More than once I found myself trapped between armies shooting at each other. I have felt the concussion of artillery going off right over my shoulder. I have had to duck for cover to avoid being spotted, and I have stepped over the bodies of the fallen.
That was life in the war. The French & Indian War, to be exact, which I covered in three feature documentaries chronicling the adventures of young George Washington on the Virginia frontier. His time spent there fighting for the British Empire against the French and their Native allies taught him how to be the kind of leader who could later win a revolution.
For a few years we filmed war games between armies of living historians who took their task very seriously. They were great people who saw the value in creating documentaries about their war—a seldom-explored and quite brutal corner of American history. How brutal? We worked for weeks to find just the right formula for making blood that looked real, and we spread gallons of it in the forest for the recreation of one particularly nasty battle known as Braddock’s Defeat. But we also experienced great civility; we were among the one percent of applicants to be granted permission to shoot inside George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, and at the 300-year-old College of William & Mary.
These are great memories now, and I’m happy to say that the resulting documentaries have been endorsed by the American Association of Museums, broadcast on PBS, and sold by the Smithsonian, Mount Vernon, and Colonial Williamsburg.
It’s a bit calmer here at Akoya, and I haven’t needed my blood recipe even once in making videos for NASA or the U.S. Department of Energy. As rewarding as it is to create public outreach videos for highly worthwhile research programs, sometimes I find myself missing the old days on the frontier when it was wisest to keep low to the ground and hold onto your scalp.