Interview with Jenna Blum, Author of Those Who Save Us

those-who-save-usFollowing our read-a-long of Jenna Blum’s Those Who Save Us last month, we contacted the author to ask her some questions about the book.

If you missed the read-a-long, feel free to see our discussions here, here, here, and here.  We’d love to have you chime in if you’ve read the book.

Please give Jenna a warm welcome.

What inspired you to write Those Who Save Us? How did your work for the Shoah Foundation come into play? During your research for Those Who Save Us, what prompted you to select Weimer as the setting, and did you visit the area before you began writing?

In 1993 when I was fresh out of college, my mother announced we were going to Germany. I was underwhelmed at the prospect. “Why Germany?” I protested. There were so many more pleasant places in the world to visit—Spain, Italy, France, Canada, Arkansas…any destination whose people had not helped murder six million Jews, some of them on my father’s side of the family.

But my mother wanted to investigate her own heritage. She’s a concert pianist, and for years she’d been reading about the Nazi era, trying to understand how a country that had produced so many great composers and musicians had also engineered history’s most atrociously efficient mass genocide.

So I soon found myself hurtling through the German countryside in a rented car with my mother. We didn’t speak the language. We had no plan. We visited where her people came from—Wallhausen, a little farm town. We drank a lot of schnapps. And we asked each other over and over, “How could the Holocaust have happened here?”

One day we were driving from Buchenwald to Weimar. Buchenwald was the first concentration camp we visited, and we’d been stricken into uncharacteristic silence. As we descended the Ettersberg mountain into meadows full of purple flowers, I reflected that from the camp, you could see Weimar. So, I reasoned, from Weimar, the Germans must have been able to see the camp. What did they tell each other and themselves about what was going on up there? What did they say to their children when ash was falling from the sky in May? I wouldn’t have had a chance to make those choices; I would have been classified a Mischling, a half-breed, and, if discovered by the Nazis, sent with my Jewish father to the camps. But my mother was full-blooded “Aryan.”

I asked her, “If you’d been living in Germany during the war, what would you have done?”

She was silent for a moment, smoking, contemplating. Then she said, “I don’t know what I would have done. I’d like to think I would have been brave enough to help my Jewish friends, my neighbors. But if the Nazis caught you, the punishment was death. And if I had you kids to care for…Well, I can only hope I would have been brave enough.”

That was when the character of Anna came to me, on that road from Buchenwald to Weimar: a young, quiet, beautiful German woman caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. An ordinary woman forced by a crucible of circumstance to make extraordinary, terrible decisions. Anna dwelled in my head for the next ten years, softly but insistently demanding that her story, that of the average German woman, be told.

When I got home, I began to research. For the next decade, I read everything I could get my hands on about the Third Reich, its causes, victims, and citizens. I read dozens of survivor accounts. I engaged in what one reader kindly called “method research,” although you could also refer to it as insanity: watched German films and documentaries; listened to German music; took German classes (at which I was a total failure). I baked everything appears in the novel, because I wanted to know Anna from the inside out. (That Christmas Stollen took me 48 sleepless hours to make, and I swore like a trucker the whole time, but it lasted several months afterwards, like a Teutonic fruitcake.) And for a short period of craziness, while I was writing Anna, I dressed like her: in a dirndl skirt, my hair in braids. I did this only when writing, at night, not outside the house. Much. Only on Halloween.

The most important research I did, however, was to interview Jewish survivors for the Steven Spielberg Survivors of the Shoah Foundation. I was living in Minneapolis then, in the mid-1990s, and my mom, who lived across town, pointed out an announcement in the Star-Tribune that the Foundation was seeking interviewers. I protested I couldn’t possibly apply for the position; I didn’t have survivors in my family; I didn’t have the right. My mom said, “Go.” I went.

