What do you do when faced with a storage area filled with artifacts, one film crew, one docent, one curator and one TV personality? You stand around. A lot. And… babysit the artifacts so people and cameras don’t get to close ….listen to multiple versions of the same interview… watch many pieces of equipment get put together, taken apart, moved to another spot and then put back together again… listen to the inside jokes that only film crews can tell…and so on.
The museum is a popular destination for film crews from all over the world. We get requests to film artifacts, galleries and even the entire museum as well as provide staff for interviews on or off camera and to share what we know about the objects. Our photography department also gets numerous requests for images to serve as illustrations for narrated video segments.
Working with TV personalities and film crews can be challenging. Not in ways you might think, though. It has been my experience that the crews we have worked with have been knowledgeable and dedicated to creating the best possible product. Have there been “interesting” personalities? Of course. But look at the staff of any museum and you will find some of the same.
The most challenging aspects are related to all the necessary arrangements. All the crews come to us with strict schedules where every task is detailed into certain time blocks. For example, from 8:30 to 9:00 is equipment set up. From 9:00 to 9:15 the crew will film close-ups. Lunch will be from 12:10 to 12:40 and so on. On the days we are working with the film crews, we have to stick to their schedule, not ours.
Once the film crew arrives, it doesn’t matter how much coffee, tea or soda you drank with breakfast or lunch. You will not get to see the inside of the restroom unless the timing fits with the shooting schedule or someone on the crew has the same need. It’s not just the fact that no one can enter or leave the area while the cameras are rolling. To ensure the safety and security of the collection, anytime someone other than select staff members has to go inside a storage area or anytime a display case has been opened, someone from Collections has to be present. With a staff of only three in our department, we sometimes need to ask for help. The more people involved, the more staff is needed, especially if the crew is spread out over a large area. We do our best to always have a backup person or two who can fill in so we can get an occasional break from all the action, so we rely on help from the curators and our security officers.
So, all this information leads up to Thursday April 3rd, when Red Rock Films stopped by to shoot scenes that will be used in an episode of “Secrets at the Arsenal” on The American Heroes Channel (formerly called The Military Channel). They contacted us in February to see if we had any artifacts related to a WWII American submarine commander named Eugene Fluckey and his boat the USS Barb (SS- 220). We have a presentation flag which is a smaller version of the boat’s battle flag. It was created by the crew and given to the boat’s executive officer after their twelfth voyage. Battle flags were used on board ships to show significant events in its history. Symbols would be added to the flag to represent the sinking of enemy ships, successful shore targets, and so on.
Commander Fluckey and his crew had an eventful twelfth voyage. I don’t want to give away the details—check out the show when it airs or “Search The Collection” by visiting our online collection records at ttp://www.marinersmuseum.org/catalogs where you can read about it.
Enjoy these photos taken while Red Rock Films was here and stay tuned to Hidden In The Hold for more behind the scenes reports from the Collections Department. Thanks for reading!