Art of 'War' on display in Cologne

Beeb docudrama opens TV confab; convergence emerges as hot topic

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 conquerors.' I think it appealed to Branagh because it was sort of the opposite of his famous speech in 'Henry V.' "

Elsewhere, the merging of television, the Internet and gaming proved a hot topic during the first day of the confab.

Daniel Hetzer, vp programming and co-productions at Fox Television Studios, detailed some of the majors' attempts to tap the elusive potential of Internet buzz and provided a sneak peak of two upcoming online dramas from Fox: the conspiracy thriller "Subterranya" and "Iris Expanding" — a sort of "Sex and the City"-meets-"lonelygirl15." (partialdiff)