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Historic site receives credit, possible fame (video)

By chirst
Aug. 25, 2012 at 3:25 a.m.
Updated Aug. 26, 2012 at 3:26 a.m.

Actors wait to make their trek up a hill to film in front of the fort built on the land where the reenactment took place on Fort St. Louis on Saturday morning. The group was part of a crew filming the PBS special, "Texas Before the Alamo" and  despite the inconvenience of rain, the director and producer Bill Millet said   the rain made the scene historically accurate.

A procession of Spanish soldiers, Indian guides and one priest wearily marched up to a lone fort.

Wielding guns and knives and wearing animal hides, the group of men solemnly gathered around a small grave site at the top of the hill to bury the massacred.

Then the rain started -- and the cameras stopped.

Fake muskets were thrown to the ground as actors, technicians and even mayors made a beeline for expensive camera gear, running it to the only dry spot at the historic Fort St. Louis site - the cab of a truck.

"I feel like the real character, with the rain," Cervantes Reck said, grinning and wringing water out of his costume.

The actor is playing Alonso de Leon, the Spanish explorer who found what remained of the French fort after Indian attacks on April 22, 1689.

Gary Dunnam, Victoria County Heritage director, waited under trees Saturday, along with about 30 other people, for the filming to continue.

"But this is how it was that day," he said, shrugging rain off his hat. "It was a bleak day."

Bill Millet, director and producer for the PBS special, "Texas Before the Alamo" said that despite the inconvenience of filming under umbrellas, the rain made the scene historically accurate.

Reck said it made getting into character easier.

"The fact that we were at the real site that this event took place, it kind of did the work for me," Reck said. "And then when the rain came, it was almost part of it, too ... Everything around me was contributing to the character for me."

The historical drama starts with the story of René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, a French explorer who founded the fort in 1684. Though he departed France with 300 men and women, the Spanish found only three bodies when they discovered the fort in 1689. The fate of the other French settlers is not exactly clear.

"When you look at the story of Alonso de Leon finding the French fort that morning - you can't make these stories up," Millet said. "It is like an epic tale that the best Hollywood script writers couldn't think of. They find this woman with an arrow in her back and they have been brutally murdered - that is straight out of Hollywood. So why not just do straight out of history?"

Millet started filming for the historical drama two years ago, and he hopes the three-part mini series will be ready to air next spring.

In addition to the site of Fort St. Louis located off Farm-to-Market Road 616, the team also filmed at the site of the Presidio La Bahía at Riverside Park and the Presidio La Bahía in Goliad.

Much of the movie also takes place in Guerrero, Coahuila, the site of the Spanish mission that founded the forts in the Crossroads and the Alamo.

LaRue Roth, director of the Victoria Convention and Visitors Bureau, said they hope the film and Victoria's partnership with Guerrero will raise awareness about the historic sites in South Texas and bring in tourism.

"This Partners in History program is a regional tourism approach," Roth said. "We are hoping to package group tours, working with our partners."

Eventually, she said, Victoria could be part of a tour that sees sites in Goliad, San Antonio and Guerrero.

Dunnam has been involved with the site since it was excavated in the 1990s and proven to be the site of Fort St. Louis.

"It is one of the most important sites in the United States," Dunnam said. "This is where Texas history began."\

Related story:

Historic partnership completed in Victoria, click HERE

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