Interview with Donald Eaton, Assistant Director of “Gods and Generals

I thought we would take a tiny break on this blog from all the Copperhead coverage, and what better way to do that than by posting an interview with a crew member from Gods and Generals? Yes, friends, just when you thought we could not find one more person involved with the film that was willing to tell of their experiences, I was able to come into contact with Donald Eaton, who served as the First Assistant Director to Ron Maxwell during the production. I asked him for an interview, and he most graciously agreed. Donald has been involved in the industry since the early 1980’s, when he worked on several very popular television series, notably Hart to Hart, Paper Dolls, and Moonlighting. All told, he has lended his services to nearly fifty movies or television specials, including a Hallmark film called The Love Letter in 1998, which also involved the Civil War. Of course, the one we are most interested in is Gods and Generals.

It is always great to hear stories from anyone involved, whether they be an actor or director, or just someone who had to run around and get everyone their morning coffee. The interesting stories and tales are endless, as are their thoughts on the project and what makes it stand out to them. Each one is always unique in its own right. We all know what the directors and producers do behind the scenes, but how about an assistant director; what does his job entail? I thank Mr. Eaton for his detailed [and funny] responses below, because they give us some insight into that. Please enjoy!

GC: As first assistant director for Gods and Generals, can you tell us about what your job entailed?

DE: I could actually write a book in answer to this question. First, the normal duties of a 1st Assistant Director apply. Reading the script; Breaking it down into scenes and requirements (Cast, Extras, SPFX, equipment, Props, etc.); Scouting locations; Finally making a complete shooting schedule. This is a balancing act because many things have to work together to make it work: Cast / Location availability; General logistics, etc. Once we start shooting, the 1st  (And his/her assistants) is responsible for making sure that everything needed for the day is there, where it should be and ready to go when called for. Then, the 1st runs the set, describing camera positions, placing extras, dealing with vehicles, stunts, SPFX, coordinating security and safety etc. as needed. Then, prep for the next day has to be completed and distributed in the form of a Call Sheet. That goes on day after day, and of course, not everything goes as planned. The 1st has to be able to solve problems as they come up and not let shooting be delayed. Also the 1st has to walk a tightrope between working for the Director, who may want A,B,C,D & E and the Producer (or UPM) who says: “You can only have A & B, maybe C but no D & E!”. Diplomacy is often required.

Now, all that applies to Gods and Generals, of course, but remember, this film also had reenactors who have limited time to leave home and jobs to be in a movie. This has to be carefully coordinated. Also, they have their own uniforms, weapons, and perhaps horses, but these may not be suitable for the scenes we have scheduled. Then, they all have to be given a place to camp and provided with three meals a day and sanitary equipment. In the winter, they have to be put in hotels and somehow, they all have to be transported to the shooting location, be ready for filming and instructed (by the 1st and other AD’s) as to what they are supposed to do in the scene. They may also have to work with the Stunt Coordinator, Armorer and the SPFX team if we are doing a battle scene. Well, there are also extras who have to fill out the reenactors ranks, so they all need to be…..yadda, yadda, yadda…there was a full-time 2nd Unit that had to coordinate with the main unit. Every morning we would have a struggle to decide which unit got which reenactors and how many. There are Horses, Cast, ND and Reenactor’s Cavalry. There is artillery, which has to be trucked in (unless we film the horses moving it, which is really quite cool!) and set up, observing all safety regulations. There’s Battle rehearsal, or Marching rehearsal or Hanging around rehearsal.

We did four battles in Gods and Generals and I was responsible for researching each one and making a plan for filming them. I did this with the help of the Reenactor Coordinators, Stunt Coordinator and the Director. We had to set up a “War Room” where we could deal with all this stuff. There is a lot more, of course, including the weather. It might take over an hour to get 200 reenactors in position out in some field. Then, if it starts to rain….or worse, start lightning, they all have to be called in as quickly as possible and be put under safe shelter. It was a tough job, but I had an excellent AD staff and excellent cooperation from all departments. We had a superior Camera Team (Sometimes up to 6 cameras on one shot!!!) and a hardworking, professional crew. Our producer, Rom Smith was a solid supporter of our efforts. It was a tough shoot, but I enjoyed it tremendously. I was hoping Ron Maxwell would start The Last Full Measure the next year, but that didn’t happen.

GC: What was your overall experience like working on the film and with director Ron Maxwell?

DE: Overall, I would say it was good. Ron has a wide range of historical knowledge, so we often had long chats about ancient battles while we were riding around scouting locations. We didn’t always agree, however. Ron liked to do these long shots in ‘real’ time. The problem was that we only had so many hours in a day to complete our work. Still, I think we only failed to complete two days out of the entire schedule and those were due to weather. I might ‘suggest’ compressing things a bit, but he was the Director and Producer. So, that was that…as it should be.

GC: What was your most memorable moment while on the set? What was the funniest?

DE: We were filming a scene at Chamberlain’s camp when we got word that the Twin Towers in NY had been attacked. Of course, everything stopped as we all tried to learn more. Many of the reenactors were also National Guardsmen and so were concerned about being called up. It was a sad and tense afternoon. As for ‘funniest’: My fine assistant, John Mallard, and I would stand close to Jeff Daniels while he was preparing. He liked to look up at the sun for some reason. John and I would then start a strange dialogue, just so Jeff could hear it. We just made them up: -“John, are you sure those girls last night were eighteen?” –“Well, I know the short one was kinda on the young side, but I think the other one, with the missing teeth, I think she was eighteen.” We would go on for minutes and it used to drive Jeff crazy because he didn’t know if we were serious or not.

GC: Did you have any interest in the Civil War prior to filming?

DE: Not especially. My field in school was Classics, Greek and Latin. I got keenly interested in ancient military history. Later, I used to build super-detailed scale models, mostly WWII aircraft. Also, I did a good number of military computer simulations, (Including Civil War battles.) I did a MOW for Hallmark Hall of Fame called The Love Letter. It required recreating part of the battle of Gettysburg. That was my first taste of filming that genre…Reenactors, horses, cannons…etc. Other than that, my interest was general.

GC: Lastly, your name has come up on some message boards discussing the project To Appomattox. What is your opinion of the project and why have you spoken out against it?

DE: I don’t believe I ever spoke out ‘against’ that project. I was researching material for the novels I’m writing about the last four months of the Civil War [you can check that out by clicking here]: when my friend, Jake Borit, told me about the To Appomattox website. I read in a couple of reenactors’ blogs that there seemed to be something ‘fishy’ about it. I looked at the claims that were made on the site and they raised a lot of questions. I made some calls and it seemed that in spite of what they said about locations having been secured, Director and Actors hired, etc. none of that was verified. Finally, J.D. Petruzzi, one of the historical consultants, wrote me and said I was attacking the project. I told him I wasn’t. IF they had hired a director and actors, there had to be a production company that was signatory to both DGA and SAG agreements. I asked what that company was. Well, he told me to be patient and ‘all would be revealed’. So now, if you look it up at IMDb, you’ll see it’s a Sony Pictures project in ‘pre-production. It’s listed with a ‘start date’ of April 12, 2012 but it also indicates that it is still in pre-production. When you check out the director and entire cast, they all start 2013, and To Appomattox is not cited on any of IMDb list of their future projects. So I guess it’s just a long prep. I don’t know. Bottom line is that I wish them well and great success.

I would like to thank Mr. Eaton for taking the time to conduct this interview and I wish him the best of luck with any future projects!

For more information and interviews with people involved with the film, please visit the complete Gods and Generals Archive.

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21 thoughts on “Interview with Donald Eaton, Assistant Director of “Gods and Generals

  1. Great interview. As for the last question, Mr. Eaton has indeed been very critical of the project on various forums. As I explained to him (and I never used the words “all will be revealed” – I don’t own a crystal ball) the IMDB page was made by an unrelated individual. The production company has nothing to do with the IMDB page. Therefore, to rely on ANYTHING that is on that page can be very misleading. In fact, some of what is on that page is just plain incorrect. Anyone who has an IMDB account can create a page. Mr. Eaton’s criticisms were based, for the most part, on the IMDB information and even after it was explained that no one connected to the project had anything to do with the page, Mr. Eaton continued to post critical comments about it (even on the project’s Facebook page itself). I’m sure that Mr. Eaton will agree that at this time, locations, actor discussions and contracts, etc. are confidential and that the company is not required to either seek Mr. Eaton’s permission nor disclose all non-public negotiations to him. I’m a member of the crew as Technical/Historical Advisor and even I don’t know everything that is taking place – as it should be. Many events must remain within the company of producers and with no one else.
    The production is in the final stages of pre-production and is currently on schedule. The production company will release any information that they desire to release and on their own schedule. But don’t rely on the IMDB page. We hope that when the series airs in the summer of 2013, Mr. Eaton and everyone else will enjoy viewing it.