I auditioned in Chicago with maybe a thousand other people for an interviewer’s position, and the Foundation did grant me that honor. For the next four years, I interviewed dozens of survivors in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. I specialized in couples: survivor pairs who had met each other after the war, in Displaced Persons camps overseas or here in America or, in a few instances, during the war itself.

Readers often ask what survivor testimonies I used in the writing of Those Who Save Us. My answer: nothing. Survivors’ memories are earned at a cost the rest of us can only imagine. They are hallowed ground. But the survivors I was privileged to interview did inform the novel’s emotional atmosphere, allowing me to create the emotional spectrum along which my characters dwell: from guilt to shame to denial to anger to a fierce, abiding hope. Most survivors, when asked for their testimonies’ final statements, said, “The world should know what we went through so it will never happen again.” I wanted, in writing Those Who Save Us, to respect their wishes by refracting some of their anguish and horror through a fictional lens. That is another reason I wrote the novel: to pay survivors an homage.

Was it important to the story that Trudy be a professor and working in German studies? How so? What other profession could she have had?

That’s a great question! In early drafts, Trudy was not a German history professor; she was a helpmeet to her husband Roger (who then shrank to a cameo in the book’s current, published incarnation) in his restaurant. I revised Trudy to become a lonely German history professor because I wanted to show she is irrevocably marked by her history: fascinated in an intellectual way by the very emotional parts of her past her mother can never share with her. Mastering historical knowledge is one way Trudy can put her arms around the past. It’s a much more active and character-specific role for her than peeling potatoes at Roger’s Le P’tit Lapin was.

Was Those Who Save Us the original title? How did you come to that title?

The title comes from the pivotal scene on Christmas morning in New Heidelburg when Jack asks whether Anna loved the Obersturmfuhrer, and Anna, trying to answer, wants to say “We come to love those who save us” but can’t speak—because she’s not sure whether she wants the word save or shame. To me, Anna is the ultimate symbol of Stockholm Syndrome, a woman who comes to depend on her captor to the point of loving him. The book’s title speaks to her relationship with the Obersturmfuhrer, which warps her psyche and, to a great extent, her daughter’s.

I also like the title because thematically, the novel is like a big chain letter of saving and being saved: everyone saves everyone else, literally and metaphorically. Max saves Anna, Anna saves Max, Mathilde saves Anna, the Obersturmfuhrer saves Anna, Anna saves Trudy, Jack saves them both, Rainer and Trudy save each other…. But the chain letter also winds heavy links around the characters’ ankles. Being a savior and being saved often comes with very unpleasant burdens, such as survivor’s guilt. I wanted the novel to explore and illustrate that high emotional cost.

We saw on Facebook that you recently traveled to Germany and visited places that were in the book. Could you tell us a little about the experience? Are there any photos that you’d like to share with our readers?

I went to Germany with a company called Adventures by the Book, which takes readers into the settings of their favorite novels. Ingenious, no? We traveled around Germany visiting the settings from Those Who Save Us, from Weimar to Berchtesgaden, and a few more cities that helped contextually fill in knowledge about the rise and history of Nazi Germany, such as Nuremberg. It was incredibly moving for me to return to some of the places I had visited with my mom while envisioning and researching the novel, and two of the most spectacular experiences from the writer point-of-view were: 1. finding the very spot on the banks of the River Ilm that Anna, the Obersturmfuhrer, and Trudie picnic on in Weimar on Anna’s 23rd birthday; 2. hosting a book club in the restaurant of the very hotel in Berchtesgaden where Anna and the Obersturmfuhrer stay in 1943–so answering questions and sharing experiences inspired by the book within the actual setting of the book. That was beyond cool. I encourage readers to enjoy photos of my Adventures by the Book experience on my Facebook page (scroll down to May 2017 and you will find them). Also, check out Adventures by the Book for literary adventures of a lifetime with your favorite writers!

Tell us a little bit about your writing process. What starts you on that journey and about how long does it take you to finish a first draft?

