Friday, July 27, 2007

Crew Learns Oxen Would Win in a Fight

Has 2 weeks passed already? It's been a whirlwind! The crew enjoyed another urban heatwave in D.C. and Baltimore last week. We shot some great stuff, including the work of a master lithographer who shows us how Currier & Ives got it all done. We also spent time with Philip Merrill, an expert in African American memoribilia who is no-holds-barred during our conversation about the controversial Darktown comics series. It's a thorny topic and a crucial discussion.

We spent some extremely valuable time with the gracious staff at the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. The LOC claims to house the biggest Currier & Ives collection in the world! They showed us some of their unique acquisitions and provided some new information. Collectors will like this tidbit: it's long been said that the Library of Congress so little valued the Currier & Ives prints it was acquiring for copyright purposes that staffmembers actually folded them and stuffed them in files. Not so, says curator Sara Duke. Duke claims the firm sent some lithographs folded but that most are actually in fabulous shape. I can testify that I saw many that appeared pristine.

We had a lot of fun talking with collector and expert Dr. Jim Brust, who has so many stories to tell about unusual Currier & Ives finds. Sid Alpert shared his passion for the horse prints and how he came to donate his esteemed collection to the Museums of Springfield, Massachusetts. Mr. Alpert can spin a yarn with the best of them, so it was another lively interview. He and his wife were gracious hosts to a weary crew with few hours of sleep and a very long day ahead. Thanks for the sandwiches and lemonade, Sid and Lenny!

Author Charlotte Rubinstein shared some brand-new information about the solo female artist at the firm, Fanny Palmer. Rubinstein has amazing passion for her work! We also spent time together at the Smithsonian, where we researched a file on Currier & Ives and the artists working there.

This week, we spent a day getting some period shots at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. It was a very productive day and we got some of the most gorgeous video you'll ever see. Check out the YouTube video of the crew as it's nearly plowed by a team of oxen! The mayhem is clearer if you listen to the accompanying audio. This near-disaster posed the quintessential producer's dilemma: which to save --the cameraman or the very expensive camera? Just kidding, Mark!

I'm off on a marathon tape-viewing session to pick the best soundbites and video for a "short", an 8-12 minute piece that will capsulize some of our upcoming documentary series. Oh, so many choices! That edit is right around the corner, so the decisions will be quick ones.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wild Green Parrots in the Graveyard

It's been a busy couple of weeks! The crew was treated to a Manhattan heat wave for our shoot on Currier & Ives' home turf. The temperatures hit 100 degrees and higher but fortunately, much of our shooting was indoors with air conditioning. Some highlights were shooting at the esteemed Old Print Shop on Lexington Avenue with the man many consider the top expert on Currier & Ives: Robert Newman; spotting a flock of wild green parrots at what is the most extraordinary cemetery we'd ever seen: Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, where Currier & Ives are buried; and a lively interview about the controversial Darktown series with collector Ronald Washington.

My interviews are being readied for transcription and soon I'll be at work on a short trailer for educational and promotional use. In the meantime, the crew is off to Washington, D.C. this week to catch up with Dr. Jim Brust, who makes the most fascinating and surprising discoveries about the firm through his extensive research.
We'll also talk to the author of a book about Currier & Ives prolific artist, Fanny Palmer. Palmer was a woman ahead of her time!
A Master Lithographer will demonstrate how Currier & Ives made their prints in the 19th century.
We'll take a peek at what's unique about the Currier & Ives collection at the Library of Congress and interview a collector who's passionate about the firm's horse prints. He's Sid Alpert, whose pristine and comprehensive collection of Currier & Ives lithographs is now housed at the Springfield Museums in Massachusetts. It's the only museum in the country with a permanent C&I Gallery and it's a must-see if you're in the area. The themed exhibits change every few months and they are beautifully curated.

We'll try to stay cool in D.C. and as always, I'll keep you posted.