    1. 05/19/12
      O.K., boys and girls, get a cold one And settle down. This may take a while.
      First, I must say this: I in no way wish to denigrate JD, his scholarship or his work. He is a highly respected and award-winning historian AND, as I understand it, he actually rides as a cavalry reenactor. Well done, Sir!

      Second, I in no way wish to be ‘critical’ of Mr. Beckner’s series, TO APPOMATTOX. I have no reason to, and as I wrote above, earnestly wish them success.

      That being said, I must go back and look at the facts that JD mentioned in his letter. I have no intention of going over all the other questions I posed over a year ago and had subsequently put out of my mind. But as a demi-historian, I understand the importance of documents. (Facts are often subjective, but DATA is not.)

      Briefly, for those who don’t know it yet, I heard about the project from my friend and (I assume) a colleague of JD’s due to their close and mutual association with Gettysburg. As I said above, I was then working on my own Civil War project and was entirely interested in any possible production conflicts.
      When I asked Jake Boritt about what he knew about TO APPOMATTOX, he wrote me back. It would be unfair for me to quote his letter here because it was a private conversation, but suffice it to say that at that time, 04/26/11, he also had his doubts about the website. Of course, his opinion could have changed since then.

      Well, even more questions arose, especially regarding things that appeared on the TA website. For example, this is from CIVIL WAR REENACTING:
      From Admin:
      A lot of talk has suddenly hit the Civil War forums, facebook groups, and blogs about a possible new mini-series that will be coming out in the near future titled To Appomattox. Some say it will be an HBO series like Band of Brothers or John Adams, WHILE OTHERS SAY THE PAGE IS JUST A HOAX (a mini-series fantasy if you will that hasn’t actually been agreed to yet). From what I read, however, they do say filming of this will start next year (2012) and it looks like a group titled Rascal Flatts has agreed to do the music, so that makes me think this is for real, which is exciting. After all many of us have wanted a mini-series like Band of Brothers or John Adams for the Civil War era, and now, given the 150th events coming up, something like this would be perfect.
      http://www.toappomattox.com/To_Appomattox_0VCF.html
      SO, WHAT DO YOU ALL THINK OF THIS?
      ALSO, IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION ABOUT IT PLEASE LET US KNOW, WE ARE VERY INTERESTED.

      From Cory:
      The script writer has posted on a civil war forum stuff he wants opinions on. That is, if that isn’t someone being a jerk.

      From Mr. Beckner:
      December 2011

      To answer a few questions off the bat–
      Yes this is “real.”
      I’m not “some jerk.”
      Be happy to discuss our project, answer questions, maybe get some questions to those I have from time to time as things come together and move to production this coming spring.

      For up-to-date information on that and the rest of the production as it comes in, I invite the membership here who are interested to our official Facebook page “To Appomattox – TV Series”

      Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays,
      Michael Beckner

      So, as ‘invited’, I posted my queries on the website. I think that is when JD first wrote to me. I don’t have his first letter, but as I recall, it was quite cordial and he offered some ‘answers, to my original questions. When I wrote back to him, I suggested we continue any further conversations via e-mail. I HAD ZERO INTEREST IN A PUBLIC AIRING. Oh, well…
      So, JD wrote to me the following. (I am redacting only the parts that are general in nature.)

      05/16/11
      J David Petruzzi
      Hi again Donald,
      I DO UNDERSTAND YOUR CONCERNS AND QUESTIONS, AND THEY ARE VALID. I believe part of the answer lies in the fact that the nature of this project is misunderstood by many – it is not a grand production of mostly battle scenes. And it is not similar to productions such as G&G, Gettysburg, Glory, etc……
      All of the cast on the website thus far, as well as the director and producers are indeed on the project. The channel that the series will appear on is ready to sign – the deal was closed just this past Friday [05/13/11] I am unable to reveal the channel to you at the moment. There is indeed a lot of ‘HBO’ connection out there, but HBO was only one of the networks in discussion. Folks began assuming that it was going to be HBO, then bloggers and sites started saying HBO, and it snowballed from there.

      As for West Point, (Filming and firing cannons) that was just wrapped up on Friday as well, so that’s why I previously said that your information of…(my text is incomplete here, but I believe JD ended with something like ‘obsolite.)

      I wrote back (via e-mail) the following…again redacted to focus on the specific material in question:
      05/16/11
      [From DPHE]

      Mr. Petruzzi,

      Thank you for your response to my posting about your production. I think you and Mr. Beckner might see why I, and others in the re-enactor community, might have questions about the status of your series. OF COURSE THINGS LIKE THIS DO TAKE YEARS TO DEVELOP AND REQUIRE MANY PARTICIPANTS. IF MR. BECKNER IS STILL IN THE PRELIMINARY STAGES OF PACKAGING THE SERIES, THEN WHAT YOU WROTE IS SOMEWHAT UNDERSTANDABLE. HOWEVER, IT APPEARS THAT HIS WEBSITE MAKES IT ALL SEEM FAIT ACCOMPLI.

      You (i.e.JD) wrote: “There will be many details released about the production once it goes into pre-production this fall, (2011) and you (i.e. Me) will begin seeing information regarding the cast and crew then.”

      As for my information being ‘obsolete’. The information I got, and detailed in my posting, is all dated from April 25, 2011, exactly three weeks ago.

      You further wrote: “And due to confidentiality agreements, folks that you discuss this project with will tell you they know nothing of it. That’s why you’re getting no information from West Point or any of the states that you’re speaking with. “

      I said that I found that difficult to understand. Usually ‘Film Commissions like to ‘promote’ work coming to their state, not conceal it.’ And besides, Mr. Beckner, himself, wrote: “WE WILL FILM INTERIORS IN CANADA, BUT ALL EXTERIORS–TROOP MOVEMENTS, BATTLES, ENCAMPMENTS–WILL BE SHOT IN PA AND NC”. (From Producer Beckner’s Press Release)
      So, why all the confidentiality? I asked. Fair question, no?.

      At that point I went into specific production related questions. (I have the full text, but you might want to trust me when I say I wrote nothing derogatory about the project. In fact, I only asked questions.

      Here is how I concluded”

      So, Mr. Petruzzi, let me say that I am not a lawyer, or detective or anything like that. I spent a long time working with re-enactors and a much longer time on film production. Much of what Mr. Beckner and you have written, doesn’t make a lot of sense and others are picking up on that as well. Some of the assertions are clearly false the way they are stated AS I POINTED OUT. (Such as a director and certain actors ‘having been HIRED, but no response when I asked if the ProdCo, whatever it was, was a signatory with MY guild, DGA or with SAG.

      I continued:

      I HOLD NO ILL WISHES FOR YOUR PROJECT, and have in fact worked with a number of the fine actors Mr. Beckner has ‘assembled’ [Rob Lowe, Steve Lang, Will Patton…) I write this because of my own personal interest.

      I think I covered about everything you mentioned in your letter to me and have asked a number of honest questions regarding the production and its present status. It would be nice if you wrote me back and answered a few in a straightforward way, but that’s up to you.

      Please feel free to share this letter with Mr. Beckner and if all the questions I have raised have valid answers, THEN GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR SHOW. I HAVE NO REASON TO DELVE INTO THIS ANY FURTHER, [05/16/11] I just don’t want to see my friends in the Civil War community jerked around and given false hope….
      Sincerely,
      Donald P.H. Eaton
      DGA / WGA

      Now, JD was kind enough to reply:
      05/16/11
      J David Petruzzi

      Hi Donald, I just spoke with Mr. Beckner and we discussed all of your concerns. If you are discussing this topic with other folks, you need to be aware of the following:

      First, your information is indeed OBSOLETE (I’m sure you know that information on these types of projects changes daily).
      [As I mentioned, my info was only two or three weeks old, but no matter….things do change.]
      .
      Now, here is where it gets INTERESTING:

      Secondly, you will not yet see this project listed in imdb or the actors’ pages because they have not yet signed their deals.
      [So, as I suggested, the phrase ‘We’ve HIRED so-and-so, really wasn’t the case! (QED)]

      And until this project officially goes into pre-production (a few months from now) IT WON’T BE LISTED ON IMDB* EITHER.
      [This was written ONE YEAR AGO! It implies that they consider IMDb to be a VALID PLATFORM when the time is right, does it not? *More to come on that, below.]