I often spend years researching, ideating, and outlining a first draft before I start writing it. A book starts as a short story for me: one out of several short stories I test-drive will have the “it” factor, beckoning me to expand it into a longer form. The characters are persistent and real and drag me around by the hair. Every short story, to me, is an exploration of an emotional question–for instance, Those Who Save Us began as a short story of the same name that explored what happens when you respond physically, have great chemistry, with somebody whose character you abhor–somebody who does monstrous things on a daily basis. The short stories often become pieces, chapters, in the larger mosaic of the book. I then back up and create an outline around the short story, a laundry list of scenes that will provide the scaffolding structure for the overall book. Many of these scenes begin as question marks, but as I write and revise the novel, I revise the outlines to fill them in! (So writers: if you think an outline is constraining, it’s not. It’s a tool that will help ensure your book has structure and is therefore not boring–but you can always revise it; in fact, you will. It’s fluid.) I have to research my novels, which are either historical fiction or focused contextually on topics that require specific knowledge, and that can take me up to a year. Then I start writing. I actually write fairly quickly; I can finish a draft in 3 – 6 months. The revising takes at least another year and, if done properly, should take more, up to two.

It’s not an instant gratification profession, but it is magic when it works.

Are you able to share any information about your upcoming book?

​I will be sharing more information about The Lost Family on my social media pages as the prepublication process continues, but for now: the novel follows concentration camp survivor Peter Rashkin (whom some readers will recognize from my novella “The Lucky One” in Grand Central) ​as he attempts to build a new life for himself in America, becoming a successful restaurateur in 1965 New York, taking an American wife, and having a daughter–and the effects on both Peter and his new family as they struggle with the memories of the family he lost and can never leave behind.

Thanks for asking–and I hope you stay tuned on Facebook, Twitter, and my website as more is revealed!

Thanks, Jenna, for sharing with us your thoughts on writing Those Who Save Us, your writing process, and your forthcoming novel. We cannot wait to read it.

Interview with Cie Cie Tuyet Nguyen, author of Shock Peace

29779824Today marks the 61st anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War (Nov. 1, 1955).  In honor of those who lived through that period in history and to those who died during the war, we’d like to welcome Cie Cie Tuyet Nguyen to talk about the war and a new book, Shock Peace: The Search for Freedom.

Please provide the author with a warm welcome:

How did you view the Vietnam War as a young refugee?

The Vietnam War was always the background of my memories. The images of war, death, and other atrocities were always somewhere—on the television, billboards, streets, classroom. I was considered luckier than most because I was a Saigon dweller, living in the capital city of Vietnam. Like most capital cities, it was well protected. I was comfortable in my family environment, surrounded by as much tranquillity and civilization affordable to us at that time. Of course, it was constricted. We were never carefree in our movements or enjoyments, as I was often reminded by the adults or by awful news on the television or radios, from explosions or the terrible number of deaths in a rural primary school or at a rowdy Saigon bar. Alternatively, the bad news could be brought about by a distraught relative banging on the door in the middle of the night telling us that her husband had just perished in action during his last battle.

I was not a refugee during the war, but I often saw an exodus of battered refugees running away from the battle zone or from a lost city when I was little. Politics were bewildering to me and my understanding of the Vietnam War was never clear back then. However, I loved my country and I always wished for peace. I hated the Vietcong who kept pushing for war because I could not have what I wanted.

My father lost his son during the Tet Offensive in 1968. He was my half brother and in his early twenties when he died. I was only five or six then. A grenade exploded in a bar when he was having a beer with his friends while on his short leave from duty. As a mere soldier trying to enjoy a few moments before going back to his bloody battle, fate was unkind to him.

It was funny how I remember clearly those sad times.

I remember standing in front of my gate looking out. There was black smoke and fire on the horizon where the dense population of blue-collar workers lived.

