Hoping to clear an important project milestone before the August recess begins, Capitol Visitors Center planners are seeking final approval this week on the script for the orientation film that will greet future visitors to the Capitol.
If the Capitol Preservation Commission — the bipartisan, bicameral body that oversees the CVC — signs off on the script before the recess, the private film group producing the 12-minute video will use the August break to explore various shot set-ups on and around the Hill. Donna Lawrence of Donna Lawrence Productions — which won the $550,000 contract and has been working with the CVC for the past two years — said her group could then begin filming by the time Members reconvene in September.
“We are timing production,” said Lawrence, who has also produced the orientation films for the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, Ky. “Right now we’re on schedule to be finished by mid-summer 2006,” in time for the CVC’s planned September 2006 opening.
Ron Bonjean, spokesman for Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who is a co-chairman of the 18-member CPC, said Tuesday that the film producers had met with various CPC members in the past week and “we don’t see any problems with getting the script approved before recess.”
The new orientation film will be screened in two 250-person stadium-seating theaters in the CVC. It will be shown on a staggered continuous loop so that a theater will let out every 10 minutes. Therefore, visitors will be “pulsed” into the Capitol in a more controlled manner that will allow members of the Capitol Guide Service to better handle large numbers of tourists, CVC spokesman Tom Fontana said.
“We’re not trying to produce a civics lesson with this film, we’re looking for something more emotional,” Fontana said. “This is the last stop before people go into the Capitol itself. We want them to know what really happens in the people’s house.”
“We want to increase the viewers’ appreciation for America’s unique experience in representative democracy through an understanding of Congress, which is our most direct connection with our government,” said Lawrence. The film will highlight the history and symbolism of the Capitol as well as the everyday work of those who inhabit the halls of Congress, she said.
In creating the script for the film, Donna Lawrence Productions consulted with not only Hill leadership but also the Smithsonian Museum, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, both the House and Senate historical offices and “noted historians and authors on American history and political science,” Fontana said.
Donna Lawrence Productions has also been awarded two $200,000 contracts to produce a pair of films for the CVC’s virtual theater and exhibit gallery. Those films will highlight the history and daily functions of the House and Senate, respectively, and Fontana said the scripts for those films will be submitted for approval to the CPC later this summer.