Tales from the Newseum’s Broadcast Department: Part 2, Ford’s Theatre Location Scout

Dean’s Intern Hannah Sedgwick at the Newseum

My internship at the Newseum’s broadcast department has been filled with new experiences. I have to pinch myself constantly to remind myself that this is real life. Just a few months ago I thought, “Wow, wouldn’t it be great to work at the Newseum?” and now it’s reality.

Here's me at the Newseum from the viewing area on the 6th. Talk about a view.

Here’s me at the Newseum from the viewing area on the 6th Floor. Talk about a view!

By far, the coolest experience I’ve had so far has been going on a location scout with all of the producers, editors and designer in the broadcast department. We went on a “field trip” just a few blocks to Ford’s Theatre, the theater on 10th Street where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in 1865, which will be a filming location for an upcoming TV series. I’ll hopefully get to help out during the shooting day if all goes as planned.

I have been doing research on the Lincoln assassination including digging up little known facts, finding timelines of the events, finding Lincoln experts, photographs of Lincoln’s funeral procession from DC to Illinois, and researching Lincoln’s favorite photographer, Mathew Brady, who had a studio just a block from the Newseum. I can’t help but put some fun facts in my post, so here it goes. Did you know that John Wilkes Booth was staying in a hotel that was on the current day Newseum site? And that Booth strategically timed the shot to go with the funniest part of the play that night, called Our American Cousin, so the laughter would have a chance of drowning out the sound of the shot? After all, Booth was an actor and knew the play well, so the audience just assumed the gun shot and Booth’s subsequent jump from the box to the stage was part of the show. After Booth was captured and killed following the assassination, his accomplices were hanged later that year and it was the first time the U.S. government executed a woman.

I did so much research that I’m genuinely upset and angry with John Wilkes Booth for assassinating Lincoln even after I left the office. I’m basically holding a grudge about something I wasn’t even alive for and happened 150 years ago.

I was thrilled to be able to go on this location scout.  I’ve always been more interested in what’s happening behind the scenes than on stage. I love the mystery that happens behind the curtain. My mom will tell you that when I was little I was more concerned about where all the characters went backstage than Elmo dancing around at Sesame Street LIVE! This location scout was my first and especially amazing for someone like me who’s especially curious about the production of television.

We walked over to Ford’s Theatre and met with one of the park rangers (Surprise! Ford’s Theatre is part of the National Park Service!) to pull some strings and get into the actual theater so the producers could brainstorm shot ideas and work on logistics. I’d never been to Ford’s Theatre and I was giddy that I got to see the theater, the box and the seats that I’ve been researching. There was an understudy rehearsal happening for that night’s performance of the “Putnam Country Spelling Bee” so we had to stay really quiet.

After we left the theater we walked around the back of the building to look at the brick facade and alley way where Booth tied his escape vehicle, a horse, and bolted off after assassinating Lincoln, jumping off the stage, breaking his leg and making a break for it across the Potamac River. We also caught a glimpse of the Petersen House, which is the building directly across the street from the theater and it’s where Lincoln was taken after he was shot and died the next morning.

There was a lot of technical talk about cranes, jibs, grips, after-effects, which way the host was going to walk across the street, how we are going to get the permits to shut down an entire street, where we can film in the theatre and how we are possibly going to get a dolly shot down a brick alley. I felt like I was in the bonus footage of a DVD.

Our super cool, rolling tape library where we store all the archives.

Our super cool, rolling tape library where we store all the archives.

This week I’m working on going through all of the Newseum’s archived footage of Congressman John Lewis, who was one of the leaders of the March on Washington, involved in SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and was one of the original Freedom Riders. I’m a huge fan of 1960’s Civil Rights Era history and it’s definitely my favorite era if I had to choose a favorite. I went through all of his unedited interviews and whatever else I could find in the tape library. I even stumbled upon NBC’s original broadcast of the March on Washington, which was really cool to watch.

My dean’s internship experience has been amazing. I’m so happy I took the opportunity and get to try so many new things every day. And of course, I love the perk of unlimited access to the Newseum during my downtime. I’m looking forward to my last few weeks at the Newseum and working on some great projects.