An Interview With Barrie Dunn

Barrie Dunn, producer and head writer of the CBC mini-series Canada Russia '72 airing April 9th and 10th, 2006, was kind enough to agree to an interview. My questions are in lower case, and his responses are in upper case.

How long did it take for you to research the script?

I BEGAN RESEARCHING THE SCRIPT IN EARNEST IN NOVEMBER OF 2002. I BEGAN BY RE-READING HARRY SINDEN'S BOOK "HOCKEY SHOWDOWN" (WHICH I HAD READ BACK IN 1972 WHEN IT FIRST CAME OUT). I WOULD SAY SINDEN'S BOOK IS THE BEST OF THE LOT BECAUSE IT WAS WRITTEN AT THE TIME SO HARRY'S RECOLLECTIONS OF THE EVENTS WERE FRESH AND ACCURATE, NOT TAINTED BY THE PASSAGE OF TIME). 

BUT IT WAS ACTUALLY EAGLESON'S BOOK "POWER PLAY" WHICH CONVINCED ME THAT WE COULD ACTUALLY MAKE A TV MINI-SERIES ABOUT THIS EVENT. IN HIS BOOK EAGLESON SAID (AND I QUOTE LOOSELY) "THE GAME RESULTS ARE A SHORT SUMMARY. THE BEHIND THE SCENES STORY TAKES A LOT LONGER TO TELL." IT WAS THIS SENTENCE THAT MADE ME REALIZE THAT THERE WAS MUCH MORE TO THE SUMMIT SERIES THAN THE EIGHT ON-ICE GAMES. WHAT HAPPENED BEHIND THE SCENES
WAS EQUALLY AS COMPELLING AND DRAMATIC AS THE ON-ICE HEROICS. 

FROM THERE, I DID AN EXTENSIVE INTERNET SEARCH FOLLOWED UP BY TALKING PERSONALLY TO MANY OF THE ACTUAL PARTICIPANTS.

Obviously the story is more or less written already, but how long and what lengths did you go to to come up with the finished script? 

IT TOOK ME SEVEN MONTHS TO WRITE THE FIRST TREATMENT. IT WAS CLOSE TO 200 PAGES. WAY TOO LONG. I SPENT THE NEXT SIX MONTHS TRYING TO CUT IT DOWN. INITIAL DRAFTS OF THE SCRIPT WERE HEAVY ON THE BACK-STORY ABOUT HOCKEY CANADA AND HOW THAT ORGANIZATION LOBBIED FOR YEARS TO GET THE SOVIETS TO AGREE TO PLAY AGAINST CANADA'S PROS. EVERYONE WHO READ THE FIRST DRAFTS THOUGHT THEY WERE TOO DETAILED, AND POPULATED WITH TOO MANY CHARACTERS (E.G. CHARLIE HAY, LOU LEFAIVE, DOUG FISHER, GORDON JUCKES, ED RITCHIE, JOE KRYCZKA). AS MUCH AS I HATED TO CUT THESE GUYS OUT OF THE STORY (BECAUSE EVERYONE ONE OF THESE GUYS PLAYED AN INTEGRAL AND CRITICAL ROLE IN MAKING THE SERIES HAPPEN), IT HAD TO BE DONE BECAUSE OF TIME. 

IN JUNE 2003, I PITCHED THE STORY TO CBC. IN JANUARY 2004, CBC GREENLIT THE
SERIES FOR PRODUCTION. I THEN SPENT THE NEXT FEW MONTHS WRITING THE
SCRIPTS. SEVERAL DRAFTS LATER, WE WENT INTO PRODUCTION ON MARCH 14, 2005.
BUT EVEN DURING PRODUCTION, I CUT SOME SCENES, AND RE-WROTE OTHERS, AND EVEN WROTE TOTALLY NEW SCENES SO IT WAS A CONSTANT WRITING PROCESS. ONE OF MY BEST CRITICS/ EDITORS WAS MY WIFE, CAITLYN COLQUHOUN, WITHOUT WHOM I WOULD NEVER HAVE DONE THIS PROJECT. HER STORY INSIGHTS WERE BRILLIANT, AND
INVALUABLE TO ME. I TRUSTED HER JUDGMENT MORE THAN I TRUSTED ANYONE ELSE'S.

Was every Canadian player/coach contacted? 

NO, NOT EVERY PLAYER, BUT I TRIED TO CONTACT AS MANY AS POSSIBLE. I MET WITH ALAN EAGLESON, HARRY SINDEN (BOTH OF WHOME WERE CONSULTANTS ON THE PROJECT), JOHN FERGUSON, SERGE SAVARD, RON ELLIS, KEN DRYDEN, BOB CLARKE, PHIL ESPOSITO AND I SPOKE TO RED BERENSON AND JP PARISE BY TELEPHONE. SOME PLAYERS I TRIED TO CONTACT WITH NO SUCCESS. I ALSO MET WITH DOUGLAS FISHER WHO WAS A MEMBER OF THE HOCKEY CANADA BOARD OF DIRECTORS IN 1972. FISHER'S INSIGHTS AND KNOWLEDGE OF THE SERIES WERE INVALUABLE TO MY RESEARCH.

How about media of the day? 

I TRIED TO MEET WITH RED FISHER BUT HIS WIFE WAS QUITE ILL AT THE TIME AND, NATURALLY, WAS UNABLE TO MEET WITH ME. BUT THE ONE GUY I WANTED TO SPEAK TO MORE THAN ANY OTHER JOURNALIST WAS JOHN ROBERTSON WHO IN 1972 WAS AN OUTSPOKEN CRITIC OF THE SUMMIT SERIES. (HE WAS A WRITER FOR THE MONTREAL STAR). HE PREDICTED A SOVIET VICTORY (ONE OF ONLY A COUPLE OF CANADIANS WHO HAD THE BALLS TO PREDICT A SOVIET VICTORY). I TRIED A COUPLE OF TIMES UNSUCCESSFULLY TO CONTACT HIM BUT HE WAS IN POOR HEALTH SO AGAIN, I UNDERSTAND WHY HE WAS NOT ABLE TO TALK WITH ME.

How about fans who travelled to Russia? 

YES I SPOKE TO A COUPLE OF FANS WHO WERE IN MOSCOW FOR THE SOVIET PORTION OF THE GAMES. IN FACT, ONE GENTLEMEN WHO WAS IN MOSCOW IN 72 CAME TO ME AT THE SCREENING WE HAD IN FREDERICTON AND TOLD ME WE GOT IT ABSOLUTELY RIGHT WHICH WAS QUITE REWARDING TO HEAR. 

How about the Russians - were their players, coaches, anyone associated with the team contacted? 

NO, WE DIDN'T SPEAK TO ANY OF THE SOVIET PLAYERS BUT I WOULD LOVE TO DO A FOLLOW-UP DOCUMENTARY ABOUT WHERE THESE GUYS ARE NOW AND WHAT THEY'RE DOING.

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