In a few weeks, a team of Colorado Springs filmmakers will bring together a group of World War II survivors to watch a documentary about their war experiences and to meet one another for the first time. What makes the event extraordinary besides the fact that the film will air on Rocky Mountain PBS this Thursday is that the men flew bombers in the conflict, and the women lived in cities that were bombed.
"How it's all going to go on that night when we get together, there's no way I can prepare anybody," says Patty Butler Spiers, producer of Bomber's Moon: Girls Beneath the Bombs. "But knowing each one of them and the tenderness in their hearts for everyone who went through the war, I think it could lead to lasting friendships."
It isn't a prediction that Spiers might have made five years ago, when she and director Richard Randall formed a nonprofit, From Mists of Time, dedicated to recording and preserving historical stories, such as those of WWII veterans like Spiers' own father.
"Richard and I were interviewing a guy who was sitting under the wing of a B-17 ... and he was talking about how his plane went down, when all of a sudden this woman came into the frame and said, 'Sir, did you bomb Lbeck?'" Spiers remembers.
"It all surged out of her," she adds, "and that was really the beginning."
They soon learned the woman, named Silke, had been a 10-year-old girl living in Germany during the war. She consented to an interview. And, with their eyes opened, the filmmakers began discovering other women who had survived air raids in Austria, England, Germany and Japan.
"I met Anne in Hobby Lobby, and I met Clara in Walgreens," says Randall. "She was in line in front of me and she looked about the right age, and when she said, 'Thank you,' I heard this accent."
As they amassed more stories, they realized they had a unique tale. Adding the men's accounts was a risky idea, but Randall and Spiers knew it was right.
"You can't have girls on the ground getting bombed without them giving some thought to the guys who are dropping the bombs," Randall says. "And once they talk about that, how could you not hear from these men and wonder what they would think of the people on the ground?"
Randall and Spiers both of whom have experience in TV and radio successfully pitched the idea to PBS. With the help of co-producer Michele Strilich and editor Josh Keffer, they wove the interviews together into their first completed documentary.
The film raises some challenging questions, ones that Randall says they tried to handle with care, while letting viewers consider the answers on their own.
"If you're a little girl and the Germans come and bomb you, or the Americans come and bomb you, or the British come and bomb you, do you forgive them? Do you hate them? How do you view one another?"
While the film is an accomplishment they're proud of, Spiers and Randall are looking ahead; many of their 300 interviews went unused.
"If Patty were to be honest with you, she would tell you that somewhere lurking in the back of her mind is a part two," says Randall, smiling.
Says Spiers: "Oh, there's no doubt."