There were people running wildly on the streets, some covered in blood. They cried and screamed. Children and mothers clung to each other in terror. I was scared, but I still wished I could go out and play like on a normal Tet day, oblivious of the gunfire. At first, I thought it was firecrackers on New Year’s Eve, but it was real gunfire and my parents were so upset. Then we were ordered to go to bed without any usual ceremony of a Tet day. I yearned for New Year to be able to wear new clothes, to receive lucky money, or li xi, and eat festive food like banh tet, or rice cakes, and thit kho, or slow cooked pork in coconut juice and fish sauce. And I cried so hard because I knew that was impossible. It hurt so much, but no one noticed and no one paid any attention. And I cried in bed that night.

Then I was so disappointed when it was just gunfire, bombing, and people running on the streets the next day. There were no firecrackers, no smiling, no wishing of good luck and best of health or prosperity, and no laughter. Just crying and screaming. I only thought of my disappointment, and I did not care if the children were scared to death out there, away from their homes. It was very selfish of me, wasn’t it?

I was scared of the cruelty the Vietcong had brought to the city of Hue in the Tet Offensive in 1968. Almost every year when Tet was near, the ghastly documentary film showing the brutal execution of many people or mass graves of people being buried alive was a long lasting, horrifying image for me. However, I did not fully believe those atrocities were true or the ideology of communism was absurd. We as Southerners were gullible and ignorant to the real threat of the communists because we were happy where we were. The war did bother us a lot, but we had our freedom and ‘relative’ democracy.

I only became a refugee three years after the fall of Saigon when peace finally arrived. A peace that came without happiness, love and forgiveness, reconstruction and reunion. Instead, it brought despair, hatred and revenge, destruction and separation, nightmares, brutality and the lot, to us all.

I was not a refugee of war. On the contrary, I was a refugee of peace!

And how do you view it now?

In hindsight, I came to understand the Vietnam War better as an adult. In my opinion (albeit the opinion of a mere war survivor!), the Vietnam War was handled badly by our leaders, both from the Vietnamese and the allied armed forces. It was a political war, but it not dealt with in a politically correct way. We tried to solve the conflicts by force and destruction, showing off our mighty power. Unfortunately, the world did not allow us to create total chaos and therefore, it was applied half-heartedly. We were stopped midway many times because the cry for humanity is always stronger than the need for brutality. To win a war, one might have to be a total savage. I think that was the original idea, annihilation in the shortest time possible. Sadly, it extended longer than necessary and in the end that strategy was outdated.

The Vietcong was smarter. They manipulated their people skilfully and consciously. They were making sure that their people only had one single goal: southward to liberate the Southerners. The power of the mind was stronger in comparison to the power of force and destruction. The Communists insinuated hostility and resentment into the peasants’ unsophisticated minds, along with the concept of anti-landlordism, anti-capitalism and anti-Americanism. They led them into believing the fight was for equal rights and freedom from foreign oppression.

To many Southerners, the frustration of defending their border was enough to tire them of the war. At heart, we are a peaceful and fun-loving people, gentle and simple. The majority of the Southern population are farmers and peasants. Their fertile land and extensive, intricate system of rivers and dams easily provided plenty of rice, freshwater fish, and prawns for the whole country in the past and even in wartime.

The complications of politics and power struggles were not in their best interest, and most of the time they left it to the people of the north or central regions. They were content with their lifestyle. That was their biggest weakness.

The majority of the Southern peasants had limited education. Unfortunately some literate ones were given freedom of choice, albeit partially. Nevertheless, they still had some freedom of speech and exerted their influence on others. However, they did not understand the sophisticated information given to them, that or it was not explained. So it was easily confused by the misinterpretation of Communist infiltrators. The peasants thought they would have equal rights and share wealth if they were living in the communist system. On one side, the South’s sole purpose was to defend the homeland, and on the other side was to attack, to take over. The Northerners were fed limited, distorted news or biased truth and were totally ignorant of the outside world for the entire duration of the civil war. Ho Chi Minh and his Communist Party were successful in misleading their people and exerting a powerful determination to “liberate South Vietnam and reunify the country.”

