15 December 2016 | rmcan2
Director Mark Cowen's Description of the Interviews as Given to Filmmaking Class
In 2012, I took a filmmaking class with Mark Cowen, who directed the Emmy nominated, "We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company".
During the class, he described to us what it was like interviewing the veterans of Easy Company. In order to get access to these men, he had to go through the "Biggest Brother", Major Richard "Dick" Winters. Mark said that, even after so many years, Major Winters still commanded the respect of his troops and that they would do what he asked. Major Winters got on the phone and made some calls that went something like this, "This is Winters. I'm sending a man over to interview you. I want you to tell him everything he wants to know" or words to that effect. Mark said that this is the only way he could have gotten access to them and for them to tell their stories for these interviews.
Mark faced a difficult problem before any of the interviews started. How could he make them "open up" to his questions and speak freely about these often painful experiences and memories? He couldn't just go in and say, "Can you tell me what you did during the war". Knowing that these men wouldn't want to talk about themselves he came up with an idea which worked very well. He started each interview by asking, "Who was your best friend during the war? What was he like?" That is how he got these brave men to speak freely and express themselves as openly as they did on camera.
Many of the men Mark interviewed had never told anyone about their combat experiences during the war, not even their families. While relating some of their stories, the brave veterans would sometimes break down and cry. Mark told us he often found himself crying along with them. During one of the interviews, an old veteran slowly came out and sat down. He started speaking about the war and his time with Easy Company. As the camera rolled and the interview progressed, Mark could hear this veteran's family come up from behind to watch and listen to their loved one relate stories of bravery, of death, of friendship and of pain, which they had never heard. When he finished the interview, Mark turned to find not only the veteran's family but also a lot of their neighbors standing there. Some were weeping quietly while others struggled to restrain from sobbing. Scenes like this became common during the interviews he did with these brave, old warriors.
I often think of what Mark Cowen told us that day about his interview for, "We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company". I wanted to get together with him again to hear more about these interviews but sadly, he passed away shortly thereafter, on September 10, 2012.