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Desperate Crossing
Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower
@ The History Channel E-Mail Q & A with Producer and Director Lisa Wolfinger

Lisa Q. Wolfinger is Producer, Director of Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story Of The Mayflower. Wolfinger has written, produced, directed and supervised the edit on a variety of television programs. Recent projects for The History Channel include a 90-minute Halloween special about the Salem Witch Trials, Witch Hunt, (nominated for a 2005 News and Documentary Emmy) and a four-part marquee special, Conquest Of America (nominated for a 2005 Primetime Emmy.)

As co-owner of Lone Wolf Documentary Group, Wolfinger is also involved in the management of the company and overall supervision of all current projects, including episodes of the ongoing series for The History Channel, Deep Sea Detectives. Outside of Lone Wolf DG, Lisa has worked with partner Charlene Joyce (Screaming Mama Productions) to develop original programming for Nickelodeon's Noggin, Hit, Disney and PBS, as well as writing/developing feature scripts ( Whatley's Quest for SONY Family.) She and Joyce are currently producers on the feature Frindle , based on Andrew Clements's best-selling book of the same name. In the past year Wolfinger and L.A.-based writing partner Rocky Collins have been writing and developing dramatic series for television.

Q: Having visited the Mayflower II and Plimouth Plantation myself this past summer, what locations were used aside from Plimouth Plantation?
A: We filmed at Historic St. Mary's City in Maryland and aboard the Maryland Dove, Agecroft Hall in Richmond, Virginia and exteriors in Bruges, Belgium and Stratford on Avon, UK.  

Q: Was Mayflower II used the scenes recreating the ocean crossing?
A: Yes.

Q: Where were the scenes set in Europe and the Pilgrims first landing on Cape Cod were set?
A: The king's court and Scrooby manor were filmed at Agecroft hall. We filmed the Dutch scenes at Historic St. Mary's city, Maryland. 

Q: I found Plimouth Plantation hot, dry and windy in my visit this past summer. I noticed winter, spring and fall (but not summer) appeared to be depicted in the presentation. Was all the filming done at once or did you return to the Plantation throughout the year?
A: We filmed throughout the year however we shot most of our scenes in October and November.   

Q: What was the level of involvement of Plimouth Plantation beyond serving as a location?
A: We cast many of their interpreters in smaller parts (Miles Standish, Hopkins, the Billingtons) and as extras. We also worked closely with Plimoth experts Liz Lodge, Lisa Whalen, Linda Coombs, Jonathan Perry, Peter Arenstam. They all acted as advisors on set. They did not however have editorial control of the program.     

Q: Why was it decided that actors would be used for the Pilgrims and not the historical reenactors who work at Plimouth Plantation? And how did Jonathan Perry of the Wampanoag People come to playing two speaking Native American roles in the presentation?
A: I always intended to use classically trained actors to portray the main characters. Only professional actors could do justice to the story and language. Jonathan Perry was initially only supposed to play Squanto but he was so passionate and knowledgeable about the history that I ended up interviewing him as well.  

Q: How did Shakespearean actors come to be used in the presentation? For the most part, they brought a level of acting not usually seen in the historical presentation. How were they approached and how did the process of their involvement go?
A: I went to school & university in England and was involved in theater, many of my old friends are now RSC and West End veterans. They helped me cast the show. It was easy to persuade English actors to spend a few weeks in New England in the fall... I don't think any of them quite understood how cold it was in the winter however. Luckily I had a great ensemble and no one complained.     

Q: I found it interesting that Jonathan Perry was given the closing moments of the presentation. Why were his comments from the perspective of the Wampanoag chosen to be the coda of the presentation, rather than one of the experts on the Pilgrims? I ask in part since the presentation is titled Desperate Crossing which would lead one to think it's focused on the Pilgrims.
A: I felt it was important not to end the film on a falsely upbeat note. The shadow of the King Philip's war hangs over the pilgrim story and I wanted to acknowledge that.  No one lived happily ever after.  The Indians would suffer and so would the English in the years to come.   

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Desperate Crossing
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Desperate Crossing