That was stressed by the name chosen for their army: the National Liberation Front, which included many patriots from the South who volunteered to follow Ho Chi Minh to the North after the anti-French revolution and the Geneva Agreement in 1954.

We were poorly led. Our leaders did not use politics as skilfully as they did. We should have had some goal. If the South had initiated the advance toward the North and put forward the great cause of liberating the people from Communism, then perhaps we would have had a greater chance of winning. It was a pity the South did not use that possibility. They were content and prosperous in their own land. Perhaps their selfishness prevented them from thinking that, as they might have had to share their wealth with the North once it had become their responsibility.

Our fertile land and high standard of living might have failed us in this last war. We did not see the need to fight. However, it was the opposite for the North. Their standard of living was always poorer. They never had a staple diet from their own food supply but relied heavily on the South in the undivided country of the past. Ho Chi Minh and his party
members relentlessly pushed forward solely for the profitable gain they were going to reap once they got hold of the South. On the pretext of a noble mission, the Vietnamese Communist Party led the whole nation into ghastly, prolonged bloodshed and the transformation of the North into a poor, undeveloped, and backward country. Everything seemed to stop growing or flourishing since his leadership began in 1954.

Then, because of the guerrilla fighting and the demoralisation of the GIs, the antiwar activists used this extensively and artfully in their campaigns. Obviously, they had won over the confidence of a small proportion of the South population, the U.S. citizens, and congressmen as well as the rest of the world over the prolonged period of fighting. Thus the cry for peace was louder than the real threat of communism, and so they had to give up! The troops had to leave us without help and support.

Pessimism was only made worse by the evacuation operations from the U.S. embassy. An act that seemed helpful and humane from their point of view, but in reality, it destroyed the spirit of all the Southerners. They were lifting Vietnamese civilians among their citizens. Then, everyone wanted to be safe, to get away from this war zone, to arrive at a peaceful destination. Then, no one wanted to fight anymore. Why fight if you are the only one left standing? Why fight if they see a hope of leaving all this horror behind? Who can blame them?

Many of them just wanted to return home to take care of their families and to be rescued by the U.S. embassy. Being safe and away from the danger zone suddenly became the priority, rather than the urgency of defending the last frontiers of the South.

Without a backward glance, the Americans left in haste and in doing so created a vacuum for the Vietcong to easily take over Vietnam. We were poorly prepared by our leaders and we surrendered because we had had no moral support. Our leaders left us high and dry!

What were the most shocking results of the war for you?

Strangely, I had a real shock with the arrival of peace. Everything was taken away swiftly. Freedom, prosperity and dignity were destroyed and replaced with oppression, poverty, degradation, and revenge that left peace a lonely part in my peculiar jigsaw puzzle, like a pitiful hostess in an empty house full of ghosts. I could not understand it at all. Without realizing it, what I had wished for dearly had obliterated everything I valued most.

However, from my understanding of it now, the death of two million civilians, more than one million Northern troops and a quarter of a million South Vietnamese combatants, was also shocking.

What advice would you give government leaders about current conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere?

Oh dear! I really would like to answer this question very much if I were a war expert or had chosen politics as a subject in my career! I am a mere pharmacist who has gone through a troubled childhood in a war torn country and a refugee who had survived the challenges of rising from nothingness. I do not think I have any confidence to discuss that topic.

However, speaking from my humble views about the American involvement in Vietnam back in the 70s, I would say that in any conflicts between a mighty and a mousy party, the latter is usually in favour of the public. People always seem to lean toward a weaker group. Their chivalrous inclination is to protect the mousy one and condemn the mighty, especially the younger and radical groups. The Vietcong used that concept exclusively in their war. They always tried to appear humble and bullied. Similarly, that is how I think the terrorists gain ground with sympathisers.

