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Film Crew on St. Croix Shooting PBS Documentary About Alexander Hamilton

Dec. 10, 2008 — A film crew visiting St. Croix this week is seeing the island through the eyes of one of its most famous sons, Alexander Hamilton, American patriot, founding father and first secretary of the U.S. Treasury.
Director Michael Pack, writer-narrator Richard Brookhiser and their crew from Manifold Productions are filming parts of "Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton," which will air on the Public Broadcasting System sometime after the fall of 2009, Pack said.
Hamilton, a close aide to George Washington and the man in many ways credited with creating the American economy, was born on Nevis in either 1755 or '57 and moved with his family to St. Croix in 1765.
There are plenty of historical sites on the island — forts, churches and other buildings — that may look much the same today as they did 240 years ago. But that's not what the two men guiding "Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton," director Pack and Brookhiser, are looking for.
Wednesday the film crew was at the Port Authority dock in Gallows Bay. The dock is the place where the historic schooner Roseway ties up. Its masts standing proudly above the yachts, pleasure boats and working craft of the Christiansted harbor, Roseway looks like one of the many ships young Hamilton would have seen when he lived in Christiansted. But the crew's camera wasn't pointing at the historic vessel. Instead it was filming a forklift unloading pallets of rice from the barge Sea Search.
"We're trying to find ways in which the past is still going on," Brookhiser said. "We're looking for scenes today that are analogous to the past."
For example, one of Hamilton's first jobs was as a clerk for a Christiansted import-export firm, Beekman and Cruger. In that position he'd have watched ships coming and going, loading and unloading, all day long. So rather than shooting a static scene of a single period ship, director Pack and his crew spent the morning capturing scenes of a working harbor and talking to the people who make their living there.
That is part of the formula. Hamilton's father had the boy's mother imprisoned late in her life. Typically a documentary might shoot scenes of the old cells below the harbor's fort, but to Pack, that's more of a tourist site than history. Instead they went to the women's section of Golden Rock Correctional Facility and talked to the women there today.
"Rachel Hamilton never told her story," Pack said. "She never left a record. We gave the women at Golden Rock a chance to tell theirs. And some of them were eager to."
Thursday the camera crew was scheduled to captured footage at the Hovensa refinery. Not because there was any oil industry on the island in the mid-18th century. But there was something equally important to that era's world economy — sugar.
"In the 18th century, sugar was oil," Brookhiser said. "Its equivalent today is oil."
As the first secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton created a national bank, solidified the nation's credit, supported development of a thriving industrial sector and championed a strong federal government, among many things. But he was also embroiled in political skirmishes and personal activities that tarnished his reputation and ultimately led him to the meadow in Weehawken, N.J., in 1804 where he lost his life in a duel with Aaron Burr.
It is not lost on Pack that the bustling world economy that Hamilton almost singlehandedly created has become unhinged in the last few months. That will feature in the finished documentary.
"We're talking about it with a whole lot of people who know about it," Pack said. "People who claim the mantle of Hamilton."
Among those interviewed on the economy are former Secretary of the Treasury Michael Rubin and current Secretary Henry Paulson.
"We let them tell their side and let the viewers decide for themselves," Pack said.
Pack and Brookhiser's previous collaboration, "Rediscovering George Washington," aired on PBS to critical acclaim July 4, 2002. The Washington Post called it "entertaining television," and The Christian Science Monitor wrote, "the film is full of amazing moments." The New York Post said, "By the time 'Rediscovering George Washington' is over, the man in the powdered wig in the old oil portraits is rendered entirely human — vulnerable, heroic and indispensable."
The Manifold team has been on St. Croix for a week and will remain here through Friday. Pack said the people he's met and worked with on island have been great.
"Everybody from the guy at the cane-juice stand to the governor have been friendly and helpful," he said.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are no stranger to the camera. Lots of feature films include either glimpses or extended views of the islands, including "The Shawshank Redemption," "Trading Places," "Weekend at Bernie's II," "Christopher Columbus: The Discovery," "The Big Blue" and "The Island of Dr. Moreau."
There's also been plenty of print and television exposure. In fact, a new NBC reality show will premiere Dec. 16, and two of the episodes were filmed on St. Thomas and St. Croix. "Momma's Boys," with executive producer Ryan Seacrest, follows the misadventures of three young men whose mothers will attempt to find the perfect mate for them.
The V.I. Department of Tourism coordinates film and photographic activities on the island. This year alone the department has helped coordinate 19 TV and photo shoots, including the aforementioned "Momma's Boys;" catalog shoots for Eddie Bauer, Polo Ralph Lauren, Stuart Weitzman and Target; shoots for such magazines as Belle, Vogue China and Vogue Italia; and advertising shoots for Disney Cruise Line, 10 Cane Rum, American Airlines and the United Way.
