Behind the scenes of 1917
Two exclusive featurettes on the Sam Mendes film, plus our interview with military consultant Andy Robertshaw.
Sam Mendes, the Oscar®-winning director of Skyfall, Spectre and American Beauty, brings his singular vision to his World War I epic, 1917.
At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield (Captain Fantastic’s George MacKay) and Blake (Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman) are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers – Blake’s own brother among them.
Discover more about the making of the film with these two behind-the-scenes featurettes and scroll down for our interview with Andy Robertshaw, the military expert who worked on the film, and is also the guide for our popular WWI Family Tree Academy courses:
Family Tree: How did you get involved in 1917 Andy?
Andy: “Er, well, basically I was recommended by… Steven Spielberg … and Peter Jackson, and Adam Sumner.”
‘Nuff said! Interviews then followed these recommendations to see whether Andy was the right person to be the military historian on 1917 and he was sent the script to read through.
Andy: “When it arrived I realised that it was dedicated to Alfred H Mendes. I’d already read his autobiography, published by the University of the West Indies Press. And I went online and fortunately found his complete Service Record. Everything then became clear and I was able to trace his journey.”
Andy Robertshaw’s life-long interest in military history enabled him to see the significance of the details he found in the records and such evidence was crucial in the accurate re-telling of the heroic chapter in Alfred H Mendes’ life – when he’s ordered to sprint and deliver a message that will save hundreds of men from their deaths.
Family Tree Academy trailer…
Family Tree: Did anything in particular strike you about this remarkable life story?
Andy: “Although Alfred H Mendes was mixed race (Portuguese Creole), there was clearly no ‘colour bar’. From Alfred’s service records I’d already seen that he’d qualified as a bomber. But it was his discharge papers that really clinched it. These state that he was a signaller – and this tallies with him being a runner.”
Family Tree: It’s really exciting to hear how you’ve used family and military history research skills, and the film’s clearly an awesome watch too. Tell us why you’d recommend it.
Andy: “It shows a piece of the war that’s not normally seen and allows the public to see the war with grass and trees. And the ‘one-take’ is very clever too, enthralling watching. It allows complete flow through and makes it feel so realistic. On set, we all spent a lot of time looking at the sky, waiting for the light and conditions to be right.”
Clearly time well-spent for such an award-winning end result.
Military historian Andy Robertshaw, in addition to his amazing work for Stephen Spielberg on War Horse and Peter Jackson on They Shall Not Grow Old, has also worked with Family Tree.
Andy's two really useful Family Tree Academy video guides are packed with military history advice to help you learn about your WW1 Tommy’s equipment and service records to help you trace and understand his war years.
1917 is directed by Sam Mendes, who wrote the screenplay with Krysty Wilson-Cairns (Showtime’s Penny Dreadful). The film is produced by Mendes and Pippa Harris (Revolutionary Road, Away We Go) for their Neal Street Productions, Jayne-Ann Tenggren (associate producer, Spectre), Callum McDougall (executive producer, Mary Poppins Returns, Skyfall) and Brian Oliver (Rocketman, Black Swan).
1917 is in UK and Irish cinemas NOW. Find out more at www.1917film.co.uk