I believe in natural evolution. The Darwinism theory of biological evolution developed by the English naturalist Charles Darwin states that all species of organisms rise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual’s ability to compete, survive, and reproduce. Social and religious evolutions are very similar. However, those evolutions can only happen if information is available to feed enough fuel for change. People can only differentiate living conditions, science, and mythology by education. Ignorance is dangerous. Outdated social or religious rules would eventually be destroyed over time with enough information, same as outdated ideology. Whether we are patient enough to wait for it happen naturally or force it by violence is the cause of war.

How has your experience as a refugee of war impacted your life for the better?

I remember how we could laugh and cry at the same time. With stoic endurance and a strong will to survive, I think the human race could manage to go through any crisis in their life as long as they refuse to give up.

What do you want Americans to know about the Vietnam War and their government’s involvement?

The Americans got involved out of the kindness of their hearts, but they put their people into our war needlessly. They should have only provided help and advice without actually sending their troops onto our land. Their presence gave the Vietnamese Communists a strong motivation for their war, the noble thrust of patriotism in their people’s hearts to throw the Americans off our land and regain independence. They won because of that too, I think.

With skillful propaganda, the Communists formed resistant guerrilla units scattered throughout the length of Vietnam that brought havoc and vexation to the Americans and the South Vietnamese Army into terrorist combat. The horror and dread of not knowing who were friends or foes in the guerrilla war was enough to discourage many of the Vietnamese soldiers and U.S. GIs.

The cultural differences were barriers that prevented comradeship between the armed forces personnel and the civilians, I think. I remember the adults were always referring to the Americans in an objectionable term.

I remember being wary of the Americans, too. We, ‘decent girls,’ did not want to have anything to do with them. The Western culture was a hundred miles away in contrast to mine. My minimal knowledge and understanding did not help. The Southerners did not hate them as the Northerners were taught to, but we were not pleased at their presence. It seemed to me they were destroying women’s dignity by disregarding our Oriental culture. Perhaps part of it was the stigma the U.S. GIs thrust upon us by giving rise to prostitution and wild nightlife, which lead to children born in neglect between them and the Vietnamese women.

I cannot thank them enough for their involvement and help and I feel deeply for their losses; more than fifty-eight thousand members of the U.S. armed forces were dead or missing. I understand the anger and frustration of families who had lost their fathers, brothers, and sons. My heart goes out to every mother who suffered. I empathise with the
post-traumatic syndromes of the Vietnam War veterans, as well as the terrible ordeals disabled veterans have to face in their daily lives. I apologise for the barbaric treatment of the Vietcong upon the Americans in captivity and their backward hostility in dealing with missing in action American GIs. And I wish there were not a needless war that lasted too long!

However, the American’s presence in the Vietnam War demoralized the Southerners’ spirit and cause.

headshotAbout the Author:

CieCie Tuyet Nguyen was born in Saigon and witnessed its fall in 1975 when she was 13-years- old. After continuing to live there for three years under the communist regime, she escaped with her family by boat to Malaysia in 1978. After staying in a Pulau Besar Refugee camp for three months, she resettled in Sydney, Australia, where she has remained ever since. She graduated with a bachelor of pharmacy in 1985 from Sydney University and has operated her own pharmacy since 1989. Nguyen has self- published two short stories and memoirs in Vietnamese, one in 2011 and one in 2016. Shock Peace: The Search for Freedom is her first novel.

For more information about Shock Peace: The Search for Freedom, please visit Nguyen’s website or Facebook page.

Interview With Filmmaker Maxine Pugh and Info About the ‘Flanders Fields Miracle’ Kickstarter Campaign

Maxine Pugh is a screenplay ghostwriter who recently branched out and started writing her own personal projects. “Raison D’etre” her feature screenplay won Best Romantic Comedy and Best Special Mention awards in the Monaco Film Festival-Angel Film Awards in December 2011. She also produced a short documentary on the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and recently finished her directing debut on a dramatic short film, “Was My Whole Life Wrong…” which will make its premiere at the Festival de Cannes–Short Films Corner in May 2012.

