We all know our cousins across the water really “won the war”, and, to be fair, it is hard to compete with that impression when you are presented with such extraordinarily good film productions such as Band of Brothers, a superb TV war-drama by any measure. However, we Brits can at least claim to have contributed a fair amount to the liberation of Europe in the days and weeks following D-Day! So it is good to hear that a British film director is planning to produce a series of docu-dramas based upon the actual experiences of British soldiers who fought in WW2 with the Parachute Regiment.
The initiative is being led by writer/director and historical enthusiast Lance Nielsen along with a number of other industry professionals who have come together to create a new, four-season, TV series. The first season, consisting of ten hour-long episodes, is called Paratrooper. It will be an historically-authentic action drama series, based on original content centred upon the real life stories of the men and women who either served with, or were connected to, or fought against, the airborne forces of the British and Commonwealth military during World War Two.
The Team very much want to preserve the stories of individuals who fought with the British Airborne Forces before it is all just too late to be able to recreate their roles in various engagements in the post D-Day theatre of operations. To that end:
“The series explores a number of different rarely explored narratives within the conflict including perspectives from those of ethnic minorities who fought and whose contribution has rarely been acknowledged to civilians caught in the midst of conflict, the women left waiting at home and those who fight on the opposing side. Several characters recur throughout the story and give the dramatic narrative a sense of emotional continuity for the audience. Ultimately we see how his period shapes and changes not only each character who lives through this part of history but how each makes their own contribution towards shaping the future of it.
It is our aim with this project to keep the true stories of the heroic men, women, and children from this dramatic period of history alive through this series and creating the pilot is the first step towards that goal.”
On the Paratrooper website, Lance (seen “on location” above), has explained why he is so interested in this period of history, and also provides more insight into the aims of the new production:
“I didn’t want Paratrooper to just repeat the narrative formula of Band of Brothers, as for one thing, our own airborne and Commonwealth forces were all involved in very different operations. With Paratrooper each episode will focus on one individual and their experience of a major historical event involving the airborne forces of World War Two. In our show, you will be placed in the shoes of the individual and follow their journey into battle as they risk everything in order to save the future of humanity. This enables us to give insight into many different battles and campaigns that were fought in Europe from a number of very unique previously untold perspectives which includes not only the serving soldiers from various nationalities but also the civilians who were destined to meet them in both their personal lives and during battle. Not only are the stories themselves unique but a number of these operations have never been told in the dramatic narrative before – Battles for places such as Merville, Bénouville, and Bruneval in France, Primosole Bridge in Sicily and Hamminkeln east of the Rhine have never been portrayed outside of a documentary format and we also aim to show aspects of the battle for Arnhem that have not been previously portrayed. Although each episode tells a story which can stand alone, there is an emotional narrative that links each episode and several characters we come to know and care for return frequently throughout the series.
Being a serious researcher of this subject since my teens I already had a wealth of information and resources to draw from but it was only recently that I came across the story of Private Sidney Cornell (seen in centre of group below), which was crying out for its own narrative. Cornell was one of the few men born of an ethnic minority to be serving in the British Airborne forces at that time but was also in an interracial marriage himself in 1934 when such a thing was virtually unheard of. He was awarded the DCM for his actions during the Normandy Campaign and went on to take part in Operation Varsity. His personal journey is one the most unique stories we propose to tell in season one of Paratrooper and his character will also return in subsequent episodes.”
According to Tony Fadil and Alex Tabrizi, two of the Producers on the pilot episode of Paratrooper:
“There is no doubt that our project is ambitious but we are the right team for this job and we’re giving you, the public, who care as passionately about these stories and their historical accuracy as we do, the chance to be directly involved in its creation! Your assistance will enable us to complete the pilot episode which will not only be a stand-alone film in its own right but will also accompany our pitch package to aid us in our goal to see the series commissioned by one of our target broadcast networks.”
As the Producers explained, the team has a problem that seems so peculiar to the British Film industry – a slight lack of funds! At the moment, Lance’s main task is to raise the money to be able to complete the pilot episode as well as to set up scenes for the following productions in the series. As the Paratrooper website explains:
“Independent films don’t have a studio to fall back on so you have to be extremely clever how you spend every penny and ensure the majority of it all ends up on the screen giving you the highest value production possible for your end product. Period films can be especially expensive due to the need for accuracy where all the costumes, props and vehicles are concerned.”
Their financial targets are explained as follows:
“We have three tiers of funding goals we’re aiming for – Each will enable us to bring this project to a higher level of completion towards our final goal.
Tier One – Up to £45,000 – This will enable us to shoot a Series Concept Trailer for the pilot, which will include several dynamic scenes from the pilot episode, which will not have to be filmed later. This trailer will be used to pitch the series to networks and also enable us to seek further funding to finish the film.
Tier Two – Up to £90,000 – Our second goal will enable us to shoot the majority of our principal photography with our lead cast as well as additional scenes. This will give us both the Concept Trailer as well enabling us to release some preview scenes to our viewing public and supporters.
Tier Three – Up to £265,000 & beyond – We know, it’s a huge target to aim for, but with the support of everyone who wants to see professionally well-made dramas within this genre, it is, with your help, entirely achievable. Hitting this target and beyond will enable us to not only shoot the entire pilot episode but also cover the majority of the costs for post-production and also a mini shoot for our Arnhem episode which comes later in the series. This will give us a much stronger concept trailer for the entire series and the fans an insight into what is in store for them further down the road in the show as well as give us completed film.”
To help raise money, and if you do not happen to have a few hundred thousand burning a hole in your back pocket, they have put together a package of “perks” which can be bought for as little as £5 and which will help them get on their way. All that info is on their website which is:
But you can also help them without parting with any loot by:
– Liking their page and following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The more followers they get, the more visible and stronger their support is online, which in turn affects everything else.
– You can also give them a personal shout out on your own social media, which will encourage others within your own online network to back their campaign.
– You can use their artwork anywhere online within your own Social Media in order to increase their following and online presence.
Their Facebook site is at:
They make the point that:
“no matter how much or how little you can afford it’s the fact that you’re willing to donate and assist us that is important. The effect of multiple donations on any crowdfunding campaign is always accumulative, so the more donations we get, the more we get! Even if we fail to hit our top target goal, we will still put everything to raise towards getting us closer to our final objective.”
You might ask why TMT is supporting this initiative. Well – for one thing we believe that anything that accurately records and pays tribute to the stories of British and Commonwealth Troops at war is worthy of our collective support. If it does so in a way that sheds light on the seemingly small parts played by relatively junior individuals in the front line – then even better. If it can help the present community of veterans feel pride in what they do and have achieved, then that is the icing on the cake. The fact that it is a British-led initiative is terrific.
So let’s try to help Lance and his team to make this a British success! We will be supporting Paratrooper via our social media and are looking into ways we can keep you up to speed with the project’s progress on TMT. More of that to follow.
Images and photographs provided by Paratrooper photographers Russel Cobb, Richy Leeson and Dave Sinclair