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Teacher Gets a Lesson on the Making of History Video

Times Staff Writer

Su Scott has been making history the hard way.

The Escondido schoolteacher might not make it into the Guinness Book of World Records or win an Oscar, but she has three achievements to show for her yearlong efforts, long after the glow of accomplishment has faded.

It was just about a year ago that the Felicita School special-education instructor decided to add to her tasks as teacher, wife and mother. She became a producer, director, author and technician.

She applied for a modest grant from the North County Community Television Foundation to produce a 25-minute video on Escondido’s history. It was, after all, the city’s centennial in 1988.

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Memo Was a Prophetic Plea

Bob Lerner, a foundation director, recalled Scott’s ploy that caught the judges’ attention. She attached a yellow handwritten memo to each copy of her application, imploring: “Please don’t throw this baby out with the bath water.”

The plea was prophetic. Five days after she delivered her video production, “Escondido: A Living History,” on March 10, she delivered a 7-pound, 2-ounce baby boy, Tyler Stephen Scott-Okerblom.

The video will premiere April 26 before an Escondido City Council meeting at City Hall. Tyler is available for viewing almost anytime, with an appointment.

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Scott doesn’t blame Tyler for her tardiness in failing to produce her film by the city’s October centennial.

“The grant was for a six-month period, but I didn’t realize what I was getting into. It was a new language: camcorders, story boards, wipes, fades,” she explained. “They (the North County Community Television Foundation) kept giving me extensions and I kept expanding the scope of the project.”

With a $4,000 grant--the largest that the foundation dispenses--Scott produced the historical video, with polish provided by dozens of “helpers” recruited by Scott’s enthusiasm and blarney.

Real Traffic Stopper

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She remembers the high points of the production process, which included stopping traffic on busy Escondido Boulevard to film a narrative without the rumbling of trucks in the background. She remembers standing barefoot on a marble counter in the foyer of the new Escondido City Hall, balancing a historical picture in “just the right light” for one shot.

The ambitious teacher planned to re-enact the Battle of San Pasqual, but was thwarted when her insurance policy expired before she could assemble stand-ins for the U.S. and Mexican troops who battled to a standoff in 1846 in the valley south of Escondido.

But her luck held. She found a history buff who had filmed the annual December reenactment of the Mexican-American War battle and, with the help of her volunteers, turned the amateur film into a startlingly realistic sepia battle sequence worthy of the once-heralded television documentary, “You Were There.”

Scott recruited the city’s historians for verbal accounts of Escondido history and persuaded technicians from the local cable TV firm and elsewhere to give the amateur production a professional finish.

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“I have a lot more appreciation for television now that I have seen the skill and sophisticated equipment it takes to do some of the things we take for granted,” Scott said, admitting that she was very naive to think she could produce a professional project on a $4,000 budget.

“Everybody pitched in,” she said. The Escondido elementary school district put $100 into the kitty and paid for a substitute teacher when she was forced to be away from her classroom on a “shoot.”

Southwest Bank anted up some money, and the retirees at Redwood Terrace added to the pot. The San Diego Historical Society gave her free use of their historical pictures in return for her research reports. Dimension Cable Television added $1,000 in staff time, and a dozen other companies donated goods, services and cash.

“If I added it all up, I guess it would be a $25,000 project,” Scott admitted. “I am proud of it. And, I am glad that it’s done.”

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Family Projects, Too

To add to the hectic pace of the year past, Scott and her husband bought the home that they had been renting and launched into a major renovation project, which sometimes kept them up until 1 a.m., painting and plastering and preparing for the hired workmen due the next morning.

She didn’t tell her film co-workers that she was pregnant, she said, “because I didn’t want them to treat me in a different way.”

It was December before it became obvious to everyone that she was producing more than a historical project.

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Now Scott, who is on maternity leave, can relax in her remodeled home, cradling her newborn son as she sips lemonade and watches the completed video with her 3-year-old daughter, Lorin Halley (named after the comet) Scott-Okerblom.

She looks forward to a few months of rest, to the upcoming preview of her Escondido epic and to the new set of amateurs vying for foundation grants, due to be selected later this month.

“I guess if a schoolteacher who knows nothing about it can do it, then anyone can,” she said.


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