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While thousands of spectators will gather to watch tomorrow's Head of the Charles Regatta to see who emerges victorious, television crews from the new documentary series American Chronicles will be watching the races for a very different reason.
Capturing the essence of crew in the rowers' looks of intense concentration, in the surge of the narrow shell through the water and in the boisterous crowd will be more important to the producers than the outcome of the race.
American Chronicles seeks to create images "about American rituals--peoples, places, events--those kinds of things that are uniquely and traditionally American," said Gary H. Grossman, supervising producer of the series.
Also, the series boasts an open approach, said Joe Jarrell, segment producer. "Traditional documentaries are trying to sell a point of view. We're taking a peek as an outsider," he said. "You can decide whether it is interesting or silly."
When producers for American Chronicles, a project of Lynch/Frost Productions, looks for a subject, they search for moving imagery and evidence of anthropological roots.
Any subject that serves this double purpose is worthy of the show's camera, which in the past has captured scenes of Texan beauty queens and New York nightlife, producers said.
The series came to the Head to capture moments of rowing and will travel to Cincinnati for a high school football game, to complete a new episode that will focus on "the ritual of sport."
The half-hour documentary, which airs every Saturday at 9:30 p.m. on Fox Network's Channel 25, will focus on these two sports in its December 15 episode.
Describing the initial thought process that led the producers to couple these two sports, Grossman said, "These are two sports that have grown out of war in a historical sense."
"One remains barbaric--high school football--a game of capturing territory," he said. "One allows teammates on a crew to act as one being competing against its own limitations and the clock."
This anthropological focus will be reflected in the structure of the documentary. Jarrell, who is specifically responsible for music, plans to reflect the sports' origins in war through the accompaniment he chooses.
For example, Greek or Egyptian scores might sound as images of modern day rowers cross the screen, making the connection between today's sport and soldier-rowed warships of the past, Jarrell said.
But the search for beautiful imagery has not been forgotten through this process, said Grossman, who likes to describe his finished products as "docu-poems" and "gothicmentaries."
Producers said they will capitalize on the colors of the regatta added to the already stunning scenery of New England's fall. "It will be a beautiful show. We work as hard as we can to get the imagery," Grossman said.
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