Smithsonian Channel’s David Royle (pictured, left) and 1895 Films’ Tom Jennings (right) are embarking on another archive-based doc that will follow-up their recent Peabody-winning documentary MLK: The Assassination Tapes – this time examining the events of September 11, 2001.
Premiering this September, 9-11: The Heartland Tapes aims to accomplish what Jennings set out to do with the Martin Luther King project and The Lost JFK Tapes: The Assassination. Through the use of rare archive, each doc presents landmark historical events in a way that, according to Jennings, should make viewers feel like they’re experiencing them for the first time.
“We’re particularly proud because of how it came about,” says Jennings about the 9-11 project. “We told the network it couldn’t be done because the whole point is [for the content] to feel brand new [but] we came up with a way.”
In the case of the 9-11 doc, Jennings wanted to show the events of September 11th through the eyes of people who watched them unfold on television, outside of the widely reported cities of New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania.
The project, currently in the picture lock stage, uses local radio and television reports, air traffic control recordings, and first-responder calls from small towns and cities in the American Midwest, as well as Gander, Newfoundland, where many flights were grounded after the attacks.
As they had done with the previous two docs, Jennings and team combined the stills, audio and footage collected to create a dramatic film without any narration or interviews. Jennings and Royle discussed the process of crafting compelling documentary out of archive during a case study at MIPDoc, moderated by Peter Hamilton, which focused on the MLK project.
“MLK just won a Peabody and that’s a big deal for us,” says Jennings. “But I’m most proud of 9-11. It’s the hardest one to do.”
9-11: The Heartland Tapes is produced by Jennings, with Royle and Charles Poe serving as executive producers for Smithsonian Channel.