      There will be many details released about the production once it goes into pre-production this fall (i.e. 2011!), and you will begin seeing information regarding the cast and crew then. I hope this helps to address your concerns.
      J.D. Petruzzi

      In October, 2011, I wrote back to JD asking simply what was new. I even offered, since they were in preproduction, to connect them with any of my G&G resources they might find useful. JD replied:

      10/03/11
      [From JD]

      Hi Donald,
      “To Appomattox” TV Mini-series wrote: “Hi Don! Thanks for checking back in. This is a fan site. Not a job board. I honor your work on G&G. Well done, sir. We’re going a different direction than Mr. Maxwell. I totally empathize with your desire to know what’s going on and believe it’s real. You took an early stance against this project and made some outrageous statements–based on your not being privy to information; oh, yes: people called and asked if you were part of the production. My dear friend Lenwood Sloan (you refer to him as “Linwood” called me directly after you queried him–“who’s this Eaton guy?” LENWOOD is now with the State Lottery and we'”
      [O.K. What was my ‘early stance against this project,, since I just offered any help I could. I certainly wasn’t looking for a job. It’s just that there are only a few people with the knowledge to make such a project work from a production point of view…MY point of view. and I know a lot of them. See what’s happening, guys?]

      Then JD wrote on the same day:

      10/03/11
      [From JD]

      Hi Donald,
      “To Appomattox” TV Mini-series also commented on their status.
      “To Appomattox” TV Mini-series wrote: “we’re still making this in PA. Call the Phillie Film Office if you want to keep playing policeman. … Call Sony. Call WME. Your negativity is annoying and misplaced.”

      [I thought I had made it clear early on that I was only looking for possible production conflicts between TA and my ‘proposed’ series relating to the same period. Why on earth would I call any of those people back now? I am NOT a policeman. Also, I take JD at his word as a gentleman. Why would he say “Your negativity is annoying and misplaced.”? Hmmmm!
      [Personal note: During the battle of Bentonville, Lee made it clear to General Johnston that Sherman must be stopped, otherwise his troops would be cut off from vital supplies at Petersburg. Johnston wrote back: “Sherman’s course cannot be altered by the small force I have. I can do no more than annoy him.” It’s in my book.]

      Finally, he wrote:

      10/03/11
      [From JD]
      Hi Donald,
      “To Appomattox” TV Mini-series also commented on their status.
      “To Appomattox” TV Mini-series wrote: “After your attacks, I did look you up…and ordered your book. [THE LITTLE STREET ‘A Story of Love and Art’ http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/dphe%5D Beautifully written. Well done, sir.”
      Thank you, sincerely, JD…about the book. But ATTACKS???
      Really! I take umbridge!

      Finally, I let all this go….LAST YEAR! There were no production conflicts. My project still hadn’t gotten off the ground, but I was working on it!

      Then, a few days ago, I got the note from Greg asking for an interview. I said fine. His last question (As we all know now) was:
      5. Lastly, your name has come up on some message boards discussing the project “To Appomattox”. What is your opinion of the project and why have you spoken out against it?

      I did not bring this up and everyone can read my answer above. Also, I just found out that Greg ran the TA Ultimate Fan Blog until just a few weeks ago….Over to you, Steve!

      However, I DID end with this:

      So now, if you (i.e. the public) look it up at IMDb, you’ll see it’s a Sony Pictures project in ‘pre-production. It’s listed with a ‘start date’ of April 12, 2012 but it also indicates that it is still in preproduction. When you check out the director and entire cast, they all start 2013. SO I GUESS IT’S JUST A LONG PREP. I DON’T KNOW.

      My Bottom line is that I wish them well and great success.

      Then, after reading my interview with Greg, I wanted to clear up two things. One was directly about G&G and my later writing experiences gleaned from it. The second was about TA.

      Again, you can read it above, but I’d just like to stick the end of it here, if I may…(Go git another coldie, if ya need ta…I told you this was gonna be a long ‘un!)

      “Anyway, why was I so interested in the Appomattox series? At the time I heard about it, my proposed ‘series’, TILL THEY BEG FOR MERCY, was still in the exploration stage. My feeling was that the show should air in January, February, March and April of 2015, to coincide exactly with the 150th anniversary of the events of those months at the end of the Civil War. Assuming a year and a half of prepping, shooting and editing, that meant that we would have to be starting sometime in 2013. From a strictly ‘production’ point of view, I wanted to find out what the timeline was for SHOOTING the Appomattox show, because I wanted to avoid any conflict in production resources. After all, there are only so many cannons, muskets, horses etc. That’s when I started to call the film boards of the states the Appomattox website said had been chosen for filming. I knew several of the board directors because I had done a number of films in Virginia, N.C., S.C., and Maryland. Well, I won’t re-chew my cabbage here, but I got a lot of blanks. Anyway, J.D. fielded my questions politely and as best he could and I said I would take him at his word, which I did.
      I TRULY HOPED THEIR SERIES WOULD SUCCESSFUL…but they had better get going on it!…because the more major TV / FILM events there are about the Civil War in the upcoming few years of the anniversary, the better it is for other projects due to the public interest generated. Git ‘er done, Boys! Git ‘er done!

      That was that, I thought ‘And so to bed….’

      Well, surprise! I found this little nugget from JD:
      J David Petruzzi
      May 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm
      Great interview. As for the last question, Mr. Eaton has indeed been very critical of the project on various forums.
      [As I have exhaustively pointed out: I HAVE NOT! as you all can see!]

      As I explained to him (and I never used the words “all will be revealed” – I don’t own a crystal ball) the IMDB page was made by an unrelated individual.
      [TRUE! He never used those words and I believe him when he says he is not in possession of a crystal ball! But FALSE when he says: “As I explained to him, the IMDB page was made by an unrelated individual.”

      I have presented, to the best of my ability, ALL of JD’s correspondence to me and NOWHERE has he EVER stated or even IMPLIED that! IN FACT, he, himself, said that TA was going to post all their pertinent info on IMDb when the time was right.
      [See above. That was over a year ago. He had faith in it then, I guess!]

      The production company has nothing to do with the IMDB page. Therefore, to rely on ANYTHING that is on that page can be very misleading. In fact, some of what is on that page is JUST PLAIN INCORRECT. Anyone who has an IMDB account can create a page.

      Mr. Eaton’s criticisms
      [I can find any ‘criticisms…only questions that remained unanswered for one reason or another]
      Mr. Eaton’s criticisms were based, for the most part, on the IMDB information and even after it was explained that no one connected to the project had anything to do with the page,
      [As I said, that is nowhere in the documents, and I challenge, CHALLENGE, JD to show us where he ‘explained’ that to me!]

      Mr. Eaton continued to post critical comments about it (even on the project’s Facebook page itself).
      [I’m sorry. When was that?]

      I’m sure that Mr. Eaton will agree that at this time, locations, actor discussions and contracts, etc. are confidential and that the company is not required to either seek Mr. Eaton’s permission nor disclose all non-public negotiations to him.
      [I could not agree more! However, information, updates and answers had been promised for over a year now, but it’s still all ‘confidential’, even though they are PROMOTING it!…I don’t know…Maybe I’m just nuts…]

      I’m a member of the crew as Technical/Historical Advisor and even I don’t know everything that is taking place – as it should be. Many events must remain within the company of producers and with no one else.
      [And, after a year and a half of pre-production, that is because….?]

      The production is in the final stages of pre-production and is currently on schedule.
      [I’m sorry, WHICH schedule?…Doesn’t matter. I’ve been there.]

      The production company will release any information that they desire to release and on their own schedule. BUT DON’T RELY ON THE IMDB page.

      We hope that when the series airs in the summer of 2013, Mr. Eaton and everyone else will enjoy viewing it.
      [Indeed, I will, J.D. Honestly, it sounds like a well conceived, well-vetted project. I can’t wait till it is aired on some cable network, still to be named…Sorry, that was catty!]

