'10 Days to War' opens Cologne Conference

Q&A with producer, director supplements gala screening

COLOGNE, Germany -- The Cologne Conference, Germany's largest TV festival/confab, kicked off Wednesday night with a gala screening of the BBC's "10 Days to War," an award-winning docudrama on the countdown to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The film's mix of hard fact with dramatic technique, its unique format -- with eight stand-alone episodes of 12 minutes each -- and its impressive cast, which includes Kenneth Branagh, Stephen Rea and Juliet Stevenson, were some of the topics covered in an exclusive Q&A between "10 Days" producer Colin Barr, director Bruce Goodison and The Hollywood Reporter editor Elizabeth Guider.

Barr detailed the phenomenal speed at which the production was made -- five months from pitching the original idea to the finished series.

Financing came through after Branagh agreed to play Col. Tim Collins, an Irish commander who gives his men a "tread softly" speech on the eve of the invasion.

"The speech was sort of the answer to (U.S. commander) Gen. Tommy Franks' 'Gladiator'-style rousing of his troops," Goodison said. "It was very much: 'We are coming as liberators, not conquers.' I think it appealed to Branagh because it was sort of the opposite of his famous speech in 'Henry V.' "

"10 Days" certainly appealed to the audience of industry professionals in Cologne, who will be analyzing it as a test case in how to make high-quality fictional entertainment on a deadline and -- with a production cost of less than $2 million -- on a budget.