/teamwork transcends national boundaries.

We found that a fairly tight script structure was the best way to introduce the audience to the variety of emotions, sources and characters. We split up the research between us, each of us exploring a different countries primary material sometimes material from our own country, and sometimes from other nations. We each picked three sources that resonated with us.

Image purely for illustrative purposes, courtesy of Ellen Thompson via Flickr

After compiling what we had found, our script was split into 4 scenes, each with a different question that we want the audience to consider. The first scene compares life on the home front for Britain, Denmark and Germany; the second scene looks at the mundane aspect of every day life during the war; the third looks at the horror and tragedy and the fourth explores the positive aspects of the war. We feel this complicates the usual narratives around First World War, and want the audience to grasp that.

Our script is mainly testimony driven, with little other dialogue in it apart from the diaries and letters that will be read aloud. We are keen to be as historically authentic as possible and will start thinking about voice actors to read the testimonies. As these are ‘real’ as opposed to ‘fiction’ we will try to explain our decisions as much as possible to do each testimony justice!