      And so, Dear Reader, I shall close with a few final thoughts:

      First, Greg, I don’t know think you knew you were opening this can of sardines, but here we are to make your pages even more exciting. I guess it’s now Steve’s thing to deal with. I was going to apologize, but I decided that, if this fits, then let’s wear it.

      To J.D., I suppose a duel is out of the question. I live in Oregon and we have laws about such things. Maybe New Jersey, where Burr shot Hamilton…Naw! J.D. made an important point in his last note: “I’m a member of the crew as Technical/Historical Advisor”. Absolutely! J.D. has been good soldier enough to take this on, no matter what spin he put on it, when it really is not his responsibility. That is why we have Associate Producers. They handle ‘annoying’ people like me.

      J.D., although running his own business:
      http://www.insuranceagentreference.com/detail/j-d-petruzzi-44961.html
      is still a well respected and award-winning author, historian and cavalryman, as I have noted several times. (If he would like to read my books and criticize my description of cavalry engagements, especially Kilpatrick’s, I’ll gladly send him copies and take his comments very seriously!) His book: The Complete Gettysburg Guide: Walking and Driving Tours of the Battlefield, Town, Cemeteries, Field Hospital Sites, and other Topics of Historical Interest [Hardcover] has 45 FIVE STAR REVIEWS on amazon.com.
      http://www.amazon.com/The-Complete-Gettysburg-Guide-Battlefield/dp/1932714634

      Me? I’m just a dilatant! But I know production and I know how to make such a project. I also know my history (Degree in Classics Greek and Latin with High Honors..Ho-hum!) but that’s not the issue here,

      Finally….How’s yer beer?….This thing about IMDb: Many of you out there, not involved in movie production, might not know what it is, BUT, for most of us, it is our BIBLE!!!!!
      [Check it out: http://www.imdb.com, and you can find all the info you need to know about TV, Movies, Actors, Producers, Crew…etc. There is another version called http://pro.imdb.com/ but you have to subscribe to that. Anyway, whenever you need to know about any of those things, that’s where you go! IMDb O.K.

      Well, JD wrote, as noted above: The production company has nothing to do with the IMDB page. Therefore, to rely on ANYTHING that is on that page can be very misleading. In fact, some of what is on that page is just plain incorrect. [For example???] Anyone who has an IMDB account can create a page.
      [To me, this is sort of like Newt Gingrich saying: ‘Anyone who quotes what
      I said is lying!’]

      Well, J.D., THIS IS IMPORTANT STUFF because a lot of people in the industry rely on this data. HOW COULD ANYONE ASSOCIATED WITH THIS PROJECT LET THIS STAND AND JUST BRUSH IT OFF?
      If Anyone who has an IMDB account can create a page, then CHANGE IT! CORRECT IT! FIX IT! But tell the company that, if the data on the IMDb page is ‘not true’, all they have to do is go to the bottom of the page where there is a little yellow button: . (I don’t know if the image will copy here, but it’s a little button that says: UPDATE!) And next to it: YOU MAY REPORT ERRORS AND OMISSIONS ON THIS PAGE TO THE IMDB DATABASE MANAGERS. THEY WILL BE EXAMINED AND IF APPROVED WILL BE INCLUDED IN A FUTURE UPDATE. CLICKING THE ‘UPDATE’ BUTTON WILL TAKE YOU THROUGH A STEP-BY-STEP PROCESS.

      Well, I have to go make dinner now. We are having Dim Sum, a wonderful salad, Roast Pork Loin (On the grill) with grilled mini-peppers and crook-neck squash, Roasted seasoned small red potatoes and homemade lemon meringue pie. Oh, yes,…I almost forgot…Selected wines will be served, as befitting each course (except the Dim Sum).

      J.D.: Pistols at dawn or Meatballs at supper time! (Perhaps with a nice, crisp Borolo Granbussia…Mmmmmm. I’ll bring dessert!)

      Thank you all for your patience. I have no idea if this will fit in the REPLY part of the site. If not, I*’ll find another way to get it to you.

      Best to all………………..Especially to the TO APPOMATTOX crew..

      Donald P.H. Eaton
      DGA, WGA

      1. Donald – meatballs! You can’t beat mine 🙂
        I should point out that the last 3 replies you attribute to me above were actually done by a producer who runs the TA Facebook page (I think at least a couple are administrators) but not me – I don’t have administrative capability of the Facebook page. Anything posted by me on Facebook is only under my own name.
        I hear you about IMDB – the page was posted by a known individual – a fan of the series. When we first saw it, we realized that much of it was incorrect, and most of it was corrected. But as things have changed over the past several months, there’s still incorrect information on there. All of us have been a bit too busy to pay attention to it, admittedly. But sometimes I post replies on the discussion board if someone has a question or posts something that I feel needs responded to.
        As for all of your concerns, expressed well above, I can only repeat that news of the series will come in time, when the producers feel the time is right. Is a lot going on right now? Yes – a heck of a lot. The public will be hearing news very shortly.
        Yep, I’m busy in the insurance business and several other concerns, and spend as much free time writing and studying as much as I can. The rest of the time I’m perfecting my meatball recipe. So watch out, Pilgrim.
        🙂

        J.D.

  2. Mr. Eaton, did anyone on the set have to point out that there is no fighting allowed in the war room? I’m sorry I just had to ask that one. 🙂 I really enjoyed hearing Mr. Eaton’s perspective on working on the film. We gained some new insights into the logistics of shooting Gods and Generals.

    1. Our ‘War Room’ team worked out very well. First, I broke down each of the four battles we intended to film. We made maps based on the locations selected. Then we figured out what item we needed, i.e. artillery, cavalry, wagons, infantry etc. All the waqy through this process we worked with Ron Maxwell, the production design dept., locastoins, stunts, spfx, availability and reenactors’ availability. After that, we would co to thge location with Ron and Keys, the DP, the key grip and the gaffer and walk it through figuring our where such things as camera cranes, dollies, special lighting etc, would need to go and how to get them there. At a couple locations, we determined, (Jusy like Sherman) that we would have to built bridges, which we did.
      Anyway, it all goes on and on and on, but Dennis Frye, Dana and the rest of the reanactor coordinators pulled it all togeter every day ion prep and on the set! I don’t know if that answers your question, andI DID have a number of battles with the second unit, but in the end we ‘got ‘er done’, as they say. IIt was glorious!

      DPHE

  3. Pingback: Follow-Up From Donald Eaton After our Interview « From New York to San Francisco

  4. Surferdude88

    It’s great to see another interview, Greg. I always find the crew angle of G&G fascinating. However, on an end note, from what I see about “To Appomattox” I find the details from Mr. Eaton very troubling. My expectations for that project are in question now. Hope not all is lost.

    1. Wow! Surferdude, just trust them and give them time. I only recounted the ‘past’ of my queries about the project. The have said that they are on schedule and will have the series out next year. I see no reason to doubt that.

      DPHE

      1. Gettysbuff

        Hey Donald, how are you today? I would like to draw your attention to the following https://gcaggiano.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/follow-up-from-donald-eaton-after-our-interview/#comment-3329 and please view my (and JD’s) comments. I don’t know if you followed JD’s horrible attack (whether you agree with it or not is not the point) on Ridley Scott’s ‘Gettysburg’, round about this time last year, but i just wanted to know your opinion on this comment and whether you thought it was just a little contradictory or not? (In other words, in your opinion is it normal to ‘bash’ tv shows to the point that you call for their removal from the airwaves because you consider them to be so awful, and then at a later date complain that there are not enough of the same kind of shows on tv that you had earlier complained about?). Also i would love to hear your opinion on my comment about the entertainment value of such shows creating interest in the Civil War when there is a lack of programming around at the moment to do just that. Thank you in advance.

      2. Pampathegreat

        Donald,

        Seeing from how Petruzzi responded to ‘criticisms’ which were actually justified concerns, I agree with ‘Surferdude’ and don’t see how myself as a reenactor can really trust anything from this Production from this view point. We reenactors take this hobby seriously, as you know and you seem to have a great amount of respect for us when we did G & G, and I personally thank you for that. And the way things have been ever since then have come off shaky to begin with. That’s why I question it. And what’s wrong with saying, “Details TBA about a network” rather than posting every other week, “Network will be announced soon” or “Network will be announced next week” only to find that following week…nothing.

