‘Masters of the Air’ Music Opens 80th D-Day Anniversary in Normandy as Artisans Acknowledge the Show’s Heroism and Importance

“Masters of the Air” costume designer Colleen Atwood brought along Austin Butler’s jacket to Variety’s TV FYC Fest

Published Time: 07.06.2024 - 07:31:25 Modified Time: 07.06.2024 - 07:31:25

“Masters of the Air” costume designer Colleen Atwood brought along Austin Butler’s jacket to Variety’s TV FYC Fest. “It’s Austin Butler’s jacket that he wore, Maj. Cleven’s jacket and hat, and I thought, ‘Well, I should bring it.’ It’s D-Day. People like seeing real stuff,'” Atwood told the audience.

Atwood was joined by her fellow artisans from the Apple TV+ series: supervising sound editor and re-recording mixer Michael Minkler, composer Blake Neely, director of photography Richard Rutkowski and music supervisor Deva Anderson. The panelists acknowledged the 80th anniversary of D-Day with Neely sharing news. “I just found out that a piece from ‘Masters of the Air’ is what opened the D-Day Normandy event,” he told his fellow department heads.

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Adapted from Donald L. Miller’s book of the same name, the miniseries is the third installment of the “Band of Brothers” trilogy. “Masters of the Air” follows the wartime ventures of the 100th Bomb Group, who performed dangerous aviation raids over Nazi Germany. Austin Butler, Callum Turner, Anthony Boyle, Nate Mann, Rafferty Law, Barry Keoghan, Josiah Cross, Branden Cook and Ncuti Gatwa lead the principal cast.

Atwood explained how she had a nine-month prep period to make the flight outfits and costumes from scratch. “We made over 300 costumes for the principals,” she said. The leather jackets alone were a global undertaking with Atwood working with leather specialist Gary Eastman to build the jackets, and the inner sheepskin lining came from Scotland and England.

The latter episodes of the series follow the heroes as they get caught behind enemy lines and are imprisoned in prisoner of war camps. Cinematographer Rutkowski, who lensed the final episodes, said “authenticity” and “heroic” were two words that came to mind when working with Dee Rees to show the visual shift in the narrative. Recollections and pencil drawings by the real Alexander Jefferson, portrayed in the series by Cook, helped inform his visuals.

“He drew very well, details of being a Tuskegee Airman and getting the P-51s and being able to perform these really heroic escort missions that saved the lives of many of those airmen.” Rutkowski continued. “He also talks about the psychology of being in a POW camp. When we went to do the POW section… they’re soon to have this ultimate march through frozen cold across Germany, we felt a huge debt to that memory, but also to all the specifics.”

That meant creating a LUT (look up table) and dimming lig -

hting. Said Rutkowski, “We dimmed the interior light tremendously because all the recollections of the POWs were that the Germans sent them the lowest wattage bulbs in the nation to live by.”

Musically, Neely changed the tension according to what was happening in the storyline. When the pilots were in their airplanes, he would often consult with producer Gary Goetzman to ask, “What do we want them to feel?”

He also worked closely with Minkley. “We would play with the B-17s,” he said referring to the warplanes that were featured. “They have a certain hum and that’s a certain key. If we wanted to be more tense, I would write outside of that key. And if we wanted to settle in, I would write in that key.”

Anderson, who filled the soundtrack with gems from the era such as “Prisoner of Love” by Mildred Bailey and “Tear the Fascists Down” by Woody Guthrie, said it was important to bring the human experience of connection to song since the story was about human experiences within the brutality of war.

Through research, she learned there were specific songs that were very important to the real-life men that the characters were based on. Anderson said, “Rosie Rosenthal played by Nate Mann was a huge jazz fan. That scene where he’s humming the Artie Shaw chant in the airline to appease the nerves of the rest of the flight men actually did happen.” Andreson continued, “To be able to really pull together songs that the real-life men were fans of was one of our biggest joys.”

However, there was room for reprieve when the heroes weren’t in the air. “We had a lot of on cameras and the Etta James song and visual vocals and having some levity during these times,” she said.

Asked about what made the project important to them, the “Masters of the Air” artisans shared emotional connections. A tearful Neely said, “I had two great uncles. One was an airplane mechanic like Ken Lemmons, and the other was a master of the air. After safely flying to Africa, he died on base in a Jeep accident. Because, I do so much fiction, it kept reminding me that these are real guys.”

Atwood added, “The opportunity to tell a story with this much truth is rare and major.”

Watch the conversation above.

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