Docema is a Massachusetts film company that produces historical documentaries enlivened by dramatic narratives and what has become its trademark: extraordinary 3D computer animations.
Docema was founded in 2003 by Bruce Twickler a software industry veteran who published, among other products, VideoWorks in 1985, and, a decade later, VideoCraft, with its 1996 incarnation on the internet as The Amazing Instant Online Animated Banner Maker. At Docema in 2003 we felt that state-of-the-art software running on high-performance personal computers would be able to produce high-resolution animations with startling realism... enough to produce Hollywood special effects on a public television budget.
The story we chose was, at first, a simple recounting of the Great Boston Fire of 1872. The fire burned down 65 acres of large buildings in the center of Boston. It still ranks as one of the five most destructive fires on record in the US and, in the 19th century, was second only to the Great Chicago Fire the year before. But this disaster was not well known even in Boston, which made it attractive to us as a subject: all the drama of a big fire, but not over worn.
As time went on, however, our research on John Damrell, Boston’s fire chief who directed his firefighters to stem the firestorm, changed the focus of the movie and it soon became Damrell’s Fire. To see the evolution of the film with its detailed modeling, splendid animation, and inspirational music, you are invited to watch the short clips here:
Damrell's Fire was first broadcast over public television stations in April of 2006. American Public Television, distributors of the program, acclaimed it as one of their most watched historical documentaries. With a Nielsen rating of 2.5 GRP, the very best estimate of viewership was between two and three million households. More important than the statistics, many firefighters have told us that it is the best fire movie they have ever seen!
It is now available on Amazon Prime.
Our second film was Broadside, which centered on the little known but empire-making era of the Anglo-Dutch Wars in the 17th century. Finally we had a subject so arcane that even historians often skip over the details to avoid encumbering their narratives (like the raid on Medway…the biggest naval disaster in English history, or the Dutch giving up Manhattan, twice).
It tells the story of wars for global empire set in the domestic political and social turbulence of both England and the Netherlands. It also shows how religious freedom came to America, how New Amsterdam became New York, how the Royal Navy developed, and how the Dutch, a country of just 3 million people, dominated world trade in their Golden Age.
Broadside was first broadcast on public television stations in October, 2009 and is now licensed internationally by APT Worldwide. It's also available on Amazon Prime.
If you're interested in Broadside and the making of the film, click here.
The third Docema project, Saving New York: New York Firefighting and the American Revolution is about colonial firefighting in New York featuring the Fire Department of New York and the American Revolution.