From his time as series producer of Sky's pan-European entertainment show, Showbiz Weekly, Sheldon Lazarus has developed a nose for a good story. But three times in as many years, his
From his time as series producer of Sky's pan-European entertainment show, Showbiz Weekly, Sheldon Lazarus has developed a nose for a good story. But three times in as many years, his department has turned up social history projects with no place in his entertainment remit. So, with the support of Sky News head Nick Pollard, Lazarus set about realising such ideas as one-off documentaries. The Hidden Children is the latest.

Focusing on three Jewish people who spent their childhood in hiding from the Nazis during the second world war, the film has been scheduled to tie in with Anne Frank memorial day. The extent to which one of the subject's experiences mirrored that of Anne Frank was chilling.

Lazarus explains: 'We found a lady called Sybilla who, as a girl of a similar age to Anne Frank, was hidden in exactly the same street as her in Amsterdam. They were practically neighbours and it was incredible to think that Anne Frank sadly then died, but that this lady survived.'

Having found one surviving former hidden child, the search was on for others who had been hidden in contrasting areas of Nazi-occupied Europe.

'We picked three locations - Poland, Belgium and Holland - where the German occupations were very different,' says Lazarus. 'And we embarked on quite an ambitious idea of taking three (former) children back to the houses where they'd been hidden.

'People think how can a department which makes a weekly entertainment show tackle something as sensitive as this? And it is a paradox,' admits Lazarus. 'However, we found that some of the techniques we'd built Showbiz Weekly around - natural, long-lens camera work and a lot of off-the-shoulder shooting - worked really well because if you don't catch it in one shot, you've lost a lifetime's moment.'

So as not to inhibit the subjects when, for the first time in 50 years, they met the families who had risked their lives to hide them, camera operator Aaron Scott was sent ahead to capture their reactions. By using SX cameras that adapt well to varying light conditions, as well as on-board radio mics, his movement wasn't restricted.

'The freedom between myself and the sound recordist was great,' says Scott. 'We had the flexibility of getting the sound the way we wanted it and not compromising the picture.'

The crew also had help in its quest to recapture the past - not only had the rescuers not moved, but the old houses had remained virtually unchanged.

To evoke a feeling of the ageing subjects as children, director Stephen Kelly used close-ups of photos from family albums and low-camera work to give a child's perspective of the buildings.

Lazarus chose not to use a narrator or subtitles in an effort not to fracture the emotional power of the stories. One of the people featured, Nicole, was able to act as an interpreter for the Flemish-speaking family who had hidden her in Belgium. She ended up translating the daughter's description of the fear she'd seen on Nicole's mother's face when Nicole was first brought to them.

'It was perfect because Nicole was translating (dialogue) about how worried her mother was and putting emotion into it at the same time,' says Kelly.

'It's as shocking to her, as it is to us.'

It's this child's view that Lazarus sees as underpinning the whole film.

He says: 'By using a child's perspective, we can show that this was not just a war, it was about getting rid of every single Jew.'

PRODUCTION CREDITS Production executives The History Channel: Martin Morgan Sky News: Penny Chrimes Producer: Sheldon Lazarus Director and editor: Stephen Kelly Director of photography: Aaron Scott Assistant producer: Talya Ezrahi Production team: Lindsey Brill Victoria Hollinsworth Ali Goldman Sound recording: Richard Harlow Graphics and film research: Andrea Conklin THE HIDDEN CHILDRENBroadcaster and Producer: Sky News and The History ChannelStart: 20.00, 11 June (The History Channel)20.00, 12 June (Sky News)Length: 1 x 60-minutes Commissioning editor: Nick Pollard.