Seeing Green

As we near the production finish line for True Gaelic, we've been shooting a lot of green screens.

A few months ago, we shot a medieval banquet scene at Bad Dog Studios using their soundstage and cyc wall (officially a 40' by 45' 2-sided hard cyclorama with expanded corner).  Because our reenactment director John Baker (aka "Bake") wanted a long table with 5-6 people, we needed to go outside of HEC-TV's studios for those green screens.

The stone wall is a stock photo. 

Coming up we'll be shooting some reenactments of an army siege of Lough Ce by English soldiers.  Look for some production photos of that in the next several weeks. 



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Christina Chastain
The End. Or Not.

As I've spent the last 15 months immersed in archeology, I've learned that scientists in this field are eternal optimists.

The field is an interesting hybrid of science and humanities. Archeologists use the latest technology to read beneath the soil. Drone photography often provides the first promise of unearthing new information when, unexpectedly, mysterious bumps and ridges seem to rise from the ground. Geophysics provides information about density and biochemical composition of particular sites. And now, archeologists such as Sarah Parcak of the University of Alabama employ satellite imaging to identify buried landscapes.

Once reams of data are gathered, archeologists then ponder the historical and cultural landscape. They ask questions. If a medieval village was located here, what would it look like? Irish lords ruled in a very different way than English kings: What kind of stuff did they use in their everyday lives? How kingly were they?  From precise data and astute questions, hypotheses emerge. In excavation, some are proven to be accurate and that's a happy day in archeology. Other hypotheses are disproven. That's not an unhappy result, but a puzzling one. Hypotheses are revised. What was thought to be medieval is prehistoric, or vice versa. At that point, the narrative changes. 

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True Gaelic features leading archeologists in Ireland and the U.S. revealing what lies beneath the ground in a beautiful and remote corner of Ireland.


True Gaelic features leading archeologists in Ireland and the U.S. revealing what lies beneath the ground in a beautiful and remote corner of Ireland. The excavation's lead archeologist Dr. Tom Finan collects a vast amount of data before deciding where to excavate. Despite all of the quantifiable scientific information, the best way to confirm what lies beneath the surface is to put a spade into the ground.

Our cameras documented the "proof of excavation" that tells the story of a high-status Gaelic medieval family that lived beyond the rule of Anglo Norman control.  

True Gaelic isn't  a story with a beginning, middle and end. It is an unfolding story, one that reveals new information about how an Irish ruling family chose to live and govern themselves in the Middle Ages. 

Archeologists Jim Shryver, Tom Finan and Alan Hayden discuss the stratigraphy of a test trench. (Photo credit: Arianna Riggs)

Archeologists Jim Shryver, Tom Finan and Alan Hayden discuss the stratigraphy of a test trench. (Photo credit: Arianna Riggs)

Christina Chastain
How we spent our summer

By Kathy Bratkowski, HEC-TV Producer and Director

“There are only two types of people in the world, the Irish and those who wish they were.” –Irish proverb

32 days.

2 cameras.

5 crew.

9 students.

3 professors.

3,928.1 Miles or 6,321.6 Kilometers (STL-Dublin).

4+ inches of rain.

200+ photos.

6 Terabytes of 4K footage.

Those seemingly random numbers add up to an experience that is in some ways indescribable: HEC-TV’s documentary shoot in northwest Ireland in summer 2016.

Five of us were tapped to travel to a rural part of Ireland to videotape an archeological excavation near Lough Cè (Lough is Gaelic for “Lake”). After three years of extensive archeological field survey work, St. Louis University professor Dr. Tom Finan launched the first ever dig of what is potentially a Gaelic medieval market town.

Why is that important? It’s long been believed that the Irish were nomadic, with ring forts (an enclosure for cattle or a fortification) as the only form of settlement. But Finan’s research is literally “breaking new ground” in the historical narrative. His work and a handful of other ongoing archeological projects are beginning to paint a new picture of the heritage and history of Ireland . . . with evidence of towns that are distinctly Gaelic, and not Anglo-Norman.

We can’t wait to reveal all the details in our upcoming documentary to be released early next year.

Here’s what we can tell you:

It rains a lot in Ireland. Cameras need rain jackets. You do, too.

The Irish people are great conversationalists and, hands down, the friendliest people on the planet.

Despite the stereotype, college students/millennials are not afraid of hard work. The students who excavated the site are some of the hardest-working young people we’ve ever seen. And we mean hard work: shoveling, hauling wheelbarrows of sod, kneeling in mud, sifting through wet soil in search of artifacts. There were relatively few complaints and good spirits prevailed (mostly) in this month-long archeology boot camp.

You can never have enough power converters when recharging camera batteries overseas. We learned this the hard way after blowing up several converters and waiting for Amazon deliveries to a remote corner of the globe.

You can live for a month off the grid (that is, without good access to wifi and iffy cell phone service). But it helps to find restaurants, coffee shops and stores with free wifi, especially when data is scarce.

There may be more sheep and cows than people in Ireland. This is unconfirmed.

Brilliant professors can be really fun people. Tom Finan, Alan Hayden and Jim Schryver are ridiculously smart and good-natured, even when cameras are in their faces all day everyday.

Archeology takes patience. Without revealing too much (we want you to watch!) we can say that good stuff was found. And a great story is about to be told about the mystery of a medieval lordship, one that promises a new look at the history of the Gaelic people.

Christina Chastain