Lights, Camera, Action!!!

Trip Start Apr 09, 2010
Trip End Apr 18, 2010

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Maw Maw's house

Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Today is the big day and I’m really surprised at how calm Michael seems. Ever since he got word that the PBS show “The History Detectives” would be interviewing him for the segment featuring his family history mystery, he has been trying to imagine how the filming will go. For starters, he still doesn’t know which of the five cast members deemed as the history detectives will be the one to interview him. He thinks it will be Elyse Luray since she’s a Tulane University alumnae; I think it will be Dr. Tukufu Zuberi since he seems to cover the genealogy stories; but then it could always be Gwen Wright or one of the other detectives. Okay, we’ll leave that as a mystery for now.

Michael and I are up bright and early with Maw-Maw, and are ready to go in no time. After a light breakfast, we’re off to the Garden District once again to make it to our location early. Yesterday, we drove past the house where the filming will take place, just to make sure we would know the location ahead of time. Despite that, we drive right past the place this morning and have to double back to park on the street. We arrive early, which gives Michael a chance to reflect on what is about to happen (watch the video embedded in the  pictures of michael just double click). He’s excited, but not nervous, and that’s good. 

Soon enough, we see three vehicles rolling up the street and we immediately know that it’s the crew of “The History Detectives.” Much to my surprise, I see the smiling face of Elyse Luray behind the wheel of one of the cars, and suddenly one of the mysteries is solved. Michael was right. We greet the crew, then join them inside the beautiful home where they will be filming. 

A two-story Victorian, the house is bright and has a modern feel inside. The hardwood floors compliment the earth tone shades on the walls; the living room in a shade of sand and the dining room walls reflect the color of merlot. Elyse explains that the home belongs to a friend who recently sold it and is allowing them to use it for the taping today. The hallway is a straight shot from the front door to the family room/office at the rear of the house. We walk past the kitchen which is refreshingly spacious and modern with stainless steel appliances and black granite countertops with white cabinets. A nice combination.  

Bill, the producer; Tom, the executive producer; and Matt, the cameraman decide that the small courtyard out back will be the ideal place to film the opening scene of the segment. As they set up the lights and camera, Elyse runs out for coffee. I’m glad because I could really use some right now. By the time she arrives back with bran muffins, cherry danishes, croissants and coffee, the courtyard is all set up and the filming begins. Michael is a natural. He really seems quite calm as he describes the document that he discovered a few years ago. Elyse asks a few questions to set up the story: What is this document? Who is the woman mentioned in the document? What do you know about her? What connection do you have with her? What historical value do you think the document has? What’s a manumission? Did you have the document translated line by line? What do you want me to find out about this document?  

A little direction from Bill helps the scene go smoothly. Take one is a two-shot of Elyse and Michael. Then they do the whole thing again filming just Michael. Then again filming Elyse only. Maw-Maw and I watch silently and admire the efficiency of the crew. I’m reminded of my days working production for Public Broadcasting in San Diego, and for a moment I actually miss it. I realize that there is a part of this kind of work that I enjoy. Perhaps it’s the creativity of it; piecing together different shots and comments to make the script work and achieve the desired end result. It’s like assembling a puzzle.

All done, and now everyone moves into the house to film the big reveal. It takes awhile to set up the living room area. In the meantime, Patrick the production assistant makes a run for Po’boy sandwiches for everyone. Lucky for me because this is one of the things I always eat when I come to New Orleans and I haven’t had one yet on this trip. After lunch, Michael and Elyse change clothes and prepare to film the next scene. 

Lights, camera, action! Michael listens intently as Elyse explains the research she did to find out more about the document and the individuals mentioned in it. She shares some unusual things about the document and some mysteries about Michael’s ancestors. Then she answers the big question Michael has been waiting to hear. His big mystery about the document. I know you want to know what that is, but we can’t reveal it here; you’ll have to watch “The History Detectives” to find out! Sorry Travelpod buddies :-O

Needless to say, Michael is pleased at the results that “The History Detectives” have uncovered. They have answered his burning question and even provided more information to shed light on his ongoing genealogy research. I’m amazed by the extent of the research they did for this story and the different angles they examined to enhance the backstory. There is no doubt that this will be a very interesting segment. 

Finally, we head out to the front of the house, where they film Michael doing an introduction; then Elyse on the porch to film her part of the intro. A few shots of the document and then we’re done. Six hours of filming, and the crew says they still have some additional shots to get around the city. As for us, we’re done. What an incredible experience. We are all happy to have been a part of it. 

Barbara, Michael’s sister arrives just as we’re ready to depart. She and Maw-Maw head back over the river. Michael is on cloud nine as we bid farewell to the PBS crew. He has to come down from the excitement of the experience, so we drive over to City Park to enjoy what’s left of the afternoon and to debrief what just happened. It’s a nice time to stroll the beautiful grounds. We discover a lovely sculpture garden and walk through, admiring the artwork. 

 After that, we drive over to the neighborhood of Treme to locate the property that Michael's ancestor Agnes owned back in 1795. Imagine that, a free woman of color who purchased property way back then. Amazing! Today, there are two houses on the land. I wonder what was there back in the day. Finally, we catch the ferry back over to Algiers. Michael mentions that he wants to stop by to say hello to his friend Kevin, who lives nearby. But before we can even round the corner from the ferry, who do we see walking down the street; Kevin and his little dog Boudin. How funny is that! Being the Brit that he is, Kevin invites us to join him at the local pub where he's headed. So we do and enjoy a relaxing conversation over drinks. 

Time to head home and relax. All I can say is that this is the perfect ending to a very exciting day.

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