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WVU History alumna uses historical skills to scout film locations in New Orleans

Eliana Ginsburg graduated from WVU in with her Bachelor of Arts in history in 2006 and thought she wanted to work in the history field. Pursuing this, she went on to obtain her Master’s Degree in Public History from the University in Maryland and then completed two internships in New Orleans, at the Louisiana State Museum and the National World War II Museum.

But she found the tight-knit museum community difficult to break into and she also lacked the experience or networks. While waitressing at restaurant, Eliana happened to meet a Prop Master (the person who handles the objects touched in a scene) who took her under his wing and introduced her to a top film Location Manager in New Orleans. As she says, “The rest is history!”

This was the beginning of Eliana’s career as an Assistant Location Manager in the film industry. Location Managers are responsible for everything related to locations of filming.

Rogen and Ginsburg

“The determined location has to fit the creative vision of the Writer, Director, Producers and several other departments. It also must fit in to the filming schedule and budget of the production. It then becomes my responsibility to secure the location,” she said.

Deepwater Horizon

In order to do so, Eliana often works with public audiences in the local area, an essential skill that she developed in Public History.

“This includes agreements with not only the location itself but any building, house, street etc. that will be impacted by our filming.  We become the liaison between the community and our Production.  We facilitate accommodating the needs and requests of the community, production and city law requirements for filming. It is a logistical puzzle each time we film on location. ”

The Butler

While working in the film industry may not directly fall into the historical field, Eliana finds her background in both history and public history very useful for her current job.

As a history major at WVU, Eliana’s favorite class was Dr. Elizabeth Fones-Wolf’s, World War II in America.  She loved the books read in that class, two of her favorite being, Wartime America: The World War II Home Front, by John W Jeffries and The World Within War: America’s Combat Experience in World War II by Gerald F Linderman.

“I became passionate on the subject that culminated with writing my Master’s thesis on the changing American identity leading up to World War II and how that prohibited the US’ involvement in responding to the Holocaust.  Without that class I may have never realized my focus in the history field.”

Eliana’s history background has been very helpful working in New Orleans. New Orleans is a city with an old infrastructure and many of the houses that Eliana works with have stood for hundreds of years. Her historic training provides a good background in how to treat these structures.

“This involves not only my professionalism and responsibility as a manager but a deeper understanding and veracity towards historic preservation,” she said.

Examples of this include using cardboard under the film equipment to protect the floors, bubble-wrap on stairwells, doorways and corners of the interior that could be damaged, and understanding city ordinances related to handling historic structures.

“Having an educational background in Pubic History has enabled me to maintain preserving the historical integrity of the Location while accommodating the needs of our Production and other departments.”

In her spare time, Eliana works as a Docent at two historic house museums. She has worked with these specific museums as recurring locations on Season Three of American Horror Story: Coven. As a location manager, she has become well-acquainted with the staff and curators of the Hermann Grima-Gallier Historic House Museums and networked with them to work for the museums.

American Horror Story

“Both my careers are intertwined and I would have never been able to develop this partnership with the museums without my role in the film industry.  This experience has been extremely gratifying, challenging and includes my passion in history in all facets,” she said.