Recreating the 1860s in 'Lincoln@Gettysburg'

Tuesday, 19 November 2013 12:30 PM Written by 

Lincoln reading telegraph at windowIn Sunday's TV Week I wrote about PBS's "Lincoln@Gettysburg" (9 tonight, WQED), commemorating the 150th anniversary of The Gettysburg Address.

Turns out producer/director Peter Schnall shot much of the documentary film in Pennsylvania, including recreated scenes of the War Department telegraph office, pictured at right.

"We used an 1860 house in the town of Gettysburg," Schnall said.

Battle scenes were shot in July during a re-enactment featuring 10,000 re-enactors. Train scenes were shot on the Strasburg Railroad in Lancaster County.

It's interesting to see dramatic footage turn up so regularly in documentaries today; not long ago, it would have been looked on as cheesy.

Read more after the jump. ...

"15 years ago or less PBS would not have done [re-enacted, dramatic scenes] to this extent," Schnall acknowledged. "We We did stylized recreations where you might see the telegraph room but you might not see an actor portraying Lincoln. These days, audiences are used to and in some ways expect to see recreations that take you back in time. It  allows you to have an actor portray a historical figure. It does get tricky and you have to be careful. It can get cheesy but if carefully done and done in way that feels like you are experiencing the moment, [it can work]. For us, in this particular case, there is no dialogue. In some ways we're creating a silent film."

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