Boer War Page 44

Program Innovations 3: The Great Anglo-Boer War

Film Making Behind the Scenes: Program Innovations - To try to make their television programs more interesting for the viewer, the best filmmakers are constantly trying to create new elements and approaches in storytelling so that their programs will have more appeal for television watchers. Below are some ways we have departed from the standard conventions of documentary creation and introduced new techniques.


"The Great Anglo-Boer War: the Canadian Experience"


Innovation 10 - We wanted to intensify the feel for the Boer War era by enhancing the audio sound track of our program with the actual music and songs of the time.

The Standard: Most history programs use bursts of synthesizer music; others use synthesizer music wall to wall. On rare occasions a period tune might be created by the synth musician.

We Feature the Sounds of 1900: This rare piece of antique sheet music from 1900, features the opening theme song of our program, "Goodbye Dolly Gray" which was the most common song played on Canadian Gramophones as Canadians sent their sons off to Africa. The singer is Canadian Harry Macdonough on a recording from 1901.

He also sings "Where is My Wandering Boy Tonight." We play this recording over the shocking Canadian losses at the Battle of Paardeberg, and over the closing credits of each program, as a fitting reminder that family life is the ultimate casualty of war.

Our Approach: We crafted our sound track almost entirely with instrumentation of "acoustic" instead of modern "synthesized" music, using orchestral compositions featuring instruments of the time: the cello, viola, violin, English horn, piano, harmonica, concertina, as well as the bugle.

We also researched and discovered actual 100 year old recordings at the Canadian Archives, the exact recordings which were listened to in Boer War times, by soldiers at the front and people at home.

We selected some 20 of these early Gramophone recordings to enhance certain scenes in the sound track. (40 are featured on our Museum.)

These are Canada's very first recordings and feature Canada's earliest recording artists.

We have used these period recordings to underlie the Canadian sections.

British marches and pipes are used in the generic British sections. The Boers are represented by their favourite instrument, the accordion/concertina. Dramatic developments are underscored with the viola, cello, violin, English horn, and bugle.

Feedback: #8: Mississauga, ON - "Episode II is great. The quantum of information and knowledge is exceptional. The story flow is so smooth that makes us feel like we're living through the Boer War time. Calling this a war? I think it is the story of courage, a fight for freedom and innovations to survive."

Feedback: #1: Bainsville, ON - "I must admit that History was never one of my favorite subjects. However after seeing The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Experience program that has changed!

I am looking forward to the second show in the series.

I must congratulate Goldi Productions for their outstanding effort in bringing Quality "Reality" programming. One cannot get any more real than what happened in South Africa!"

Feedback: #25: Oakville, ON - "Please. Your show was just fabulous!"
Innovation 11 - We wanted to create the best web site ever to accompany a television documentary anywhere in the world, so that viewers could get far more information on the life and times of the people dealt with in our program, and to extend the life and reach of the television program far beyond the extremely small time frame allowed by a broadcast.

The Standard: Small, minimal, short-lived, or non-existent web sites.

Most history programs do not have supporting web sites. Those who do, use only small pictures and use few of them. Most just publish pages and pages of print. And the sites are not around very long. (At left is a typical small web image, the only picture of television superstar historian Michael Wood on the PBS site advertising his epic programs "In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great", and "The Trojan War.")

A Glorious Web Site: Through the efforts of the Canadian Boer War Museum, this huge 20 x 24", extremely rare, full-figure, antique tempera painting of a western Canadian Boer War veteran has been preserved in its fabulous Victorian oak frame. It is probably the only such Anglo-Boer War portrait to survive. (detail)

Our Approach: A ground-breaking web site - which has won praise from history junkies and web surfers around the world - featuring hundreds of large and lavish pictorials.

To complement our documentary, we have created "The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum". At present the site contains well over 1,000 huge pictures displayed on over 60 pages.

It too is a break with tradition. It is the most extensive and most lavishly illustrated web site ever to accompany a television documentary anywhere in the world, blazing a trail of audio visual web communications that other television producers (not to mention museums) are sure to follow.

But far from being only a picture gallery, the Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum offers a lavish smorgasbord of interesting highlights of Anglo-Boer War history, dished out in hundreds of riveting educational packets certain to entice the general viewer. And unlike most history program sites - which flourish briefly, then atrophy, or die - the Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum is constantly changing, updating, and expanding its pages.

