The upcoming Rhineland 45 will be the second crowdfunding documentary the team has produced.
RTH – Real Time History GmbH
There is a saying that history is taught by the winners, but Germany-based RTH – Real Time History GmbH changed that perception with their military-centric YouTube channel that chronicles the history of WWI. While other documentaries have covered many of the lesser-known facets of war, The Great War Channel took a unique approach to producing videos that would record certain events 100 years later.
RTH – Real Time History GmbH has produced more than 230 episodes about the war and has continued to publish videos that focus on the aftermath of the war. The most recent chronicle includes lesser-known topics such as the Irish War of Independence and, just last week, the title: “Partitioning the Middle East – The Creation of Lebanon.” The latter has been viewed more than 40,000 times, a small audience even for a genre-specific cable channel, but a remarkable number for such a specific topic.
Canadian historian and broadcaster Jesse Alexander and German-born Florian Wittig, CEO and executive producer of the project, didn’t just focus on World War I. Last year the couple produced a crowdfunding documentary, “16 Days in Berlin – The Last Battle of World War II in Europe”, and now RTH – Real Time History GmbH is using Kickstarter to “Battle for the Rhineland – Decision in the West” finance Create a documentary about one of the greatest but forgotten battles of World War II.
The fundraiser was hugely successful, raising nearly $ 85,000, and far exceeding the roughly $ 30,000 goal of making the project a reality. At the end of September, it had more than 1,100 supporters in the Kickstarter “All or Nothing” project, which aims to bring the documentary out in 4K video. The project has already gained support from partners including The Tank Museum in Bovington, England.
Origins of the Great War Channel
As with many military history channels, The Great War started humbly, has grown significantly, and now has an audience of nearly one and a half million subscribers. Trying to post episodes that would coincide with the 100th anniversary of the events was no easy task.
“In retrospect, it seems even crazier that we made it,” said Wittig.
Typically, four to five weekly episodes had to be written at a time, and the production team had to skip during the editing process.
“Two post-production editors worked full-time on WWI videos while our resident historian Markus and I worked on the planning and the supplements,” added Witting. “Holidays have always been a particular bottleneck for us, but we were all proud that we never missed an upload date.”
The project was notable in that no major documentaries for television and no major films were produced during the 100th anniversary of World War I – with the arrival of the last year in 1917 in theaters after the anniversary of the events.
“Here in Germany, World War I experienced a relatively big surge in people’s memory – from barely remembered to at least a few books and newspaper articles,” said Wittig, who said it was no surprise that there weren’t any big films. “That is the norm, the First World War always lives in the shadow of other events.”
Chronicling part of history had never been done before, which made World War I even more special.
“I wasn’t surprised that the weekly chronicle was a new concept because that could only really work on something like YouTube,” remarked Wittig.
“Any TV manager would have a heart attack if you presented them with a concept like this with a monthly release schedule,” he added. “What surprised us was that there weren’t many detailed daily chronicles of the war, even in book form. It took us a while to realize that our own expectation of history as a chronicle was wrong. There is a popular one Myth that history is a lot about memorizing dates and series of events, but that’s how it used to be written into school curricula. “
Crowdfunding Rhineland 45
The upcoming Rhineland 45 is the second crowdfunding documentary the team has produced and follows its 16 Days in Berlin, released earlier this year to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Berlin at the end of World War II.
This gave rise to the idea of producing limited series documentaries via crowdfunding, coupled with the production experience that was gathered during the making of The Great War.
“We knew that there was an appetite out there for detailed documentaries that you neither see on television nor on the major streaming platforms,” said Wittig. “At the same time, YouTube, from 2014 when the Great War began, is a very different platform than 2020. There are more content restrictions and they seem to be getting more restrictive, as the recent announcement on automated age restrictions shows.”
Despite these concerns, WWII thematic stories about the end of the conflict have become personal passion projects.
“We had read about the last few months of World War II in family history: My great-grandfather died during or after the Battle of Lauban in March 1945, Jesses’ grandfather served in the Canadian Army from Normandy to the Rhine and the Netherlands,” noted Wittig. “And strangely enough, the late war period is underrepresented in both academic sources, but also in popular media – apart from a few famous battles.”
The aim of Rheinland 45 is to give the campaign the attention it deserves, even if it means only a few thousand people at first.
“We no longer want to follow the rat race dictated by the big platforms in order to maximize our audience,” explained Wittig. “We want to reach the right people, who value what we produce and how much attention and attention to detail we put into our work. Over time, we will reach more and more people and hopefully help ensure that the events in our documentaries are remembered. “
The fact that the project exceeded its funding targets in less than 24 hours was a good sign, but even if it hadn’t worked, the team would have found a way to get it done some other way. But unlike The Great War, this one will have a real beginning and a real ending.
“On the creative side, it’s very refreshing to work with a limited project that has a clear beginning and a clear end,” said Wittig. “You can spend more time on a tactical level than we did with The Great War, and it’s a big bonus just being able to travel to the battlefields. It’s like a good workout routine. The Great War works a specific part of our body, Rheinland 45 works another. “
After that, the RTH – Real Time History GmbH – team will consider the next challenge which will likely involve taking a break from WWII to do something completely different.
“(We’ll) explore another era to keep it fresh,” suggested Wittig. “We also have some ambitious ideas for future projects that will require more planning before we’re ready to reveal them.”