RM: Have you heard from any of the family members of fliers covered in your film?
JG: I have heard from a few, yes, including a Boelcke that lives here in the USA. I have received a lot of letters from relatives of fliers not covered in my film: “My grandfather served in the air service; can you tell me anything about this picture … ” I got a good number of letters like that. In several instances, I have put the question to the good people at theaerodrom.com. Lots of experts over there.
RM: Some chapters of GWITA focused on noteworthy airplanes. What are your favorite airplanes of World War I?
JG: Mostly fighters: My all-time favorite warbird is the Spad XIII. I just love the way those things look, beefy and warlike. I dig the Sopwith family of fighters too—the Pup, Camel and Snipe. These were no-nonsense machines and the progression from the prewar Sopwith Tabloid to the Snipe is tremendous. The German Albatross is beautiful too; its lines are so sleek and businesslike.
RM: What is your favorite World War I aviation film?
JG: The Blue Max. John Guillerman did a great job of bringing a fabulous book to the screen. As a kid, this was the first World War I flying movie I’d ever seen. I had already started reading about this stuff, and from the very first moments of this film my eyes were simply glued to the TV screen. Early in the movie, when Stachal makes his first flight in the Pfaltz, when we see those great camera angles of the ailerons and flaps moving … those were powerful images that left a lasting impression in my mind.
Best of all is its superior story. The conflicts take place within the squadron, amongst the characters. The fact that it’s set against the backdrop of World War I aviation is great, but it’s the story of Stachal’s ambition that is really being told. In similar films the conflict exists as an unseen enemy; not so in The Blue Max.
RM: Where can people purchase The Great War In The Air DVD set?
JG: To date, I have mostly been producing my DVDs one at a time and selling them through my own Website. Now though, the two-DVD set is available on Amazon.com, and I’m sending buyers over there.
RM: What’s your next project?
JG: I’m currently researching and writing a film about Tony Fokker, the Dutch aircraft builder. Stylistically this will be like my first film, although besides using just still photographs I will have some period film footage in it as well.
Fokker’s story always fascinated me, that peculiar mix between child inventor, pioneer aviator and self-promoting huckster. Sorting myth from fact has been a real odyssey. I hope to be putting the film together before the end of the year.
RM: What do you want viewers to take away from the The Great War In The Air?
JG: I hope they will have been entertained; I’m really hoping to “hook” someone on World War I aviation. It would also please me to think viewers come away with a real appreciation for what these young men, barely out of childhood, accomplished. They invented a new form of warfare, and it was done at great sacrifice.