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Posted on Feb 25, 2006 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features

Band of Brothers – A Few Nostalgic Words and a Photographic Retrospective

By Roach

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Having read through recent posts and articles on ACG’s very own talented staff photographer, Seimon Pugh-Jones, I found myself swept up in a wave of nostalgia regarding my favourite period in military history and promptly started going through the old photo albums in dusty boxes and even on dusty hard drives – well, digitally cluttered at least. Familiar faces and familiar moments were rediscovered with fondness, and eventually I came across the collection of photos taken whilst working on the brilliant Spielberg/Hanks collaboration, Band of Brothers. I then made the mistake of mentioning my re-discovery to the Military History Editor of the ACG website, who insisted that I produce a piece on the topic forthwith or be condemned to latrine duty for the next 10 years. Sometimes, it is difficult to refuse an offer that you aren’t intended to refuse. And so…

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Having previously worked on the last Spielberg WW2 blockbuster, Saving Private Ryan, the ‘phone call giving me the opportunity to reprise my own humble role in the film making process for another WW2 extravaganza was more than welcome. The hours are necessarily long, but the pay is good and, at the end of the day, I was again going to be paid for doing something that I did for a hobby anyway – playing with GI gear in what was tantamount to a webbing wonderland!

As a former re-enactor, I’d been wearing and using GI equipment for more years than I would like to admit to, but this did give me the skills that were uniquely required for the job, i.e., I knew how the equipment fitted together, how it was worn, and most importantly of all, how it was supposed to look. And believe me, the ‘look’ is all-important; it is very easy to see from a casual glance through many re-enactor websites, or by ambling around military shows that many people who purport to, and perhaps ought to know better, do not.

It is all too easy to put on equipment the wrong way, and the net result can be a very bad ‘look’. Straps too tight or too loose, belts too high or too low, badly adjusted helmet liners that leave the wearer looking like a full-face masked Darth Vader, or at the other end of the scale, something akin to a helmet balancing act.

All very straightforward you would think – and up to a point it is. But in the movie business where things have to be done quickly and usually at the first attempt, there is a strong temptation born of urgency for someone who doesn’t really know what they are trying to achieve to say “yeah, that will do” and send a guy out on the set looking like something that has been repeatedly dragged through the proverbial hedge – and possibly mauled by a Tiger (organic or inorganic) in the process!

So much better then that that people doing the job know exactly what they are doing in the first place. If time or the lack thereof forces them to say “that will do” then the chances are that it really will do. That’s part of the reasoning anyway, and in my ever so humble opinion, I would say definitely the right one – especially as such reasoning scored me a gig on another landmark feature production!

Click the thumbails for larger pictures…

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Alan Hausmann – Webbing’s Mr Big –
gets down to some serious paperwork…

The actual ‘gig’ was virtually identical to my previous big movie experience in SPR, working in the webbing department of the wardrobe/costume side of things. Heading the webbing show on Band of Brothers was one Alan Hausmann who I have known for several years, and who appears in Episode 7 of Band of Brothers alongside ACG’s Seimon Pugh Jones as part of the camera team interviewing the troops.

I got a call from Al, one day, out of the blue more or less, and when that happens, you are never really quite certain what to expect. You pick up the phone and you hear those few quietly spoken words of introduction: “Steve, it’s Al here” and you never quite know whether you ought to hide or take your chances and listen to the rest of the conversation; not that Al is scary, it’s just that he’s… well… Al. In this instance, of course, it was to offer me a job. An opportunity to work on the next big thing – was I interested? Heck, thought I, what time do you want me to deliver my first-born to you?

As it turned out Al wasn’t at all interested in my first born, merely my ability to make someone look good in webbing or, for that matter, look good in that collection of various bits and pieces that somehow manage to fit together in what is the German equivalent. Naturally, I answered in the affirmative and that I would be only too pleased to answer the call of duty, and thus spent the next few months developing a severe case of webber’s thumb!

[continued on next page]

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