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blogbrainsmallSeacoast History Blog #119 
June 28, 2011

I’m not going to give away the details just yet. I signed a contract and I didn’t read it carefully. All I can say is – be sure to watch TV this fall because we’ll be on it. A national television channel will feature yours truly and wife Maryellen in a sequence shot yesterday at a major historic site in Portsmouth. The segment will run for just 8 minutes, but it took all day to shoot.  We’re beat. Making TV movies is super hard work. “In any other country they’d call this torture,” I said to the director after an hour baking in the glare of the lights. “It’s just like two friends having a conversation,” the director said from behind the burning solar flares. “Just look into the camera.” (Continued below with photos)


“Can you move your glasses down just a bit?” the cameraman asked. “No, not that much. Okay, a little more.”

My glasses always make a hot white “hit” on the camera lens, but what can a half-blind guy do? Maryellen was smart. She took off her glasses, but even without them she began to fade after nearly two hours in the limelight.

“Can you try that again,” the director says, “but shorter.

Maryellen Burke under the lights /

Short is the key. The TV is all about sound bites. You know that, but try to do it for an hour straight when it’s 100 degrees inside your dark button-down dark shirt with the pressure on as a half dozen people are milling around, adjusting cords, trimming lights, testing sound. If you can make a strong point in under a minute, it might show up on TV. If you can make that point in 10 seconds – you’re guaranteed a spot. The more often you stop short and the more colorful your language, the more the director smiles.

In a former career I owned a video production company. I wrote and directed a couple hundred scripts, putting hundreds of people through the torture of hot lights and lots of waiting and fine-tuning. “Keep it short! Hold your head still! Don’t rustle the microphone against your sweater!”

There have been no less that three fall television shows about local history shot in this area in the last few months. I consulted a bit on one, played on-camera expert in another, and missed the third entirely. A fourth show about a marine bicycle never quite got off the ground. All of them involved crews of talented filmmakers trekking their way to the New Hampshire seacoast. All involved tons of preplanning. All cost the TV stations a lot of money.

For today’s production I got a list of questions from the producer four pages long and single spaced. Maryellen and I spent our entire weekend brushing up, taking notes, re-reading books, Googling for details. We’ll each get about two minutes of air time, and no, we didn’t get paid a dime. We pray we won’t look like idiots. And we hope, ultimately, people all across the planet will learn more about Seacoast history. Hey, it’s what we do.

More details to follow when we get the green light.

© 2011 by J. Dennis Robinson. All rights reserved.

Make-up cameraman at work /

J. Dennis Robinson on-Camera /

Cameraman marcus gets the angle /

Maryellen Burke as TV history expert /

Photos (c) copyright All rights reserved.




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Making History TV Shows is Hard Work
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