The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 18, 2005


This Old House production team completes filming

You've probably noticed a change in the type of traffic at 730 Concord Street. The This Old House (TOH) production team just completed its year-long 25

"It was a really exciting day, the day we shot the jacking of the barn and the demolition of the ell," says producer Deb Hood. "It was just dramatic. And you know it's a good day when Norm [Abram] and Tom [Silva] and Rich [Trethewey] just hang around watching."

The TOH team seems a bit sad to end their regular visits to Carlisle. They note that they will miss the bucolic environment marked by friendly citizens. Show host Kevin O'Connor says he'll miss his morning visit to get coffee at Ferns. Executive producer Bruce Irving says the town character figured in the selection of the site at 730 Concord Street for the anniversary season.

"We always start with the house, and this house was a true surviving piece of New England history," says Irving. "The fact that it was in a town that is working hard to preserve its New England character — through zoning, setting aside open space, and bylaws that preserve agricultural buildings — served to clinch the deal."

The free open house

Celebrating the end of the project has already begun, as you may have noticed from the cast party in full force under a tent erected by the side of the house two weeks ago. More invitations to upcoming events are being posted, and TOH will sponsor a Show House at the site open to the public in the April and May timeframe. The show has already issued a special invitation to the Carlisle community.

The free open house for Carlisle residents is tentatively set for Monday April 11 and Thursday April 14 pending approval by the Board of Selectmen. Details will be posted in the Mosquito as soon as available.

If you've been watching TOH, you are probably familiar with host O'Connor, master carpenter Abram, and general contractor Silva as well as a variety of on-screen experts. You instantly recognize these people and have probably said "hello" if you have seen them around town this season. However, you may not easily recognize the other key people that are instrumental in making the show happen. While creative director and founder Russell Morash set the general format of the show, he has taken a background role in recent years.

The production team behind the camera makes the show happen. Executive producer Irving has responsibility for financial aspects of the show and is the overall boss. Senior producer and director David Vos makes all filming decisions. Producer Hood plans show content.

Irving works for This Old House Productions, Inc. The company is a subsidiary of Time, Inc. and Irving has been with the project for over a decade. He handles staff hiring and employment concerns, and deals with the major issues that impact production, such as obtaining approvals from the Carlisle Selectmen and various boards, as well as handling traffic issues. While Irving is not on site every day, he comes to each filming session for part of the day. "I trust David and Deb implicitly," says Irving. "I want to be around to see what's going on, and what the tone is, but we already have talked out what is going to be on the show anyway."

There are 26 half-hour episodes in a This Old House season. Each one requires two days of filming and every episode usually contains one side trip. For the Carlisle project, the team filmed side stories in eight states: Connecticut, Louisiana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah.

A production day on any TOH project can begin as early as 7 a.m. and can end as late as 8 p.m. The production team breaks for lunch whenever convenient in the day's filming process, which can mean as early as 11:30 a.m. or as late as 2 p.m.

Of all the production personnel, Deb Hood probably has made the greatest single contribution on a day-to-day basis at the Carlisle project. This is her only project and focus, and she lives and breathes the planning and implementation of each program segment. She is responsible for planning the 26 episodes over the course of the year. Hood has worked 60-to-80 hour weeks on the Carlisle project since it began. She is constantly checking in with relevant contractors to ensure that each episode captures the most important information. Hood is quick to deflect the attention to the hours and efforts she expends, diverting notice to someone else: "No one works harder than Tom Silva and he never complains."

Before production of each show, Hood prepares a "run-down" or list of components for that day. Irving and Vos review the run-down prior to filming in a pre-production meeting. Here, the team assigns the on-screen talent that will appear in the episode. They decide what segments O'Connor will take, which ones Abram will lead, and when the two should appear together. The day before a show, Hood and Vos meet at the site to go over the plan and make final adjustments.

"Ready, set, action!"

When filming begins, Vos takes charge of the content. "He's the general of the army, the captain of the ship," says Hood. "Bruce is our overall superior back at the office, but on these [production] days it's a very clear hierarchy, and it has to happen that way or we never get through the day." Other production team members may have ideas, but Vos makes the final decision.

The director weaves the story for each episode. A TOH trademark is the relaxed and conversational tone of the show. The actors actually take part in the construction going on, and react "on the fly" to sometimes unexpected results.