        I feel led on, and it is a bit disrespectful, about how they’re going about doing this. It’s great to see something about the CW being done, and I agree with JD that more projects need to be involved with the CW, but that being said, I feel led on here, and so does a number of reenactors I’m friends with who are watching this. I would ask questions and state my concerns, but from what some people have said, those comments usually get deleted or ignored. So much for hearing from the CW public on this, eh?

        And this message is for JD:

        Sir, if you think how you responded to Mr. Eaton’s concerns, is how you’re going to act towards the CW Reenacting community when we start asking questions, you better rethink your strategy on how to approach people. I know dozens of people who share the same concerns and would be willing to ask the same things in an instant if they had the chance to. And I’ll tell you one thing, you may have done books on the Civil War, and many other things, but we’re not mindless people who will sit here and be bullied and ridiculed because you think we’re ‘bashing’ the show when in reality, we just want answers. That’s not how this works. If you, or MFB want the support of the reenacting community, things need to change. We’re not getting the right answers and this entire article and comments not only show a lack or organization, but it shows that not everything is in place. We’re really understanding when it comes to projects. Hell I’m 53 years old. I’ve done Andersonville, Gettysburg, Glory, Gods and Generals, Cold Mountain and many other productions. And so have many of my friends. We know things take time and there’s careful prepping and planning, but I think it’s time we all deserve something official and to the point. Whether it’s from MFB or someone associated with him working with this Production.

        Thank you for your time, and GOD BLESS

        R.E.G

      3. Gettysbuff

        Good, it’s about time someone else challenged JD on something. Don’t expect an answer anytime soon though, REG, he doesn’t like to answer when he knows he’s losing an argument.

  5. DPH Eaton
    I just have a few quick comments on the dialog between JD Petruzzi (JD) and Gettysbuff (GB):
    Although I think the topic, historical accuracy in relation to either historical documentary or historical fiction, is a valid and interesting one, the ad hominem nature of the comments is in no way necessary. It smacks of fifth graders in the schoolyard, and really does not advance the argument for either side.
    Now, on the subject itself, I can offer one or two thoughts: On television we find Historical Documentaries, (Actual images of actual events); What has been called, Docu-Drama (actors, I guess or reenactors portray scenes from historical events, often intercut with old photographs.) and Historical Drama (Actors, sets, storylines with the emphasis on ‘Drama’)
    We expect a tremendous amount of detail and authenticity when it comes to documentary presentation. I think one of the best ‘recent’ examples is Ken Burns’ CIVIL WAR. Rock solid in the authenticity department. Comparatively, these are not expensive to produce, yet can still draw in a large audience. I think that both JD and GB would agree that these serve a good purpose in educating the public and encourage viewers to go further: read books, visit sites, etc.
    The Docu-Drama is held to a slightly lower standard of authenticity, I think, because often historical facts are compressed or omitted. Often the ‘People’ (Usually faceless, either shot from behind or from the waist down) in these films are reenactors and every uniform or every piece of equipment may not be exactly as it was on the original day. That is because production values cost money, and these shows generally have a lower budgets. Still, we viewers expect to see a ‘true’ story when we watch them. This may have been the case with the Scott brothers’ Gettysburg. I had high expectations for it, but in the end, I couldn’t finish watching. Not from disgust as to the lack of detail, it just seemed all confused, and how many reenactors dying in ultra slow motion can a person endure. Rom Maxwell’s ‘Drama’ version was much more compelling and we actually cared for a number of the characters.
    Which takes me to Historical Drama. Now, this has been a staple in both literature and film since Homer’s ILIAD and D.W. Griffith’s BIRTH OF A NATION (Considered America’s first blockbuster). In this genre, I think, it is the skin of the apple that matters, not the core.
    How accurate was the Iliad? No one knows, but archaeologists have turned up a lot of evidence that Homer knew pretty much what he was talking about. How accurate was Shakespeare’s Henry V? Who cares? What about Huston’s film, RED BADGE OF COURAGE, (heavily edited by the studio, by the way)? I believe I recall that it was considered a very accurate example of Civil War combat. I especially remember a scene where an entire column of infantry has to jump out of the road because a bunch of heedless cavalrymen come charging through. BUT, it is the story of Henry Fleming’s transition from coward to hero that moves everything forward, and that transition could have been set in any venue where people are at war. The details, accurate or not, were incidental.
    I also consider Spielberg / Hanks’ series BAND OF BROTHERS and THE PACIFIC to be in this category. (Not to mention PRIVATE RYAN). Here, although it was the humanity of those stories that captured the viewers, nothing was skimped on insuring (nearly) complete accuracy. But one has to remember, that comes at the expense of time and money. BoB cost over $150,000,000 and took years to make. PACIFIC cost about $270,000,000! Both of these series relied heavily on foreign investment, European and Australian. It is difficult to find foreign investors for something as ‘American’ as a Civil War story. When I was in L.A. pitching my ‘series’ based on my books, someone at William Morris asked me how much I thought it might cost. I said around $100,000,000 and explained that BoB and PACIFIC cost more. The WME guy smiled and said: “Yeah, but you ain’t Spielberg and Hanks!” That was true. When I was talking to someone else about financing, they brought up the notion of foreign investment. “Is anybody in your story…oh, I don’t know…English?” I said ‘no’, but how about if I have Sherman drinking a Guinness or something like that? (I actually do have Sherman drinking Old Crow, which was Grant’s favorite whiskey!)
    So, to put it briefly, in the case of Historical Drama or Historical Fiction, the writer has to choose how much detail and authenticity is necessary to drive the story. I admit that in my books, I strive for complete accuracy, BUT sometimes I have to combine two characters into one or move an event a day or two forward or back or create fictional characters who are representative of actual ones. The story is what matters…the skin of the apple. Besides, it doesn’t take much of a budget to write a book. It’s easy to change 500 Cavalry to 1,000 Cavalry just like that! Putting it on the screen is a different matter.
    So, (Remember, I said I was going to be brief? I have been known to lie!) what are my final thoughts on the real debate between JD and GB? First, ‘bad’ history or ‘wrong’ history is worse than ‘no’ history when it purports to be ‘Real’. (Documentary or Docu-drama). Of course there are degrees of this, but it is dangerous and can turn a story into mythologizing or propaganda. Remember, Joseph Goebbels was also a producer of ‘Historical’ Documentaries! With this, I agree with J.D. I also agree that now, as we are in the middle of the 150th anniversary of the CW, more is better to raise the viewer’s awareness, but with the understanding that on the screen, authenticity and detail cost time and money. Not every company can afford to have 150 ‘accurate’ uniform shoulder patches handmade, when the wardrobe department can buy a box for $50! (I believe THE PACIFIC actually had the right type of palm trees flown to their shooting location in Australia! Just one small example.)
    Good history alone can make a compelling story. Thucydides’ HISTORY OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR’, for example, but even that has been criticized because the author used the elements of Greek Tragic form for his model. History is never objective!
    I agree with GB that we should also realize that even imperfect history on the screen can serve a useful purpose, BUT historians, scholars, just about anybody, has the right to be critical on any terms whatsoever and air that criticism in public. Then let the viewers decide.
    That’s it from me. I think I’m going to stay home tonight and watch Hepburn and O’Toole in THE LION IN WINTER, BRAVEHEART and THE LIFE OF BRIAN then make up my mind for good!
    DPHE

    1. Interesting conversation on the economics of production. The issues of time and money are a part of all story telling. Spend more money and countless details can be made more authentic.

      Like everyone else, I like the visual part of a story to feel authentic. Part of the experience of watching a production is the feeling of being in the scene watching something happen. Details are important to that experience. The economics of production are also integral. If we are not careful we endorse the position “If you can’t get the details right then it’s not worth doing.”

      At a certain point, these authenticity arguements miss the point. The key pieces in the story are the characters, the conflict, the movement of events, etc. The details transport us to the place. But, carried to an extreme, we would not only want uniforms with the correct buttons, they would need to be made from fabrices that were made the original way. And would we need to adjust sound so it was more authentic? Would sound effects and explosions need to be adjusted? How authentic does something need to be? Where are the boundaries for dramatizing a story so an audience is swept away by a scene?

      In the end, is the story of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln impacted one way or the other by the buttons on John Wilkes Booth’s jacket? Should the gun sound “loud” or should it be a quick “pop”? Is this a costume drama or a story of war and politics and passions carried to extremes? I want the story to look right. I do not think we want a blonde Abraham Lincoln. I want the story being told to correctly portray chuncks of history as best we can. In the end, it is a story tellers interpretation. I prefer more stories.

