Sperryville column for July 26

Lights, camera . . . Rappahannock!

Poortown Road was a veritable bustling avenue two weeks ago as the cast and crew shooting a commercial wound their way up to Andrea and Steve Wooten’s farm, Cardinal Springs. The commercial, for defense and government-security contractor Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), is part of the company’s “Securing the Future” promotional campaign.

Andrea Wooten said that she was surprised when she received a phone call from the scouting crew a week earlier asking if they could come out and take a look at the farm. The Wootens had allowed photos of their farm to appear on the Virginia Film Industries website a few years ago and afterwards had not thought much about it. Rappahannock County tourism director Laura Overstreet had arranged for the state tourism office’s film location scout, Tom Trigo, to shoot locations around the county. “At the time Tom was here,” said Barbara Adolfi, who serves on the county’s tourism advisory group, “he said he thought that this farm was the signature piece of his collection of photos.”

Despite the heat wave, Wooten said, the SAIC art department scouts fell in love with the site and asked if they could return the following week to shoot the commercial. They arrived on Wednesday (July 11) with truckloads of equipment, cables, lights and lots of physical energy.

Wooten said she had not realized how big the production would be, and found it interesting to watch it all coalesce. “I had planned a vacation at home to do some gardening,” she said, “so the timing was perfect.” Some of the crew stayed in the farm’s guest house and spent some free time enjoying the property’s enchanting ambiance. The crew also needed to borrow a number of props from the Wootens, including table settings and foodstuffs for some of the shots. The Wootens’ adopted cat, Mr. Jefferson, was there to oversee every detail and greet every guest.

SAIC art director Jason Mullis could be heard shouting, “Position one!” as the four actors, two adults and two children, prepared for the camera to roll on their make-believe family. Chris Doud, a senior video producer, watched a monitor intently.

On Wednesday, shooting was outside amid the breathtaking scenery surrounding the Wootens’ home; the heat wave had taken a turn for the better, with temperatures in the 80s. The children “played” over and over in the refreshing spray of a sprinkler as Mullis filmed them, over and over, hoping for the perfect shot. Although fun in the beginning, Wooten said, the child actors were visibly relieved when the water was finally turned off for the day.

The shoot moved indoors Thursday and the Wootens’ kitchen became a movie set with cameras, monitors, light screens, booms and a dozen-plus production folks crowded around. The family pets were not to be denied their moment of fame, Andrea Wooten said, and tried to get into the shots as well. A few rehearsals were run, and the makeup artist arrived to work her magic before the actual shooting began. Director, producers, assistants, lighting and sound professionals and caterers buzzed around the house making sure everything fell into place.

Rumor has it that the commercial will air during the upcoming Olympics, though the SAIC crew members couldn’t say for sure. But keep an eye out starting this weekend and see if you catch a glimpse of the Rappahannock countryside and the Wootens’ adorable dogs!

– R.B.

Custom furniture from Oventop Mountain

When you get onto Oventop Mountain Lane from U.S. 211, then wind up and down a gravel road and go on forever until the road ends at a house and a pond, you’ll find the house of Ed and Linda Johnson. Ed is now mostly retired from construction, but that gives him more time to do what he loves: work with wood. Ed gets his wood from wherever he can. He forages the mountain, finds it floating in a river and gets it from land that is being cleared. One rustic wooden chair has hickory, cherry, oak and even ailanthus. He is an artist at carving oak leaves and acorns into his picture frames with a Dremel tool. His cedar slab clock was created from a cedar tree found floating in a river. He has both cedar and black walnut chests, the latter from local wood. This native of South Dakota has called Rappahannock home for several years now; now that he has more time to make custom pieces for you, call Ed Johnson at 540-987-9097.

– Barbara Adolfi