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Dec. 10, 2008 -- A film crew visiting St. Croix this week is seeing the island through the eyes of one of its most famous sons, Alexander Hamilton, American patriot, founding father and first secretary of the U.S. Treasury.
Director Michael Pack, writer-narrator Richard Brookhiser and their crew from Manifold Productions are filming parts of "Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton," which will air on the Public Broadcasting System sometime after the fall of 2009, Pack said.
Hamilton, a close aide to George Washington and the man in many ways credited with creating the American economy, was born on Nevis in either 1755 or '57 and moved with his family to St. Croix in 1765.
There are plenty of historical sites on the island -- forts, churches and other buildings -- that may look much the same today as they did 240 years ago. But that's not what the two men guiding "Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton," director Pack and Brookhiser, are looking for.
Wednesday the film crew was at the Port Authority dock in Gallows Bay. The dock is the place where the historic schooner Roseway ties up. Its masts standing proudly above the yachts, pleasure boats and working craft of the Christiansted harbor, Roseway looks like one of the many ships young Hamilton would have seen when he lived in Christiansted. But the crew's camera wasn't pointing at the historic vessel. Instead it was filming a forklift unloading pallets of rice from the barge Sea Search.
"We're trying to find ways in which the past is still going on," Brookhiser said. "We're looking for scenes today that are analogous to the past."
For example, one of Hamilton's first jobs was as a clerk for a Christiansted import-export firm, Beekman and Cruger. In that position he'd have watched ships coming and going, loading and unloading, all day long. So rather than shooting a static scene of a single period ship, director Pack and his crew spent the morning capturing scenes of a working harbor and talking to the people who make their living there.
That is part of the formula. Hamilton's father had the boy's mother imprisoned late in her life. Typically a documentary might shoot scenes of the old cells below the harbor's fort, but to Pack, that's more of a tourist site than history. Instead they went to the women's section of Golden Rock Correctional Facility and talked to the women there today.
"Rachel Hamilton never told her story," Pack said. "She never left a record. We gave the women at Golden Rock a chance to tell theirs. And some of them were eager to."
Thursday the camera crew was scheduled to captured footage at the Hovensa refinery. Not because there was any oil industry on the island in the mid-18th century. But there was something equally important to that era's world economy -- sugar.
"In the 18th century, sugar was oil," Brookhiser said. "Its equivalent today is oil."
As the first secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton created a national bank, solidified the nation's credit, supported development of a thriving industrial sector and championed a strong federal government, among many things. But he was also embroiled in political skirmishes and personal activities that tarnished his reputation and ultimately led him to the meadow in Weehawken, N.J., in 1804 where he lost his life in a duel with Aaron Burr.
It is not lost on Pack that the bustling world economy that Hamilton almost singlehandedly created has become unhinged in the last few months. That will feature in the finished documentary.
"We're talking about it with a whole lot of people who know about it," Pack said. "People who claim the mantle of Hamilton."
Among those interviewed on the economy are former Secretary of the Treasury Michael Rubin and current Secretary Henry Paulson.
"We let them tell their side and let the viewers decide for themselves," Pack said.
Pack and Brookhiser's previous collaboration, "Rediscovering George Washington," aired on PBS to critical acclaim July 4, 2002. The Washington Post called it "entertaining television," and The Christian Science Monitor wrote, "the film is full of amazing moments." The New York Post said, "By the time 'Rediscovering George Washington' is over, the man in the powdered wig in the old oil portraits is rendered entirely human -- vulnerable, heroic and indispensable."
The Manifold team has been on St. Croix for a week and will remain here through Friday. Pack said the people he's met and worked with on island have been great.
"Everybody from the guy at the cane-juice stand to the governor have been friendly and helpful," he said.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are no stranger to the camera. Lots of feature films include either glimpses or extended views of the islands, including "The Shawshank Redemption," "Trading Places," "Weekend at Bernie's II," "Christopher Columbus: The Discovery," "The Big Blue" and "The Island of Dr. Moreau."
There's also been plenty of print and television exposure. In fact, a new NBC reality show will premiere Dec. 16, and two of the episodes were filmed on St. Thomas and St. Croix. "Momma's Boys," with executive producer Ryan Seacrest, follows the misadventures of three young men whose mothers will attempt to find the perfect mate for them.
The V.I. Department of Tourism coordinates film and photographic activities on the island. This year alone the department has helped coordinate 19 TV and photo shoots, including the aforementioned "Momma's Boys;" catalog shoots for Eddie Bauer, Polo Ralph Lauren, Stuart Weitzman and Target; shoots for such magazines as Belle, Vogue China and Vogue Italia; and advertising shoots for Disney Cruise Line, 10 Cane Rum, American Airlines and the United Way.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.