  6. From DPHE…

    To: Gettysbuff

    I felt I had made my position on this topic quiet clear: There are many sides to the discussion and, by the way, as one who has studied the Philosophy of History…Classics, Greek and Latin…it is not a new argument as I tried to point out. It is always worth having, of course, BUT I feel your ‘tone’ in this is antagonistic rather than critical (In the actual sense), analytical of even constructive. You have made your feelings known about this redundantly. You keep saying the same thing without advancing the discussion or enlightening your ‘readers’ further. No offense, GB, but you are ranting.

    I do not know J.D. Petruzzi from a hole in the ground. But I DO know he is a good historian, sells lots of books about Gettysburg and has won awards for his work. At least his credentials are public record, Let me ask you something, GB. You said, when you wrote to him, that you had read all his books. Well…waddaya think? Are they just BS or are they well presented works in so far as the topics they cover? Answer this question, next time you write and be prepared to support it one way or another.

    I’m not a historian, as I mentioned several times. I’m just an old movie guy who had the privilege of studying military history for three years with Oxford scholars at Marlboro College. I love history and regret how few people are aware of it and how it has shaped our lives. (I lived in Japan for five years and there was not one Japanese middle-school student who could not explain to you the importance of Tokugawa’s victory at Sekigahara in the 1600’s.) Now, you know Gettysburg because you live there, but how many people do you think know anything about the Battle of Bentonville at the end of the war…the last great battle that really ended it, not Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. That is what my novel is about. Obviously you know my friend, Jake Boritt, a wise and successful filmmaker. Perhaps you know my friend Dennis Frye over at Harper’s Ferry. There are a lot of good people doing work in this area of history, J.D. Petruzzi among them… (By the way, GB, you mentioned you even had met JD. Therefore, just out of professional courtesy, I think you should let him know who you are, since he asked. Do it through e-mail, so you can maintain your privacy for whatever reason, but he asked…You should do that if you are serious about this continuing dialog! It’s only fair!)
    Well, boys and girls, now I have s
    ome serious work to do…I’m in the middle of writing Volume III of my saga TILL THEY BEG FOR MERCY. It’s called DESPERATE BATTLE and covers Bentonville and the fall of Richmond. If you want to understand how I handle Historical Fiction, look it up: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/dphe
    I’m not trying to sell books here, but I think the first two will give you an idea, and remember, I wrote (am writing) these books in order to develop a major series for a cable entity to air in the first four months of 2015, exactly to the day, 150 years later, episode by episode. I could only hope that my perspective might meet you requirements as well as those of JD.
    So, GB. I won’t be nasty here. Just let me say that the discussion, if you choose to pursue it, should be more of a ‘Gentlemanly’ nature. J.D. seems to be a sincere man, and your personal ‘passion’ for this topic is manifest.
    It is a great topic for discussion, as I said earlier, from the ILIAD to Scotts’ Gettysburg, Spielberg’s LINCOLN and J.D.’s TO APPOMATTOX!
    Think seriously about this GB and give my regards to Jake (My pet Boy…He’ll explain) when you next see him
    .
    Happy memorial day to you all. My ‘birth father’ was a professional soldier: The Pacific, Korea and Viet Nam. He ran an orphanage in France and a MASH unit in Korea. He taught ski troops in Austria and taught infantry how to rope down from helicopters in Nam. When he retired he was active teaching military history and also running numerous ROTC programs. (Also, he sang opera….J.D., that’s my Italian side of the family.) Certainly, that’s where I get it!

    DPHE

    1. Gettysbuff

      Sorry, I was actually replying to R B Clark in my last comment above (see their reply below), but thanks for the reply anyway, Don. Nice comment!

      I will definitely take on board what you have said, but know this – JD IS (in my opinion of course) quite a pompous fellow and he was rude to me a long time ago which kinda started all this in the first place…And i’m not trying to be nasty, just honest in MY OPINION. Yes i do like his books, and yes he is well-respected (which i previously mentioned if you go back and read my comments), etc, but sometimes people let that go to their head which i think JD has, in part. And i don’t think i’m saying anything out of the ordinary here, he’s not the first person in this world to let this kind of thing go to their heads, if only slightly.

      Anyway moving on, the more important issues i have with him that are serious and non-personal in nature have been very well outlined by R B Clark’s comments, above and below. JD did indeed criticize History’s ‘Gettysburg’ production over one brief scene of a soldier marching with a rifle cocked. This is just one of many examples of his annoying nit-picking, which led him to pretty much declare the show as worthless (not his exact words) because it didn’t live up to HIS extremely-high expectations. As other comments on here have indicated, there should be a limit to ‘picking’. Like, where do you draw the line before you let errors overshadow your feelings on a whole production and you fail to see anything good about it because you are way too obsessed with authenticity that it becomes ridiculous and you let that ruin the viewing experience? I feel that if JD wasn’t also a reenactor (or ‘living historian’, as they liked to be called), then he probably wouldn’t be quite as picky as he is. I know a lot about reenacting and certain people would ‘affectionally’ refer to him as a ‘Stitch Nazi’. JD wasn’t around during the Civil War, so i doubt he can make claims on what would and wouldn’t have happened, etc during every single second of the Gettysburg tv show (hilariously coincidental though, he did pretty much pick apart the show, almost SECOND BY SECOND it seemed). As R B Clark said, a soldier COULD have well been marching with his rifle cocked in real life. JD is too easily offended, and if he thought that was weird then he obviously doesn’t know as much about the war as he likes to think he does….A lot more stranger things happened during the war than that, let me tell you. For example, did you know that a rifle was recovered from the Gettysburg battlefield shortly after the battle with over 20 bullets loaded in it? (i forget the actual number, i think 26). Many many rifles were discovered with multiple loads in them, but this particular rifle has the strange honor of being the rifle with the most bullets found loaded within it. So it’s very believeable, as R B Clark said, that soldiers behaved differently than they were supposed to in the heat of battle. But obviously JD requires his tv shows to show him only what SHOULD happen (as he is/was a reenactor, as mentioned earlier, and is obviously overly strict), and not what COULD happen. At the end of the day, NOBODY knows exactly what it was like because NONE OF US WERE THERE.

      If next time a Civil War show airs and JD reviews it without the same frame of mind and overall ‘pickiness’ as in the past, then i would probably keep my mouth shut. If one must really have to publicly criticize any particular show, then I just want to see the important things addressed ONLY, like R B mentioned below about soldiers carrying incorrect weapons, etc. That sort of thing is acceptable. Nothing else is.

  7. I agree with your thoughts and those of Donald. I have had a long career in the print media business and am currently retired from that and working on some personal projects. ALL projects boil down to money and time. In a perfect world every detail would be correct. But, every media project is limited by the budget and the resources available.

    I was recently at the Shiloh reenactment working on a personal project (click below to see more). http://openeyesmedia.wordpress.com/

    Even at the reenactment where many are sensitive to historical detail, there were parameters on who could participate in one of the scenes. In that instance, they provided details (down to the buttons and underware) on what to wear in order to be elgible to participate in the one event so it would be historically correct. In the other events during the reenactment, the guidelines were more loose. Reenactors obviously come in the gear they have. And many have more than one outfit so they can adapt to some extent. But, at reenactments where history is VERY important, not every detail is correct.

    I have seen criticisms about soldiers marching with a rifle cocked. What is missing from this reasoning is a realistic view of the chaos in a soldiers life. How many times have we read where excited soldiers were firing and reloading and were so overwhelmed with the chaos they forgot to pull the ramrod out when they fired?? Many details in combat can be a mismatch to the regulation view.

    My point, there was the “official” way soldiers were to look and how they were to act. Then there is what actually happened. Some details like a cocked rifle while marching seems a little picky. Other comments that touch on wardrobe can be correct – but are the problems significant enough to injure the telling of the story? I do not think we want Civil War soldiers using Winchester Model 1873 rifles. But, to get every detail absolutely requires a small army of historians looking at every detail. And it takes money.

    I think we should all be a little less offended.

  8. 05/25/12
    This is for Pampathegreat, mostly, in reply to his posting of May 23.