In the process it has become a major force in preserving important items of Canadian historical memorabilia; only two examples - rescuing Edwin McCormick's Boer War bugle from oblivion, and reclaiming the fabulous Otto Moody Collection of Anglo-Boer War memorabilia for Canada.

Through the efforts of the Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum, the equipment that Canadian trooper Otto Moody used during the Anglo-Boer War, as well as photographs, and over 20 letters that he wrote from the front, were repatriated to Canada, just as they were on the verge of being broken up and sent to collectors in England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the US.

The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum will continue this work, which involves locating, restoring, and saving, rare lithographs, memorabilia, and personal effects related to:

"The Great Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902: the Canadian Experience"

Proudly, A Museum Trend-setter

We note with pride that, following our lead, other web sites for museums have been set up to get away from the "hand-out brochure" format that museums had, previously, almost unanimously, imitated in their web sites, as minimal and simple adjuncts to advertise their bricks and mortar facility.

And most museums had univerally turned their web sites over to "jazzy computer fiends" to make them the last word in technical wizzardry on the net. The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum chose to differ.

Right from the beginning we turned our web site over to "educational subject experts" who created educational modules instead of "corporate flash and dash." So we are proud to see museums drifting - slowly but surely - towards the web site model pioneered by the Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum.

Around the world more museums are now opting to publish the "educational content modules" tied to illustrating their collections, and connecting them with stories, a technique which we pioneered so strongly and lavishly on our website.

Feedback: #39: Toronto, ON - "I must say it's a most impressive accomplishment. Very few web sites anywhere can match the level of picture and informational complexity to be found in yours ."

But at the present rate of expansion, it will be many years before these internet museums match the size and complexity of the educational and pictorial content of The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum. Many museums are still preoccupied with "gathering up existing links," rather than creating original educational programming, which is the body and soul of "The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum."

During the World Television Premiere of "The Great Anglo-Boer War: The Canadian Experience," in June, 2002, our complementary "The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum" is still, by far, the biggest and most lavishly illustrated internet museum in the world.

We welcome calls to correct us when this is no longer so.

Feedback: # 34: Little Ferry, NJ, USA - "I just had to call to say what an amazingly terrific site you have. I've never seen anything so nicely done - and I've seen a lot!.... Please send me a set of your programs. I haven't seen them yet, but they've got to be good!"
Feedback: # 38: Queensland, Australia - "I have just come across your excellent web site on the Boer War, and no doubt like many more before me, have been greatly impressed by it. I found your site most interesting. You mention that there are four videos available on this: The Great Anglo Boer War: The Canadian Experience, and I would very much like to order them."

Feedback: # 46: London, United Kingdom - "I've now had a good trawl through your Boer War website - it's an absolutely splendid site. I'm most impressed by not only its contents and how they are displayed but also the ease with which they can be accessed."

Feedback: # 49: Boise, Idaho, USA - "I just love your website! I spent some extra time on your site and WOW, you guys are into some really cool stuff! You seem to love life .... and that's GREAT!!"
Feedback: #31: Toronto, ON - "Congratulations on an amazing website and documentary."
Feedback: # 50: Adelaide, Australia - "Please let me congratulate you on your web site. It is extremely viewer friendly."
Feedback: # 45: Pretoria, Republic South Africa - "I was visiting your website and have to congratulate you on an excellent site."
Feedback: # 27: London, United Kingdom - "I was very impressed with the Boer War information - interesting pieces of information, well presented."
Feedback: # 42: Glasgow, Scotland - "A most interesting web site."
Feedback: # 48: Clinton, ON - "WOW is right! What a great web site and wonderful show that you have put together."
Feedback: # 51: Houston, Texas, USA - "What a grand job."
Feedback: #53: Toronto, ON - "Much enjoyed visiting your terrific & very colourful website."
Innovation 12 - We wanted to give a balanced perspective on the Great Anglo-Boer War by including more "voices of the enemy" than is customary in a normal history documentary.
The Standard: Most history programs are still made from a perspective that reflects respect for the viewpoint of the funding country. Documentaries made by the descendants of the "Allied" side in World Wars I and II, feature experts and viewpoints drawn almost exclusively from their own side of the battles, atrocities, etc. The odd Japanese and German expert, or reminiscence, creeps in here and there, one suspects more because of funding requirements by overseas broadcasters than from any sense to right the historical balance. The vast majority remain committedly - probably deliberately "one-sided." It is still just too raw to do it any other way for this generation.

