I will remind everyone once again, that I have been doing the living history and Seminole War research for longer than I care to admit. I will admit that the first Dade Battle reenactment that I saw, Jimmy Sawgrass (who I had already known for a few years) was there and he was younger than his son Cody is today.
Needless to say, I think that I can be classified as an authority on the subjects I talk about on my blog. I get opinionated, but am entitled to it. But I wanted to reiterate that I have been doing this a long time and feel that I have the experience and research to know what I am talking about.
When I do an event like the Dade Battle reenactment, or any other event at many of the state parks, my purpose for being there is to present living history interpretation that is relevant with that site, and with the battle reenactment. I am not there to be on history channel, discovery channel, or nat geo. I am not there as a paid actor, but as a volunteer for the park. Except in my case, I am a paid park employee, and one of the extreme few park employees who still does Seminole War living history portraying a Seminole. There used to be many more FPS employees who did Seminole, but I think that I am the only one left. But basically, I am there for the park.
Everyone who signs up for an event at a park, fills out a volunteer agreement, which is a contract to the park to provide your volunteer services. This is a contract with the Dade Battlefield and the Florida State Parks, and is not a contract with Discovery TV channel. (Just using Discovery as an example; they filmed up back in the mid-90s.) If you want to be on Discovery TV, you have to fill out a separate contract with them. If they put your likeness on their program, they need to contract with you and get your signed release. It is not the same as the agreement you sign with the park.
For the Shootout reenactment at Big Cypress Reservation, we are filmed by the Seminole TV network for their news or documentary programs. This is a little different. As a participant of the Shootout, you sign a contract with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Seminole TV network is also with the tribe. So when you agree to do the event and sign a contract with the tribe, you are also agreeing to let the tribal network film you. At the shootout, the tribe will allow no other network or production to film you, except this previous year they made an exception with the Swamp Men program.
This past weekend at Dade, I saw several photos of some of you being filmed in a hand-to-hand combat scenario. When I said that it never happened at Dade Battle, I was told that they were filming for a different program that was not part of the battle reenactment. This was a company filming separate footage for another program.
TV programs that are being filmed for the cable TV networks like Discovery, History, or Nat Geo, are not non-profit organizations like the parks. They are Hollywood. They are people who are in the business of making TV and they profit from it. I know several reenactors who have worked with TV and movies and have been paid for doing programs. Some of them are members of the Screen Actors Guild. For myself, I am not a SAG member, but have been paid for TV and documentary programs in the past.
When these cable networks come to the park to film in the park, they are required to get approval from Tallahassee, and to pay the park $500 a day filming fee. They are paying the state to come there and film. Do not allow them to play you for the fool and film you for free. They owe you money for filming, which is a separate service than what you have contracted with the park for the event.
Will a professional actor allow themselves to be in a film production and do it for free? Usually not! If you are getting filmed for free, you are doing a disservice to other reenactors who do this professionally and get paid for it. You should, too! If you are in their film, you are just being fooled to work for free, and they will take advantage of you. Don't be played the fool.