A New Model for Social Media by Chris Weigl

When we were first conceptualizing what Living History could become we had a very precise model for what we thought was possible over social media.  The show Living History follows a historical re-enactor and his cadre of re-enactor friends who portray the Founding Fathers as they run a George Washington re-enactor as a candidate for public office.  No one has attempted this level of historical satire on a television show before and no one has tried this in the age of social media either.  Traditional studios and production companies have told us time and time again that this presents a problem in terms of the level of difficulty in executing this concept that it is not worth the risk for them.  We believe that what studios view as a “problem” is really an opportunity.

Imagine a world where you can sit down and watch a TV show while you interact with the characters on social media and share information, statuses, and feedback in real time.  Would you like to talk to Benjamin Franklin during a critical moment in the show?  No problem because Ben Franklin is on Twitter ready and able to talk to you about his experience.  Have a question about the historical accuracy of the show in general?  Great, historical consultants will tell you what went into making the choices that we did when shooting the show.  The idea of the show is to create something that is both interactive and funny, but creative and thought-provoking as well.

Our concept for social media is that every character would have a Twitter account, a Tumblr page, a profile on Facebook, and perhaps engage in a few Google hangouts.  The design of the show is for the main characters to be played by actual historical re-enactors so that the audience can interact with someone who knows the person they are portraying intimately enough so that they can give you reasonable conjecture should you ask for it.  We realize that this is a lot of work to put together, but we believe that entertainment should strive to create big things and change with the times, which is why Living History is perfect for this historical moment.  Thomas Jefferson should be sharing his Tumblr page with the world and Alexander Hamilton should be available for last minute campaign advice on Facebook.

Great art challenges conventions it never conforms to them.  What we have in entertainment right now is a measure of conformity that only challenges your patience.  Our goal is to challenge minds, engage our audience, and provoke the kind of questions that a new generation of social media savvy people can feel comfortable in.  @Midnight does a very good job of this by successfully integrating funny hastags on Twitter, but we believe that the potential is bigger than funny hashtags.  We believe our audience is capable of the kind of revolution across social media that previous generations brought about across the internet.  We are putting together a show that will exist across multiple mediums in real time.  We don’t do this for ratings and we don’t this for popularity (although we wouldn’t mind if both of those things ensued), we’re doing this because audiences deserve an entertainment experience that mirrors their lives and we’re prepared to give this to them.

Stop Writing for Hollywood and Start Writing a Better Story by Chris Weigl

I wrote my first screenplay when I was a Sophomore in high school.  I remember three things from that year in school.  The first thing I remember is the election.  The year was 2000 and one of the most ferocious elections ever fought was being waged that year.  I remember guys who had just turned eighteen voting for George W. Bush because "his daughters are hot."  I remember that election well because back then I was a Republican.  I was one of those "fiscally conservative" people.  I didn't care much for social issues.  None of them really affected me.  Why I was a Republican then is as much a mystery now as it was then.  I know I had my reasons though.  I remember showing up on Election Day and seeing the school packed with voters.  Most of the voters were old - something I took to be a bad sign for my choice - George W. Bush.

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Handling Criticism by Chris Weigl

The characters in Living History are not the founding fathers. The characters in Living History are historical re-enactors who get a bit carried away with their characters. Though there may be parallels with the historical and historical events do undoubtedly come up in the story of Living History that does not make Living History a documentary or historical drama. It is fiction. It is a story thought up by a writer with an imagination all his own. It is a little sad I suppose that this much needs to be explained. Some have expressed this view to me and I understand it, but I take no issue with those whose chief purpose is to maintain historical integrity.

Those who ask questions in the name of truth and honesty should be welcomed and indeed I do welcome those who question the accuracy or the truth in a given character, event, or even exposition. This is all part of the process of what makes Living History such a joy to work on. Were it not for the high-minded debates that I get to have with historians – both amateur and professional alike – much of the making of Living History would not be fun or entertaining for me the writer. I enjoy what may seem to most ordinary people to be mundane or trivial bits of history and I enjoy discussing these issues in a constructive way. What is not necessary and what is often counter-productive to the purpose of this show is to take what these actors are saying, the views they are espousing, and the events they are partaking in as fact. They are not. Although their actions may be rooted in some historical fact and though some things may have happened in the lifetimes of some of the individual characters most of what happens in Living History is the result of the writer’s imagination.