The Boer Perspective: "How can you be so cruel?" pleaded Aunt Alida van de Pol (in rare Dullstroom photo, above) as Canadian Artillery Lieutenant Edward Morrison (below), conducted burning operations in Dullstroom, which would destroy her family's home and mill. Replied Morrison, "It is our duty." Our dogged research has unearthed rare photos of the occasion, in Dullstroom, South Africa, showing human beings on both sides consumed by the dogs of war. Below, Aunt Alida's home before, and after, the visit of the Canadians. Morrison's detailed account of the occasion is a featured voice in our program.

Our Approach: Rather than crafting another customary "patriotic" program, we decided that we would examine the human story behind "The Great Anglo-Boer War."

Our sub-title "The Canadian Experience" was the viewpoint we used for much of the close-up and personal experiences - both good and bad - in which Canadians took part. The Canadian quotes we used could just as easily and validly have come from the diaries of Scottish, Irish, English, Australian, New Zealander and South African soldiers' diaries.

Because we were unhappy with the slant taken by foreign historians and producers, we - as publicizers of a Canadian heritage no one had ever heard of - had no axe to grind or historical past to defend. We therefore came to focus - we believe correctly - on the victims of war, on all sides. In doing so, we focused much more on the Boers of the South African War, giving their side what we believe an unprecedented voice in a documentary on the Boer War.

War documentaries have always dealt with who did what to whom - much of it bad of course - covering the heroic deeds of our soldiers, the technology that was used, etc., and how our side suffered terrible losses resulting in sacrifices that should be remembered. This is all quite legitimate and we do the same in our program.

But we have extended the same consideration, for the losses incurred by the enemy side, by featuring experts who wear their hearts on their sleeves, on behalf of the Boer civilian victims of this ghastly war.

Some might say "Let the Boers pay to put their own story on television." We say "The Canadian Experience" included victims on both sides and this is a legitimate concern of a documentary of the most multi-cultural country in the world whose citizens today includes tens of thousands of descendants of those Boer victims of so long ago. They came to Canada with this burden from their past and which we now feature properly as part of their - the Canadian Boers - "Canadian Experience."

In the last analysis, war is unacceptable. It creates only victims, children, women, and men, of all races, and religions. And no victory can ever recover these losses.

The Great Anglo-Boer War was no different. British General Buller was as much detested by the British Establishment for his refusal to make aggressive war against the Boers, as he was beloved by his men, who knew he held their lives sacred above all else.

He was replaced by Lord Roberts who lost his only son "Freddy". Canadian Minister of Militia Frederick Borden lost his only son Harold. Boer General de la Rey lost his eldest son, Adriaan. Once could go on .... Lord Roberts, writing to his wife, expressed it best for all of them:

"The rent in my heart seems to stifle all feelings ..... I could not help thinking how different it would have been if our dear boy had been with me. Honors, rewards and congratulations have no value to me...."

Feedback: #14: Montreal, PQ - "Congratulations on such a wonderful job covering a difficult subject."
Feedback: #26: Vancouver, BC: - "The approach is excellent. You had the Canadian perspective to work from, but you avoided the propaganda pitfalls, by reporting on the events and high lighting from both sides.

I have seen commentaries from so-called historians that clung to the wartime propaganda in Britain and Canada, and hold a total disregard for the existence and execution of the Scorched Earth tactics.

Thank you for succeeding in my view, to report on, and providing editorial freedom, to tell the history on one of the many human tragedies of our times.."

Feedback: #19: Ajax, ON - "Well, another really interesting and I must say, emotional episode. I cannot believe the amount of research that went into this project! How does one get, the accumulation of family descendants, their pictures, and their stories along with all the original film footage? Great job!"

Feedback: #10: Vancouver, BC - "As a direct descendent of the Boers from the Transvaal and now living in Vancouver and a Canadian, I am impressed with the series."

Innovation 13 - We had to find new, effective, and affordable ways to promote our program.

