The film and source novel's title, "The Year That Trembled", is derived from a short Walt Whitman poem called "Year That Trembled and Reel'd Beneath Me" from his "Leaves of Grass" (1900) anthology and was first published in "Drum-Taps" in 1865. It reads: "YEAR that trembled and reel'd beneath me! Your summer wind was warm enough, yet the air I breathed froze me, A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and darken'd me, Must I change my triumphant songs? said I to myself, Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baffled? And sullen hymns of defeat?".
Director Jay Craven has said of this film's source novelist Scott Lax: "Scott is a visionary who knows how to make things happen. I directed the film based on his book 'The Year That Trembled' and I consulted with him on all aspects of its production. I have never met anyone who was more thoughtful, gracious, flexible, supportive, and capable in his capacity as a team leader. Everyone appreciated Scott's grace and equanimity on the film shoot, and before. He handed film crew and actors with the same kindness and concern, as he did the film's investors. The movie business is not for the faint of heart. Scott stood his ground, dealt with numerous thorny challenges, and kept his eye on the ball. I can't imagine a better person, with whom you'd want to be in the trenches."