And now, what you’ve all been waiting for: the story of last week’s video shoot at Fort Walla Wall Museum!
We got to act. Yes!
Just like you said last week’s blog, Lily, and I feel that “Yes” with you!!
The project is funded by a grant the Fort received from AAUW, The American Association of University Women. The subject is a female pioneer from early Walla Walla days, Lettice Millican Clark Reynolds. She is one of many portrayed in Fort Walla Walla’s Living History Program. Pam Myers currently brings Lettice to life and is the lead actress in the video.
I play the supporting role. My character, Nellie Gilliam Day, was first female reporter at the Walla Walla Evening Bulletin. The script is in the form of an interview, Nellie asking Lettice about the early days in the City of Walla Walla. Of particular interest to AAUW, both women were involved in education in the Walla Walla Valley. Lettice made major financial contributions to capital projects at local learning institutions. Nellie was a teacher, notably at Whitman College, and was also elected School Superintendent of Walla Walla County, narrowly defeating her male opponent.
I wish she’d been around to beat Nixon in 1968!
That would have really been something, 9.
The primary set, the Reynolds Cabin where Lettice first lived when she moved from Portland to Walla Walla in 1859, is on the Fort Walla Walla grounds. Like most cabins of that era it is small, a tight fit for two actors, two cameras each with an operator, lots of microphones, cables and lights, and a fog machine to diffuse the light.
Hot, too. And we were dressed from neck to toes in black!
One must suffer for art, Lily.
Our director, Ella Meyers of Fort Walla Walla Museum, knows a lot about cameras and just about everything else. Technical support and the loan of special video equipment came from James Temple of James Temple Films, LLC. Groover Snell, Program Manager at Fort Walla Walla, gamely served as grip (aka, the guy who does everything else that’s needed). Local historian and Living History co-chair Susan Monahan assisted with the script.
The first day of shooting was August 10. We started at 3 PM. While Pam was being fitted with a wig, I worked with James and Groover on an exterior shot. The rest of the time we worked in the cabin. The script was broken down into five short scenes, which made it easier to hit the lines just right. Some scenes looked good on the first take, but a second one was taken for safety. Some scenes took longer. Between scenes the fog machine was fired up. When it belched out sufficient fog the crew had to fan the fog until it dissipated to the desired effect. This took about as much time as taping the actual scenes!
It was definitely hot work and it was a bit gritty in the cabin. The crew was super kind and patient. The 5 scenes were shot with 2 cameras, one on each actor. “Transitional” scenes (example: the last line of scene one and the first line of scene two) were shot again as dolly shots, with the camera and operator pulled slowly along a track to get a panning effect. I learned a lot that afternoon, and the technical aspects really impressed me! We finished just before 7 PM.
The next day I was needed for some nonverbal scenes to frame the interview (typing in the newspaper office, walking down a path to Lettice’s cabin). For the newspaper office scene they used a green screen that will have a photo out the window of 1906 downtown Walla Walla superimposed on it (video magic!). By the time we finished the outdoor scene it was 95 F.
And we loved every minute of it!
Yes, we did, Lily! I’d gladly do something like this again and am curious to see the end product. I’m told editing may take quite a while. When the video is finished it will be available at the Fort’s website and included in the interpretive display at the Reynolds Cabin.
Can we get ice cream to celebrate the debut?
I wouldn’t be surprised, 9.
I work by myself a lot. Sometimes I forget that I’m “somebody” in the bigger world, and that I have experience and technical expertise as a performer that’s worth sharing. I am grateful, grateful, grateful to Susan Monahan for recommending me for this project, the wonderful fun of working with co-actor Pam Myer, and the support of Ella Meyer and her crew.
This opportunity started with an impulse 3 years ago, when I volunteered for the Living History program at Fort Walla Walla Museum. The program is always looking for volunteers! Check here for details about Living History performances to come in 2021:
It’s been a difficult 18 months of isolation with limited opportunities for many of us. If you long to contribute to something bigger than yourself, volunteer! Who knows, you may be the next one captured by a video camera. . .
Subscribe To Susan's Newsletter
Join the official mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from Susan D. Matley. It's free and you can opt out anytime!