This space is in memory of all struggling filmmakers who cannot afford to promote their shows.The Standard: Most filmmakers cannot afford to promote their programs. They put so much money into making their shows, they have nothing left for promotion, let alone to pay for food, clothing, or rent....... They can only dream of ever finding some of President Kruger's lost gold hoard to help pay for publicity. (Left a rare 1 pound Gold Rand from 1899)

The very wealthy, privileged filmmakers, with budgets funded by the big broadcasters, have multi-thousands set aside to print and mail out thousands of expensive colour postcards to promote their programs.

Our Narrator

Linden MacIntyre, Canada's most respected voice in broadcasting, and the multiple Gemini award-winning anchor journalist of CBC's 5th Estate, offers a gripping narration for this feature Canadian heritage series. "It's just an excellent script! I wouldn't have done it if it wasn't. I started reading and couldn't put it down until I had read the whole thing for all four hours."

Ambush Email: This picture and caption clip, was one of dozens we designed into promotional flyers we sent successfully quite secretly, by email in a way to ensnare and intrigue even the wariest "Spam Killers" on the internet.

Our Approach: Because our program was low-budget, and was heavily supported by funding from our savings, we had to innovate in the promotions department. Even though our show was a major Canadian series by any standard - in length, in originality of story, in importance, in creativity, in craftsmanship, in innovation - we could simply not afford to send out the expensive flyers and postcards our show deserved.

Again we had to innovate and came up with another first, which we call "Ambush Email."

In the last few years, email has become the most widespread way to promote any and all things in the internet world of e-commerce - billions of words daily, selling everything under the sun.

But not film and television programming.

With the exception of a solitary email, every year or so, from a lone producer, begging with a few lines to "Please go see my film," no one had ever harnessed the power of email to promote television programming.

We decided to change that. But how? There were lots of problems. Like "Spam" and "Spam Killers." It seemed hopeless.

Everyone hates email advertising (Spam), and deletes it after reading only a line or two (Spam Killers). Result - promo fails.

Solution: send pictures instead, to intrigue the email receiver to look - and read - on. But pictures are always sent as "attachments." Attachments are notorious for carrying viruses into a computer. People routinely delete emails carrying "attachment flags", without even opening them at all! Result - promo fails again.

We had to overcome these two problems. We decided on a technique which we now call "Ambush Email," that is, get an email with pictures to recipients, and get them to open the email without being warned of "picture attachments."

We had been receiving a growing number of emails - spam - which contained gifs, and moving gifs, then even the odd jpeg. We decided to learn from spam. Spam had taught us that the technology was there, for ambushing the unsuspecting, with pictures, and to do it without flagging them with the "attachment" icon.

The problem: one small picture is not really "effective promotion." Result - Promotion fails again.

If you sent more than one small picture, your email would be huge and annoying. Result - Promotion fails again.

We decided to harness our web site, and instead of sending pictures, would invite people to click the link to our web site. But few people who are sent links to web sites will click them. Result - Promotion fails again.

We had to get around the viewer choosing not to make the link. It would have to be done automatically....

And the rest, they say, is .....Ambush Email....

We now send the email with pictures embedded in html files, and automatically set to trigger the link to our web site the minute the mail is opened. The email arrives - without attachment icons - and automatically starts showing many pictures and moving gifs in a highly promotional and intriguing way, accompanied by tantalizing text, designed to draw in the most skeptical of "Spam Killers."

The viewer, opening his/her morning email, is caught completely unawares, only has to click the mail open, and then is helpless, and has to do nothing more than sit back hopelessly entranced to enjoy the Ambush Email. We even embedded music from our program sound track to play automatically and lull the viewer into a pleasurable experience.....

Ambush Email can be sent to millions, instantly, and costs nothing, once it's designed.

We are certain television broadcasters and producers are already thinking of ways to use our innovative 21st century technique, to promote their next television program or series.

You may see our innovative Ambush Emails as they appeared in people's emails by going to Promo Pages 53 to 57.

Feedback: #5: Oakville: - "I don't know him, but I must say your narrator is absolutely first rate!"
Feedback: #7: Mississauga, ON - "Hello. This is the best email that I have ever received. Well done!"
Feedback: #18: Toronto, ON: - "I love when I see an e-mail from you....problem is I am at work and can't take the time to go through everything. Would it be possible for you to send to my home as well???? My e-mail address is - - I look forward to hearing from you....please keep sending them to our office....many thanks....."
Feedback: #23: Paris, ON - "Thanks for your emails. They're just amazing!"

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000