Towers Productions is ramping up to become Chicago’s leading 3D company as it begins production on a groundbreaking series, The Civil War 3D,exclusively for the 3net channel, the new joint venture of Discovery, Sony and IMAX.
Monthlong principal photography of the four part-four hour series starts June 1, with an all-Chicago crew of 70 and 300 uniformed and costumed Civil War reenactors from throughout the state, says Seneca Lester, Towers’ managing director.
This is Towers’ first 3D show and the largest in scope in its 22 years of producing non-fiction and entertainment shows. While the specific budget was not revealed, it is in the millions and is the biggest budget ever for a Towers show.
The Civil War 3D was the concept of executive producer/director David W. Padrusch, a distinguished producer of some 16 historical military documentaries, including Last Stand of the 300, Battles B.C. and The Art of War.
Boston-based Padrusch joined Towers in February, 2010 as VP/ development and executive producer, responsible for originating and developing series and specials.
He previously presided over his own Mad Rush Pictures, where he also produced TV programs, docs and commercials. He remains in Boston as Towers’ East Coast representative working with the company’s New York and Washington, D.C. clients and partners.
The idea came to Padrusch when he was researching another project in the Library of Congress and found some stereoscopic 3D photographs that had been taken during the Civil War of camp sites, battles and the casualties of war.
Stereoscopic 3D photography dates back to 1838 and by the 1850s nearly every home owned a stereoscope, a device on which the photos were viewed.
“The cool thing about this is, you’re dipping back to a 100-year old 3D image as it was seen then, and bringing it back in a new form a century later,” notes Mike Schmeidler, Towers VP/development/executive producer.
The series is half scripted reenactments and half character narration.
“By paralleling personal stories from soldiers in the counter regiments of the Union’s Massachusetts 20th and the Confederate’s Virginia 1st,” says Padrusch, “the series will show the agony and determination endured through camp life, training, and all-out war.”
Padrusch and Civil War buff Jonathan Towers, the company’s founder and chief creative officer, co-wrote series along with historical consultant Patrick Brennan, a lifelong Civil War scholar and author.
Brennan, better known as the co-owner of Hubbard Street Studios, calls working on show “the gig of a lifetime.”
Brennan helped guide the team of writers, researchers and fact-checkers, who work in “the Civil War Room” in Towers’ offices, where a timeline of the four years of war wraps around the entire room.
Illinois stands in for Southern states
The series will be shot entirely in Illinois, a locale not usually associated Civil War lore, but where southern state topography is easily simulated.
The first location is Rockford’s step-back-in time, 137-acre Midway Village Museum, a replica of an 1850’s Illinois town, where smaller, intimate scenes of townspeople and a soldier recovering from injuries will be captured.
Two major battles will be reenacted at the grassy expanses of the 159-year old Dillinger Family Farm in Channahon, southwest of Joliet.
A second camping and combat site is a southern river area in the Palos Hills Forest Preserves, with rolling terrain similar to Virginia, where an original battle was fought.
Towers makes the transition to a 3D production source
The leading local producer of non-fiction and entertainment shows, with a permanent staff of around 50, Towers Productions, is in the process of upgrading equipment to 3D.
“We set June 13 as the date for being able to offer all the capabilities of a 3D production company,” says Lester.
Daufenbach Camera is supplying the Element Technica Quasar Rig, requiring a four-man operation, and two Red MX cameras. Camera operator Jim Pappas has been familiarizing himself with the rig over the past six months.
Working with Pappas are freelance assistant cameraman Nick Vassil and rig tech Eon Mora. New York-based stereographer Ross Heran is handling all the 3D dimensionality of the capture.
Sarah Miller is the series show runner. Locations manager is Dan Tyrell. In-house casting director Becky Cattie is in the process of finding actor to portray the two regimental leaders, and will putting out a call for extras.
Freelance audio mixer is Martin Stebbing. Hubbard Street Studios will score and record audio.
Tim Pastore is executive producer for 3net, which is currently available on DIRECTV Ch. 107.