    First, let me say that, for myself, I thought I had put this all to bed and was done with it. However, I feel, out of respect for the reenactors I have known and worked with, I had to say one or two things more. I certainly understand Pampa’s concerns. In fact, that was one of the reasons I looked in this in the first place, as I have written and posted.

    As far as J.D. Petruzzi is concerned, (whom, as I mentioned before, I do not know), I think he is the wrong one to criticize, at least as far as what the TA website puts out or DOESN’T put out. In reply to me, he posted:

    “I’m a member of the crew as TECHNICAL/HISTORICAL ADVISOR and even I don’t know everything that is taking place – as it should be. Many events must remain within the company of producers and with no one else.”

    I certainly would not expect any of our technical advisors on G&G, or any other historical film for that matter, to have that authority or be ‘responsible’ for what the ‘Production Company’ provides to the public.

    Also, when addressing the ‘attacks’ on my questions regarding the specifics of production at any given time, J.D. wrote:

    “Donald, I should point out THAT THE LAST 3 REPLIES YOU ATTRIBUTE TO ME ABOVE WERE ACTUALLY DONE BY A PRODUCER WHO RUNS THE TA FACEBOOK PAGE (I think at least a couple are administrators) but not me – I don’t have administrative capability of the Facebook page. Anything posted by me on Facebook is only under my own name.”

    I believe him. I think that’s a crappy thing for the company to do and does not help to inspire further trust in the company or the project. I would have been happy directing my questions to the guy who was saying that I was ‘attacking’ the project. Someone at TA should have a chat with the ‘Producer who runs the FB page’ and tell him or her to not leave the dirty work to others.

    O.K. Enough of that.

    Now, here’s a little education for those not familiar with the PROPRODUCTION process in film making, TV or Features, it’s pretty much the same.

    To Appomattox is an eight hour mini-series for television. According to its website TA has hired an outstanding cast of well-known actors and musicians. It also has hired a first rate director, Mikael Saloman, of Band of Brothers, among others. The writing credits are, of course, solid.

    Now, of 05/17/12 [Just one week ago] ‘J.D.’ posted the following:

    “The production is in the FINAL STAGES OF PRE-PRODUCTION AND IS CURRENTLY ON SCHEDULE. The production company will release any information that they desire to release and on their own schedule.”
    It was also noted earlier that:

    “We will film interiors in CANADA, but all exteriors–troop movements, battles, encampments–will be shot in PA and NC.”

    Now, what does that mean from a production point of view? Let me describe what it means when a Company says they are in the “Final stages of pre-production”:

    Well, first there is a PRODUCTION COMPANY which has a NAME. It might be associated with Sony Pictures, or some other production entities, but in general, it has to exist on its own for various reasons:

    It has HIRED a DGA director.
    It has HIRED SAG actors.

    In order to do that, the PC has to have signed the MINIMUM BASIC AGREEMENT with both guilds. Can’t get around that.

    One presumes it had signed, or at least made deals with IATSE (Perhaps) and the TEAMSTERS (Again, perhaps) as well.

    Now, if the PC has actually HIRED people, it needs a PAYROLL SERVICE. An eight hour mini-series is a huge operation. I know, I did SCARLETT which was only six hours and we had ten weeks prep in London, a week in Charleston and another week in Dublin…PREP! I also did a four hour mini- series about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings called AN AMERICAN SCANDAL. Same deal there. We even had to build our own MONTECELLO…only BIGGER than the original!!!!!!!!!

    O.K. So, there’s this company. But WHERE IS IT?

    Ordinarily, during the ‘Final stages of preproduction’ there is a large building near the PRIMARY LOCATION where production offices have been set up and running for months. By this time, the following departments have been HIRED and hard at work:

    There is the DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY….on early. He / she works with the DIRECTOR, ART & LOCATIONS DEPARTMENTS, as well as the PRODUCTION DEPARTMENT. (More on that later)

    Sooner or later, the DP will bring on his GAFFER and KEY GRIP…usually sooner than later on a big show, but towards the end of prep.. By now, equipment, i.e. cameras, lighting, etc., has been determined, budgeted and perhaps ordered.

    There is the LOCATIONS MANAGER and his/her assistants. These have been actively scouting and reporting back, not only about shooting locations, but also company parking and even campsites for reenactors. Also, part of their job is finding local accommodations for cast and crew, in each shooting area.*

    Working with these, we find the PRODUCTION DESIGNER / ART DIRECTOR…again on early. By this point, especially for a period picture, the ART DEPARTMENT has set up a large workshop, often in another building, where drawings are made, models made, sets designed and so forth.

    At some point by now, a CONSTRUCTION COORDINATOR has been hired and has a crew working on building sets or modifying existing structures. Usually, this department has its own separate workshop as well. (If the stage work is done at the end of the schedule, then the coordinator will still be on with a small crew to make practical locations fit the period, as per the Art Director / Production Designer.)

    Attached to the ART DEPARTMENT would be the PROP DEPARTMENT, by now at least a few. They would be responsible for HAND PROPS (e.g. swords, Flags, etc.) and BUILDING any specific items not available otherwise, They have to coordinate with the HISTORICAL ADVISORS about this.* They will also be responsible for all firing weapons, ammunition and powder and, depending, will have to work with licensed ARMORORS.

    Then, there is the WARDROBE DEPARTMENT…many of them. They will have an office and somewhere a warehouse. They will be in the process of having fittings and making costumes for the main cast, as well as providing them for all the extras. (Reenactors, of course, have their own costumes, but they are usually not correct for the movie.) This department will also be working with the HISTORICAL advisors to insure authenticity.*

    A CASTING AGENCY has to be hired to fill all the non-star speaking parts, one in the US and one in Canada.

    An agency for hiring EXTRAS has to be contracted in EACH SHOOTING AREA or STATE or COUNTRY. The Extras have to be FITTED, so this must be scheduled.*

    The MAKE-UP / HAIR DEPARTMENT is also well on board. By this point, they are doing make-up tests, (Prosthetics, if required), and wig / beard design with the PRINCIPLES and the EXTRAS.

    By now, i.e. the ‘Final stages of pre-production’, two more very important departments are well at work:

    A STUNT COORDINATOR will be hired (with an assistant) to work with the actors who are involved in any ‘stunt’ activity, as well as helping to find and hire key STUNT DOUBLES.*

    Also, a SPECIAL EFFECTS COORDINATOR and crew will be hired for things like cannon-ball hits, bullet hits, etc. These usually require their own workshop or large truck, depending.

    O.K. Now what?

    Well, in the 1800’s they had lots of HORSES. So, a WRANGLER and his/her team have to be hired. They will provide all the horses, hero and N.D., plus wagons, coaches and drivers. The wranglers will also provide RIDING / DRIVING LESSONS for CAST, as required.*

    Now, you see I put a whole bunch of asterix (*) in some of the above items. That indicates that EACH OF THESE DEPARTMENTS will have to coordinate with the REENACTOR DEPARTMENT!!!!

    By now, the REENACTOR COORDINATORS are lining up people based on the SHOOTING SCHEDULE (More on that later). This is a big job because they come from all parts of the country, especially for a PRESTIGIOUS PROJECT. Some bring HORSES, some bring WEAPONS, some bring ARTILLERY and all need to be fed and given a safe, hygienic place to set up their camps. Their schedules are the hardest to coordinate because most have jobs and only limited time to travel, work and travel back, usually with their families and usually on weekends.

    Well, everybody has to get around somehow, so there has to be a TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT. This is started early on in prep and grows steadily during the prep period. Of course, in a series like TA, there are no picture cars, BUT…each crew person who is not a LOCAL HIRE needs to be picked up and moved around as required. Most ABOVE THE LINE people, Director, Producers, AD’s, KEYS etc. are given their own cars for the shoot. Also, trucks have to hired and brought to some place near the PRODUCTION OFFICE for adapting and loading.

    So, what’s left in ‘FINAL STAGES OF PRE-PRODUCTION’? LOTS!

    This PRODUCTION OFFICE has to be run by SOMEONE, right? That is the PRODUCTION COORDIN ATOR! This person takes care of everything from ordering supplies, to arranging AIR TRANSPORTATION AND HOTELS for traveling CAST and CREW. This person is usually the De Facto assistant to the PRODUCER and DIRECTOR, even though they may have their own PERSONAL ASSISTANTS.