"If you want stories with any integrity, you have to have your antennae up," says Vos. "We have a 'score,' if you will, or run-down that we start with. Like any good improvisation, you have to start with a score, so we stick to it as much as we can, but our attention might be taken by something else, and we'd be fools not to go with it. Sometimes happy accidents make for the best TV!"

Meanwhile, Hood watches for accuracy and clarity. She tracks the schedule, but Vos will re-shoot a sequence for as many times as he feels is needed. He may find the scene requires more or less time than allotted. The show content time is 23 minutes and 46 seconds. While the run-down allots for each scene, actual implementation of the schedule varies. Hood is usually thinking two or three scenes ahead, and may elect to move a component to the next day if the production team is running behind schedule.

After more than a dozen — or even two dozen — takes, a sequence will seem perfect. Hood and Vos will make visual contact to confirm that the last one is truly the one that they will use. "We are the only two people that are 100-percent focused on the show content," says Hood. "There are other people that are looking at lighting, script notes, and time, but we know when something is right. When we look at each other and our eyes lock, we just have the sense of, 'that's the one!' "

Vos has worked for the show for ten years, but took over direction with the Carlisle project. While he brings creativity to the production, he works within the model established over the past 25 years. Vos came up through the ranks working at the show, so he is cognizant of its history. "I am not fool enough to think that people want to see the 'David Vos version of This Old House,'" he says. "They want the show that they know and love. The nicest thing I've heard about the show is from a woman who said, 'When I'm on the road traveling on business trips, I love to turn the show on because I feel like I'm at home.' There is a feeling and character to the show."

Meanwhile, Hood is already looking ahead. "I'm already in search of the next project house," she says. "By March 15 we need to know that project."

Although the TOH production crew is moving on, for some in Carlisle, the project continues. For many residents, the Carlisle community open house will be the first chance people have to see the site. Soon, you will have your opportunity to visit the newest This Old House in town.
Local people and places featured on This Old House show
Andy Wilson, Chelmsford real estate agent
Peter George, Carlisle homeowner
Eleanor Duren, former Carlisle homeowner
Laura Baliestiero, Carlisle real estate agent
Terry Herndon, Carlisle Board of Appeals, chairman
Mark & Tamma Duffy, Carlisle dairy farmers
Larry Bearfield & Robin Emerson, proprietors of Carlisle's Ferns market
Bonnie Krims, paint-color consultant, Carlisle resident
Matt Foti, certified arborist, Carlisle resident
Bob Phillips, metal detector enthusiast, Acton resident
Stephanie Hubbard, landscape architect, Concord native
John Dee, finishing specialist, Concord resident

Local places featured in This Old House
Carlisle center and rotary
Terry Herndon's office
Great Brook Farm State Park & Dairy Farm
The Wickwire Residence (former TOH project) in Concord
Ferns Country Store
Scenic drive-by shots of Concord Street and Route 225 in Carlisle
Minuteman Regional High School

Local private residences and offices (Dorchester, Boston, Concord, Braintree, Hanover, Lincoln, Lexington, Reading, Woburn, Braintree, Wayland, and Boxborough.
Off-camera help from local residents and businesses

Carlisle Historical Society (researching history of property)
Gleason Public Library (researching history of property)
Concord Public Libraries (elm tree photo research)
Larry Sorli, architect and architectural historian
Kurt Meehan, Carlisle real estate agent
Chip Dewing, Carlisle architect and project house neighbor
Ferns Country Store (catering)
Ian Sampson, Jennings Woodworking (Carlisle furniture maker, built master bath vanity)
Pastor Keith Greer, First Congregational Church
Marie Doyle, Carlisle Public School, superintendent
Carlisle Police Department
Carlisle Town Hall
Carlisle Board of Heath
Carlisle Building Department
Carlisle Conservation Commission

Tom Silva, general contractor at the This Old House 25th anniversary project, has spent most of his waking hours this past year in Carlisle. He recalls looking at four other properties last spring when This Old House production team was searching for the perfect project house within 90 minutes of Boston. Silva looked at the finalists, and provided budget and time estimates. Regarding the Carlisle property, Silva notes that the budget exceeded projections by less than 10% and the job finished just in time ­ admirable feats considering the septic issues that impacted the cost and schedule at the start. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito