In Memory of James Horner

Sun, 06/28/2015 - 1:23pm

Film composer James Horner died when his single-engine plane crashed near Santa Barbara on June 22. Earlier this year, the Academy Award-winner worked with USC Shoah Foundation on a movie about a Holocaust survivor. These are the recollections of producer Leslie Wilson.

The film, One Day in Auschwitz will be shown on Showtime in July immediately following broadcasts of Schindler’s List, and will also be available on Showtime’s On Demand, online and mobile platforms. Check local listings for schedule.

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of producing with the USC Shoah Foundation a feature documentary with Holocaust survivor Kitty Hart-Moxon. This film, “One Day In Auschwitz,” was a life-changing project in many ways.

Filmed, edited and delivered in less than three months, pulling off such a task could only happen with the dedication and support of many generous individuals.

When it came to deciding music for the film, director Steve Purcell said, “What about James Horner?” Steve and I had worked with him in the past, so, with nothing to lose, Steve called James.

To say we were all excited by his involvement would have been an understatement. With a talent of his magnitude, any scraps left on his mixing room floor or a previous composition would have been more than we could have imagined possible, but that is not who James was. He was the consummate professional, and in the end, it was James who had to remind us how best to use his talents.

James understood that the story being told was Kitty’s and that his greatest contribution could only be in supporting her narrative, her voice. He felt to do anything more than to fill in the moments of silence between her words would have made the music too much of a focus. He was here to support her and her story, not outshine her, for as it turns out, Kitty’s story was part of his own. James too had lost many family members in the Holocaust.

The documentary was not the first one made about Kitty. In 1979, her filmed walking tour of Birkenau was the first of its kind and hugely successful. In subsequent years, the documentary became an important tool in teaching about the Holocaust in classrooms all around the world, but then one day the rights to the film were suddenly no longer available.

Educator friends begged Kitty to go again and remake the film. She agreed, but only if it were produced by USC Shoah Foundation. Realizing this was a last-chance opportunity to create such a teaching tool, she wanted to guarantee that her story would always be available for anyone who wished to hear it.

Knowing the film's educational nature made James even more of an advocate. He loved the idea of this film one day being in schools around the globe. In the five months since “One Day in Auschwitz” first aired, the program has been seen in more than 220 countries and in 45 languages. It is currently free online via the USC Shoah Foundation website for anyone to view.

James Horner’s contribution to this film is really a contribution to educating future generations about a subject he and his family knew all too well. And, as with Kitty, his voice through his music will be a part of the film's legacy that will continue to educate and perhaps even inspire advocacy about a time in history that should never be forgotten. 

Leslie Wilson