The President's Hall of Fame in Clermont has been closed for the past two weeks to accommodate a film crew from New York, shooting footage for a special set to air in November on the Discovery Channel,
The show, by New Animal Productions in conjunction with Discovery Communications,LLC, is called "Flipping the White House" --
a documentary focusing on the transition from one first family to another and how the rooms in the White House are redecorated.
The company's original hope was for a chance to film the real White House.
That wasn't possible, so instead, they were granted special access to the next best venue -- The President's Hall of Fame attraction at 123 N. U.S. Highway 27, next to the Citrus Tower in Clermont -- home to the 60- by 20- foot, 10-ton White House replica built in the 1970s by its curators, John and Jan Zweifel.
Each room of the replica was hand built, with every detail just as it stands in Washington, D.C., but in miniature.
"What a great honor for our attraction and for Clermont to be host to the filming," John Zweifel said.
Stop motion animator Chelsea Manifold, a crew member, said the replica is "exceptional" and has provided the filmmakers with the up-close look they needed of the White House's entire second floor, where most of the rooms that get "flipped" are located.
"The miniature is beautiful and has proven to be the perfect alternative for the exact footage we needed. The craftsmanship on everything in it is quite exceptional. I've been doing this for 10 years and this is one of the most intricate models I've ever worked with," Manifold said.
The Zweifels have visited the White House and updated the miniature to reflect any changes. At Christmas, the Zweifels even turn the replica over to its holiday mode to match the happenings at the real White House.
"When this airs nationally on the Discovery Channel in November, you will think what is taking place is in the real White House on Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C.," said South Lake Chamber President Ray San Fratello, who visited the museum briefly during the filming. "I found it fascinating."
The crew, led by Castle Pictures president and creative director Chris Cassel, is made up of Manifold, a stop motion animator with more than 10 years of experience, and Zach Poots, the project's director of photography and lighting technician, who specializes in miniatures and puppets.
Assisting them are Tommy Candido -- who moved to town just three weeks ago and who specializes in computers, construction and fabrication. Three student interns from Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasoto -- Klarissa Parduba, Marysol Stepanof and James Cheredia are joined by instructor Ed Cheetham to round out the group.For two weeks, the crew has filmed about 15 hours per day, using state-of-the-art equipment for shots incorporating traditional, computer and stop motion animation.
Manifold said the process requires complete focus and patience since they have to shoot 24 frames for every one second of film.
"We're trudging along slowly but surely," Poots said, adding they also have to work with many variables, including capturing the perfect lighting, since shadows, heat and cold can all affect the footage.
"We had a shot in the very beginning of this project where I was literally standing in a locked leg position for eight hours. I literally couldn't move because the cameras were around me and the lighting was perfect," said Manifold, who has taken to wearing knee braces while shooting. "In the end, thousands of man-hours will have been put into the project to make it happen."
Manifold also said that the footage captured at the museum will be used along with live interviews Cassel secured from peopl at the White House earlier this year.
"The flipping of the rooms, as they are happening in the White House itself, has not been documented, but we were able to showcase that in the small one instead. We animated things like mattresses being flipped and wall paper going up in a room. We animated boxes and furniture moving out from one administration and being switched out.
"All this will be cut into the live action footage and interviews that already have taken place to try to create an interesting live visual story," Manifold said. "Without this, there would be a lot of talking heads."
Manifold and Poots have worked on dozens of other projects with companies such as Sony, Heineken, Motorola, Pepsi, Frito Lay and College Humor.
"It's great that we can use animation as a story telling tool because there are some things you can't showcase any other way," Manifold said.
Sonia Beckford of Clermont, who stopped in to visit the museum last week, said she was thrilled to hear about the filming. She has visited frequently and always brings out-of-town guests there.
"To know we have something like this right here in Clermont, in our own backyard is amazing," she said. "People should really appreciate and take advantage of it."
For more infromation, visit www.thepresidentshalloffame.com.