Well folks, I’ve glimpsed Hollywood and all I can say is, go back.
OK, badly pilfered line from one of my all time favorite movies, “Say Anything“. I admit it, but there’s a bit of truth in it, too. Last weekend Mr.Me and I had a chance to take part in the filming of a movie. Before you get TOO excited, we aren’t talking a big budget Hollywood blockbuster staring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie or anything. It’s a smaller (much smaller) budget film for our local Civil War Museum staring people we reenact with and absolutely no one famous.
Boy, that kinda makes it sound uninspiring, doesn’t it? THAT wasn’t my intention! It was definitely not an unexciting weekend and I’m not any worse for the experience! So lets start with the back story and see if we can’t bring this back ’round…
First, the back story- I believe it was 6 years ago now when Kenosha opened the doors on it’s Civil War Museum, dedicated to telling the history of the upper Midwest’s story in one of our nations defining moments. For the reenacting community, it’s truly a treat to have such a resource in our back yard as so much of the history of this time period is centered in the east where the war was fought. For the public, it’s an amazing resource to have right in our back yard as so much of the history of this time period is centered in the east where the war was fought. Wait… Oh never mind, just go with it. As a group, Cushing’s Historical Association/Cushing’s Battery (our unit) has made a point of participating when given the opportunity as supporting this facility is just plain good business for us. It’s good publicity, it’s good recruiting, it’s good.
When the museum was built, they included a “theater in the round” in one of the exhibit areas, always with the intention of producing a unique film to present the history of the war on screen for museum patrons but the funding wasn’t there to fill out the screen until recently. This is the part where the story gets interesting, I swear!
For years, Mr.Me and I have had our Sunday breakfast at the local Big Apple Bagels and over the course of time have come to know some of the other “regulars” on Sunday mornings. One of them happens to be an old hat in the reenacting community who is also very involved at the museum. He was asked to be a part of the film’s production and in turn asked if we would like to be a part of it’s cast. Most of his contacts within the reenacting world are infantry as that’s his bread and butter, but no story of the Civil War is complete without the good stuff- Artillery! And since this is our area of expertise, we got the invite. Months of talking about it, seeing the script, hearing about all that Steve was doing to bring this project to the screen resulted in one very long, very boring, very exciting, very interesting weekend!
Filming took place at one of Wisconsin’s State Historical sites- Old World Wisconsin. Very cool, pretty large site with lots of different “villages” set up so a good variety of scenery and what not. Pretty much an excellent bit of cooperation between entities to bring that together! I had a “bit part” in what is proposed to be the opening scene for the film- I was the wife and mom of 2 going about life when the Union Army rolled down the road and my husband quickly rushed us into the house. I decided I am without a doubt a DINK when in every take I caught myself having to pull up short and get my kids into the house before myself! *facepalm* It also resulted in an awkward moment where I had to introduce my husband to my “husband”. And two kids! Turns out there is a lot of downtime on set and we get a little (LOT) silly when left to our own devices for that long at a crack!
Hubby had a much larger role as commander of one of the artillery crews and my “boys” worked their tails off over the course of 2 or 3 days. Humping and 800lb cannon PLUS it’s carriage and limber over a 30 yard road that, honest to God, managed to be up hill both ways 17 times in a couple of hours is hard work. Doing it at the double quick and then doing it again the next two days? Yeah. I’m not sure how a couple of them got out of bed the next morning.
For me the weekend was mostly sitting around and observing. It was genuinely fascinating to observe all that goes into making a movie. From the 360 degree camera (which of course I never managed a picture of so I’m shamelessly borrowing one from the Museum’s Facebook Page)
and all the other equipment that goes into movie making
And learning about the green screen process
To killing time between takes
And enjoying the comedy that was a bunch of reenactors camping for the weekend without needing to concern ourselves with authenticity
And drying things out after an epic rain
And bumping into old friends I’ve not seen since my early days in the hobby
It was a truly amazing experience. Not one that I need to repeat any time soon, but I learned a lot. I got to talk to the producer, meet the editor, overhear a lot of conversations with production assistance and directors, watch the make up artists at work, definitely an eye opening experience. Now I understand how it takes months to shoot a 2 hour movie and why it costs so stinkin’ much money to do it. I have a new appreciation for all the names and job titles that roll past in the credits and what they do on the set. And mostly, I can’t wait to see what the final project looks like! Since a good part of the last 16 years of my life have been spent reliving history, it’s interesting to contemplate being a part of that history on display for the next 20 years. To have the chance to bring something to life for people who don’t do what I do every summer is kind of a big thing to try and wrap my head around even if I do wish my big screen debut would end up on the cutting room floor and I can simply watch everyone else bring this story to life.