    The PRODUCTION COORDINATOR also has to interact with the PRODUCTION ACCOUNTS, usually, first ones on the job. They, pay the bills, set up the PAYROLL COMPANY, handle all time cards and PO’s and dole out the WEEKLY PER DIEM to all on the approved list. It’s a BIG JOB.

    AND FINALLY….There’s us guys: THE PRODUCTION DEPARTMENT!

    This starts with a UNIT PRODUCTION MANAGER / PRODUCER, then there’s ME, the FIRST ASSISTANT DIRECTOR and my DGA ASSISTANTS. There will also be a large number of P.A.’s hired by each department as required.

    What do WE do? COORDINATE THE WHOLE ENCHILADA! That’s what!

    On Mr. Beckner’s website, there is a picture of him in his ‘office’ with a STRIP BOARD around the wall behind him. That STRIP BOARD is generated by the FIRST ASSISTANT DIRECTOR once prep has begun. It is the SCHEDULE upon which LOCATIONS and all other departments base their requirements. It is used for the actual BUDGET and it is used by CASTING, EXTRA CASTING and REENACTORS to make their deals.

    The STRIP BOARD, or in another form, SHOOTING SCHEDULE, generates a critical document called the DAY OUT OF DAYS! This lets actor’s agents know when their client is needed for work and DEALS ARE BASED ON THIS INFORMATION!

    The 1st AD also coordinates the DIRECTOR’S SCHEDULE and all the other events, SCOUTS, MEETINGS, REHEARSALS etc. every day as required.

    Whew! I’m getting pooped just thinking about it.

    I don’t remember exactly, but on G&G, our prep was about seven months, something like that. An eight hour mini-series, shooting in two states, PA and NC as well as one foreign country, CANADA, and covering a multitude of decades in the story timeline, would be easily BIGGER at this stage then I outlined here, because of duplication in different places, DIFFERENT CREWS in different states and CANADA and different LABOR RULES…By the way, did I mention putting MINORS to work? Or domestic animals?…Oh, yes, any of that needs to be considered as well, if it applies.

    So, when someone over at TA says that they are in the FINAL STAGES OF PRE-PRODUCTION and EVERYTHING IS ON SCHEDULE, they have GOT to be somewhere in this ballpark, wouldn’t you think? Lots of people hired. Lots of people working for some PRODUCTION COMPANY prepping SOMEWHERE, either here or in Canada.

    There is still even more when it comes to prepping an eight hour mini-series, but I’ve got to get some REAL work done today, so I’ll just drop it.

    BUT, one final note: As for this notion of everything being ‘CONFIDENTIAL’: To MY knowledge, the only thing ‘Confidential AT THIS POINT is the $$$ amount on the actors’ contracts.

    ALL major film projects heavily promote these details because it brings money into the shooting locations and States! State and local film boards often put it on their own websites. Local merchants, arrange crew discounts and hotels are eager to make deals. Reenactors need to know when they will be needed, for how long and under what circumstances. Reenactors have to arrange their VACATION TIME, often well in advance to participate. Agents for hired actors need to know when and where their clients are going to work.

    STAGES have to be locked into dates and SET CONSTRUCTION schedules coordinated.

    If TA is genuinely in FINAL STAGES OF PRE-PRODUCTION, as they have consistently stated, then it is not an unfair question to ask the NAME OF THE PRODUCTION COMPANY, ITS PHONE NUMBER and WHERE IT IS BASED.

    That’s all. Let’s believe TA when their people say they are in the FINAL STAGES OF PRE-PRODUCTION and ON SCHEDULE.

    Go ahead, PAMPA, give them a call. Your people, i.e. the reenactor community, have the right to this information at this time. I am certain that the people at TA are well aware how important support from your group is to the overall success of a project like this. I look forward to seeing it when it airs. It is well-researched, well-vetted and has an excellent director and cast.

    DPH Eaton

    DGA / WGA

    I.
    05/25/12
    This is for PAMPATHEGREAT, mostly, in reply to his posting of May 23.

    First, let me say that, for myself, I thought I had put this all to bed and was done with it. However, I feel, out of respect for the reenactors I have known and worked with, I had to say one or two things more. I certainly understand Pampa’s concerns. In fact, that was one of the reasons I looked in this in the first place, as I have written and posted.

    As far as J.D. Petruzzi is concerned, (whom, as I mentioned before, I do not know), I think he is the wrong one to criticize, at least as far as what the TA website puts out or DOESN’T put out. In reply to me, he posted:

    “I’m a member of the crew as TECHNICAL/HISTORICAL ADVISOR and even I don’t know everything that is taking place – as it should be. Many events must remain within the company of producers and with no one else.”

    I certainly would not expect any of our technical advisors on G&G, or any other historical film for that matter, to have that authority or be ‘responsible’ for what the ‘Production Company’ provides to the public.

    Also, when addressing the ‘attacks’ on my questions regarding the specifics of production at any given time, J.D. wrote:

    “Donald, I should point out THAT THE LAST 3 REPLIES YOU ATTRIBUTE TO ME ABOVE WERE ACTUALLY DONE BY A PRODUCER WHO RUNS THE TA FACEBOOK PAGE (I think at least a couple are administrators) but not me – I don’t have administrative capability of the Facebook page. Anything posted by me on Facebook is only under my own name.”

    I believe him. I think that’s a crappy thing for the company to do and does not help to inspire further trust in the company or the project. I would have been happy directing my questions to the guy who was saying that I was ‘attacking’ the project. Someone at TA should have a chat with the ‘Producer who runs the FB page’ and tell him or her to not leave the dirty work to others.

    O.K. Enough of that.

    Now, here’s a little education for those not familiar with the PROPRODUCTION process in film making, TV or Features, it’s pretty much the same.

    To Appomattox is an eight hour mini-series for television. According to its website TA has hired an outstanding cast of well-known actors and musicians. It also has hired a first rate director, Mikael Saloman, of Band of Brothers, among others. The writing credits are, of course, solid.

    Now, of 05/17/12 [Just one week ago] ‘J.D.’ posted the following:

    “The production is in the FINAL STAGES OF PRE-PRODUCTION AND IS CURRENTLY ON SCHEDULE. The production company will release any information that they desire to release and on their own schedule.”
    It was also noted earlier that:

    “We will film interiors in CANADA, but all exteriors–troop movements, battles, encampments–will be shot in PA and NC.”

    Now, what does that mean from a production point of view? Let me describe what it means when a Company says they are in the “Final stages of pre-production”:

    Well, first there is a PRODUCTION COMPANY which has a NAME. It might be associated with Sony Pictures, or some other production entities, but in general, it has to exist on its own for various reasons:

    It has HIRED a DGA director.
    It has HIRED SAG actors.

    In order to do that, the PC has to have signed the MINIMUM BASIC AGREEMENT with both guilds. Can’t get around that.

    One presumes it had signed, or at least made deals with IATSE (Perhaps) and the TEAMSTERS (Again, perhaps) as well.

    Now, if the PC has actually HIRED people, it needs a PAYROLL SERVICE. An eight hour mini-series is a huge operation. I know, I did SCARLETT which was only six hours and we had ten weeks prep in London, a week in Charleston and another week in Dublin…PREP! I also did a four hour mini- series about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings called AN AMERICAN SCANDAL. Same deal there. We even had to build our own MONTECELLO…only BIGGER than the original!!!!!!!!!

    O.K. So, there’s this company. But WHERE IS IT?

  9. From DPHE:

    Sorry, two additional notes to my positing above. AT is in cooperation with SONY PICTURES. Sony does have its own payroll department: SPE…I should have known…I still get checks from them. So much for that.

    Also, in my note on PREPRODUCTION above, I forgot to mention CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) and VISUAL EFFECTS. I understand from what I recently read on a blog called: RANTINGS OF A CIVIL WAR HISTORIAN (Comment by J.D. on Sept 21, 2011!) :

    The major network on which this will air will be announced within the next week or so by the company , as well as the major studio(s) that are producing it.

    Construction of the 200-acre backlot is already scheduled.

    Filming is is lined up to begin Thursday, April 12, 2012.

    The budget is already entirely set.

    Production schedule is already set.

    The CGI studio is set.

    Since that was eight months ago, I believe it is safe to say that the production is well underway as I have described above, and J.D. has elsewhere. As far as filming actually starting on April 12, 2012, that certainly may have been pushed somewhat, but the rest shouold probably be the same.

    DPHE

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