Maxine is looking to raise money to produce a film about the Christmas Truce of 1914 and launched a kickstarter campaign, but soon found a corporate sponsor for her now documentary film on WWI veterans.  She’s now working with a corporate sponsor interested in matching any funds she raises and will be working on a crowd funding projected to finance the film.

Here’s more information about “Flanders Fields Miracle:” Christmas Eve 1914 on the WW1 Western Front in Ypres, Belgium, fierce battles were being fought from inside frozen, muddy, rat-infested, barded wire trenches. German soldiers did the unimaginable, they called an unofficial temporary truce and celebrated Christmas together with their enemies… as friends.

War Through the Generations had the opportunity to interview Maxine about the film and the campaign.

War Through the Generations focuses on WWI this year, but each year the blog focuses on a different war. How did you come across WTTG?

I was doing research on all things related to WW1 when I came across your site.

And what inspired you to reach out to us about your film project?

I was awed by the editors writing, the fun activities, and the knowledgable readers who post on your site. I believe you’re my target audience and that you’d embrace my film.

War Horse is just one successful WWI movie that comes to mind. What inspired you to look into making a movie about the Christmas Truce of 1914 for Flanders Fields Miracle?

Last year I decided that I wanted to work on an inspirational project that had international appeal. I really wanted to stretch myself, so I set about doing research to find a topic that spoke to me. When I came across the Christmas Truce, it stopped me in my tracks and brought me to tears. I knew instantly that I had to tell this story.

Do you think WWI is a war that is not depicted enough in film, why or why not?

Not only is it not depicted enough in film but we learn very little about it in school. When I speak to my friends and family they all know about WW11 but you ask them about WW1 and they go vague. Maybe it’s because it was so long ago that it’s just fallen off our radar.

How much will be going to pay actors, etc. (if you don’t mind divulging).

With a $40,000.00 budget, there will certainly be no Hollywood salaries on this project. The principal crew and actors will be paid a flat salary of $500.00. We’ll also have four interns onboard. All the pre-production work was done without pay. We’ll be purchasing historical footage and fight scenes which will enable us to keep the costs down. The bulk of the money we raise will go into making a wonderful film that looks good, screenings, and getting the word out to the masses. BTW the film will be shot in B&W.

What are your goals in the making of this film?

We want to honor these men by keeping their memories alive.

Filmmaking these days requires a lot of capital, especially if you are not backed by the Hollywood establishment. How successful do you feel you can be in making a film of this nature without the backing of Hollywood and what would be the drawbacks of having Hollywood money behind the film?

We wholeheartedly believe we’re working on a successful award-winning project. Along the way we’ll pick up a PR firm – hopefully pro bono – to get us press and garner interest in our film. And once we get the word out there we truly believe we’ll be able to get Hollywood onboard with distribution. We’d love to have Hollywood money right now, but finding it could take a long time and our film could no doubt end up becoming a totally different, bigger, movie than the one we want to tell.

Tell us a little bit about how you got involved in filmmaking. Was it a lifelong dream?

I started off thinking I’d work in finance, but then I interned at a company where one of the senior partners funded a movie, and I was instantly hooked on the movie making process. I’ve worked in Hollywood as a marketing manager, publicist, agent, and screenplay ghostwriter. Recently I directed my first dramatic short film, “Was My Whole Life Wrong…” which will make its premiere May 2012 at the Festival de Cannes–Short Films Corner.

What types of subjects interest you most when deciding to work on a film?

I like subjects with international appeal. I’m really happy when I can tell the story of an everyday woman or man overcoming obstacles and prevailing. I thrive on heartwarming stories like the Christmas Truce, that show humanity at its best.

This sounds like a worthwhile project! We wish Maxine all the best, and we hope you’ll keep your eyes out for her documentary in the future.

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