Tales from the Newseum’s Broadcast Department: Part 3, Ford’s Theatre TV Shoot

By Dean’s Intern Hannah Sedgwick at the Newseum 

By far, the cherry on top of the ice cream that is my Newseum Broadcast internship was having the opportunity to be a Production Assistant/Runner for a real, live, legitimate TV filming for the pilot of a TV series that will hopefully get picked up by Travel Channel. We filmed a piece at Ford’s Theatre about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln that I’ve been researching during my time at the Newseum.

Filming the booth from the stage at Ford's Theatre

Filming the booth from the stage at Ford’s Theatre

I’m still in shock that I was on set for a TV filming. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve always been more excited and interested in what happens behind the scenes. My favorite part of DVDs is the bonus feature reel where they show all the technical equipment, hair/makeup, slate and directors. The entire experience was quite surreal.

A few weeks back, I was asked if I was available on Easter Sunday to help out with the shoot at Ford’s Theatre that I had been researching for. Of course, I said I was available and ready and willing to jump right in.

When the day came, I was responsible for setting up “craft services” aka the room with food, snacks, tissues, mints, etc. I went to Safeway, bought the supplies and Uber-ed to the location. I was the first one to arrive and began handing out official looking parking permits to the 18 crew members as they arrived.

Once I got the 4th floor board room all set up with snacks, I ran around the theater fulfilling requests for panty hose, coffee, Advil, higher stools for hair/makeup and waters. I was the go-to person for anything and everything as the crew was setting up their fancy equipment.  I ran up and down the winding staircase to the 4th floor probably about 50 times in the 10 hours I was there.

The real fun began when we started filming. I was tasked with taking the field notes. So for every shot I stood behind the director (who is my supervisor at the Newseum), took note of the time stamp on the slate and which camera was taking which shot. I then noted if the director/crew liked the shot or not. I found myself just quoting them saying “magnificent!” or “great, if the car didn’t drive by.” These notes come in very handy when the editors get the footage and it’s really important that they are getting accurate notes so they know where to edit. It was pretty hectic and fast paced trying to get a prime spot to see either the slate or the time stamp on the preview screen the director watches.

During the filming, I had basically an all access pass to the historic Ford’s Theatre. I got to check out the booth where Lincoln was shot, back stage of the theater, and the coolest part, I got to stand on the stage in a completely empty Ford’s Theatre.

On set, I tried to talked to everyone to find out what their job was, how they got their start and what they liked about their incredibly awesome jobs. The makeup artist travels the world doing hair and makeup for basically every celebrity for photo shoots, award shows, TV, movies and concerts. The host is an AU alum who I work with at the Newseum. The guest we had has written multiple bestselling books and refers to Kevin Bacon by first name. The location manager was one of the producers for this year’s Puppy Bowl and got to meet Michelle, Bo and Sunny Obama during filming. The other crew members were all free lance and had worked together in the past multiple times. It was really an all-start crew, and then there was me. An intern at her first go at being a Production Assistant and first time on a real shoot. I asked a million questions and tried to take everything in.

I was asked to be a “stand in” for the host a few times so they could get the lighting and white balance right. When I was standing in front of the two giant lenses I realized how much I didn’t want to be in front of the camera. I much prefer watching the action live from the back than being the one on camera.

We shot on the balcony, outside the booth where Lincoln was shot, in the lobby, up the winding staircase, in the back alley where Booth escaped on his horse and out in front of Ford’s Theatre until 2am, when the director very generously gave me a ride back to AU.

This experience was the best experience I have ever had as an intern.  And it’s definitely in the top 10 coolest things I have ever done.