Thursday, March 1, 2012

Filming a TV Segment – It’s Not What You Think!

     Occasionally my duties involve assisting film crews who tape segments which include the museum’s artifacts.  My main responsibility in these, of course, is assuring the safety of the artifacts.  If the filming is at our museum, I can generally transport the artifacts on my cart to the area where they will be filmed.  If the filming is at another location, I must carefully pack and transport the artifacts.  Once on site, I must ensure that the artifacts will be secure from damage or theft.  I also make sure that the proper gloves are supplied and used.  On occasion, I have to remind someone, “Don’t touch that!”  If the filming is outdoors, I have to be aware of the weather conditions as well.  I once had to object to a shoot on a battlefield in the rain!  Luckily I was able to suggest a nearby indoor area for the segment involving the artifacts. 

This photo has been requested for use several times. It is an image of Confederate troops marching through city of Frederick in 1862, very near where the NMCWM is currently located.

     Being part of filming a television segment can actually be a bit tedious.  Everything takes longer than projected.  Just setting up the lights and cameras for one segment can take an hour, and that’s after the crew has taken time to decide on the location.  Segments are taped, and re-taped, and taped yet again to ensure they will have enough good footage to use.  Interviews are broken into short segments, and there is usually much discussion and adjusting of lights and sound equipment between segments.  Most importantly, when the command “Rolling!” is heard, all motion not in front of the camera stops.  If you make a noise, even just by fidgeting slightly in your chair, you WILL be yelled at!  So, my role in the shoot generally involves monitoring the artifacts, and a lot of just sitting very still.        

Here is a Miraculous Medal which was found in a grave on the Antietam Battlefield. Its presence there helped to identify the soldier as a member of the Irish Brigade. I took this out for a film shoot by an Irish crew for a show about the Irish Brigade, which was aired here in the U.S. on St. Patrick's Day!

     This week a crew from the History Channel came in to shoot several segments here at the museum for one show in their series, Collecting Americana.  I did my usual work in setting up the artifacts, but this time I was also interviewed for one segment.  That is quite an involved process which includes wearing the right color clothes, standing at exactly the right mark, having the sound man thread cords down your shirt, standing still and not moving your hands while you talk, NOT looking at the camera or anyone who is moving around in the background, remembering to restate the question asked before you launch into your answer, remembering to pause after every sentence or two, and still trying to sound intelligent.  Unfortunately, my nerves got the better of me and I’m not so sure I succeeded at that last one. 

Here I am with the founder of our museum, Dr. Gordon Dammann, with the artifacts which will be discussed in his segment. I am much happier working here than in front of the camera!

     The camera man did try to reassure me that the editors can work wonders by taking out the parts that aren’t so great.  I’m pretty sure, though, that he was thinking, “Don’t quit your day job!”  It sounds like good advice to me!

Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. 

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