One month ago, we received a call from a location scout from American University. She was scouting for locations for a doctoral film thesis for several students at the university. They had secured Mount Vernon and wanted to find a location that might “stand in” for the interior shots of Mount Vernon. Just a few days later, we received the email to let us know that we had been selected! What an honor to “stand in” for Mount Vernon!
The film, “When America Met China” is their documentary on how the import of porcelains from China in Early America had affects on how we lived and entertained. I was so excited to hear that we would have actors coming in period dress and that two of them would be President and Mrs. Washington.
The students arrived just a few days later to walk the location and to start working on their shooting schedule. Little did I know I would become a historic consultant for their dinner shoot! Of course it was easy since I had create two Colonial style meals for President and Mrs. Madison’s two dinner parties here.
Emails flew for the next couple of weeks as they asked questions about our china pieces, dishes we had that they could use, linens and such. They also asked us if we could help them locate four more actors in period costume to act in the film. I knew just who to go to for this one. We had met a group called George Washington’s Young Friends (http://www.gwyf.org/) at Stratford Hall last year. After a few more emails and getting their schedule together with the film makers, we finally had a film date.
First the production crew arrived and worked to set up each of the rooms they needed. They wanted to do a tea shot in the Parlor, a Library shot, a dinner shot in the Formal Dining Room and a Riverside Portico shot for George and Martha. Our actors from George Washington’s Young Friends arrived first. I placed them in rooms to allow them to rest and get ready. It’s not easy dressing in period costumes! Then Mrs. Washington arrived. Martha was played by actress JoAnn Abbott (facebook.com/joann.abbott). Then President Washington arrived. George was played by actor James Manship (facebook.com/Statesmanship).
Of course, I knew this would be a wonderful opportunity to get some great photographs of period actors in the mansion so I made sure we had at least one photographer on site for the filming. I asked Bill Hutchins to come and take the photographs. You may remember our “Gone with the Wind” photo from our Civil War Day at Belle Grove Plantation. Bill was the one who took this photograph.
During the filming, Brett and I tried to stay out of the way as much as possible. The production crew would come to us every now and then to as if they could move something or help them find something to use. But for the most part, we stayed outside or in our room. I would peak out every now and then to snap a few candid shots for history sake.
After the filming was over, the actors packed up and headed home. The production crew left and to tell you the truth, we wouldn’t have even known that they were there. They put the mansion back in place and cleaned up. As they said their goodbyes, the director handed us a small gift to say thank you.
The gift was a small kite from her hometown, Weifang. It is a small city in north east China. Handmade kites from Weifang are very famous in China. They hold an international kite festival every year in Weifang. It was a preious gift that Brett and I will treasure.
We would like to thank the students of American University for selecting us for filming. It was an honor to help you.
We would like to thank George Washington’s Young Friends for coming to our rescue! We appreciate you taking the time out of your Sunday to spend the day in costume at the last minute. We look forward to having you at the mansion more often!
We would like to thank James Manship and JoAnn Abbott for coming and playing George and Martha. Your performances were awe inspiring and truly show your love of history and respect for such great historical people. We would love to have you back at the plantation to meet and greet our visitors some day as well as help us with field trips during the school year.
We would like to give a special thank you to Bill Hutchins for coming and capturing the historic events with us! Your photographs are just perfect!
We look forward to being selected for many more films in the future. Maybe one day we might even be selected for a movie!
No autographs please…