Just as Jefferson wrote out his feelings from the perspective of the head and the heart regarding Maria Causeway I too find myself in a similar philosophic position myself with regards to how to balance the historical accuracy with what is best for the story. While the historical sets strict limits with its true aim being objectivity the story sets few limits with its aim being entertainment and it is in the overlap of these two worlds where it is easiest to get lost in the wilderness that at least on its face appears to be separating the two. We live in a quarrelsome society, especially with regards to our politics. Some live for the quarrel more than they live for the day. These people will find something debatable in everything from the way someone looks to the way they act to the way they speak and carry themselves. This sort of behavior used to be reserved for lawyers but society has evolved or some would say devolved to the point where some are so itching for a fight that they will take the white flag of surrender as an offensive affront to their freedom and will use such action not merely to defend their over the top reaction but as a justification for their own overblown, often misplaced, and always overt hostility.

The First Battle of a Long, Bloody Civil War by Chris Weigl

First Battle of Bull Run sets the Stage for a Prolonged Civil War

Just about the only person to understand the scope of the United States Civil War at the time it was happening was William Tecumseh Sherman.  Nearly everyone should have seen it after the first battle of Bull Run, which happened July 21, 1861.  The armies were green.  The peacetime army of the United States was comprised mostly of militia and most of these men had never drilled or been gone from home for any length of time.  The Confederacy had the advantage of having loyal state militias that knew the terrain better than their northern foe.  This skill was best put into use in Stonewall Jackson’s 1862 Valley campaign. 

The numbers at the First Battle of Bull Run were relatively similar although Southern forces were split up between two commanders; Joseph E. Johnston and Pierre Beauregard.  Beauregard’s men held the heights at Manassas Junction outside Centreville, VA.  Northern General Irwin McDowell, who was placed in command of the Northern army in Virginia was ordered to attack his southern opponent as soon as possible.  McDowell’s plan of attack was pretty straightforward.  His plan called for flanking maneuvers and an all-out assault on the high ground.  McDowell thought he had a superior numerical advantage, which he did for most of the morning of the 21st until Joseph E. Johnston’s troops arrived on the field.  Johnston’s troops were quickly transported from their positions around Harper’s Ferry, VA to Manassas by railroad.  This was one of the first major uses of the railroad in a war-time situation.  Johnston had about eleven thousand men under his command so while the Northern armies had made progress during the morning hours their fate was quickly sealed with a Confederate counter-attack spearheaded by Stonewall Jackson.

The importance of the First Battle of Bull Run is that it showed both sides that the war would not be a short one.  The north believed that their superior numbers would give them a clear advantage while the south believed that their surplus in trained officers, knowledge of the terrain, as well as much better cavalry forces would even the odds.  The two sides did balance each other out throughout the first two years of the war.  It wasn’t until the north leaned on its heavy material advantage in supplies and internal infrastructure that they began to turn the tide of the war.  The battle is looked back on by southerners as a missed opportunity.  Some believe that southern forces could have taken the capital of Washington, DC if they had pressed their advantage.  Few military scholars hold this view because southern forces were just as beat up as northern forces and Washington had heavy guns protecting the city. 

The biggest lesson from Bull Run was that the war was not going to be easy.  The south utilized insurgency tactics to harass their foe and it wasn’t until Grant and Sherman approached the war as “total war” that the pendulum really swung in the north’s direction.  The battle also gave southerners hope that they could take on the colossal industrial and manufacturing giant in the USA.  Southerners clinged to their belief that a cotton embargo would force France or Britain to join the war on the southern side.  This proved to be false as neither state was in a position to back either side in the war.  Ultimately, the US Civil War cost more American lives than all other American wars put together.  Nearly 600,000 men perished in the American Civil War making it the bloodies war in American history.