Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Time to launch

After months of preparation, it's time to launch the documentary series! By that, I mean it's time to start writing the three half-hour episodes to be aired on PBS. With this much material, where to begin? That's my challenge. Fortunately, I created an outline of the three parts months ago and despite all that I've learned since then about Currier & Ives and 19th century America, it remains a good framework and a touchstone to which I will return time and time again.

Part 1 is called "Printmakers to the People" and will focus on the early years, turning points for the firm and personal insights into Currier & Ives.
Part 2 is titled "Cheap & Popular Pictures" and it will feature some of the most and least popular of the firm's output, as well as a closer look at the artists behind the firm and the passion of collectors today.
Part 3 is "The Surprise of Currier & Ives" and will give us the chance to examine the controversial and/or unusual lithographs that the firm produced throughout its long history.
Along the way, we'll see how the pictures made by Currier & Ives compare to what was really going on in the country, we'll contemplate whether the firm's prints reflected or projected an emerging American identity, if they can stand the test of time, and how these approximately 8,000 pictures launched the mass media that inundates us with thousands of images every day.

We do have a few shoots left, including an interview in WGBY's studios with Chris Lane of the Philadelphia Print Shop. You may recognize Chris from PBS' "Antiques Road Show". He, along with Robert Newman, is known as a top Currier & Ives expert and although the two men are competitors in the business world, they have graciously agreed to share the spotlight and spread the wealth of information for these documentaries. They've also been very generous in sharing rare images and records. We'll talk to Chris next week and later, catch him in action at the Historic Deerfield Antiques Show.

The first panel of animation for the series open is finished and it is just magical. Our appreciation to the talented folks at iMarc, who have shown so much enthusiasm for this job! They will also animate "The Awful Conflagration of the Steam Boat Lexington" and "Winter in the Country - A Cold Morning" for the open. The animators are most excited about "Lexington", with all its fire, smoke, and action. "Winter in the Morning" provides more subtle animation opportunities, such as snow falling, the man and dog walking, and smoke curling from the chimney.

I'm listening to online recordings of our narrator's voice to get it solidly in my ear and in my mind - in other words, to make sure that I capture that special Scott Simon quality while writing the narration for the series. I call it writing to voice. It's important in terms of both time and effort because it means that in the end, your narrator doesn't re-write your script so that he or she can read more comfortably and naturally.

That's it for now. Check the website over the next couple of weeks if you'd like information about our Teacher Workshop coming up in November, 2007.

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