Every year, for almost 20 years, I have been fortunate enough to be involved in the White House Christmas Special, which airs on HGTV. The first show was filmed in 1998 during the Clinton Administration. At the time, I had been shooting several other programs for Scripps Networks, who own HGTV, as well as The Food Network, The Travel Channel and DIY Network. When they asked if I would be interested in shooting the first White House Christmas special – I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve been part of the production team ever since!
In a typical year, the production usually begins around late September or early October when a team from the White House travels to a tree farm to select the tree for the “Blue Room”. The tree is chosen from the farm that wins the best tree award from The National Christmas Tree Association for that year. This year the tree came from a farm in Wisconsin.
In late October or early November, the actual shooting at the White House begins. This is when some of the early stages of decorating are shot. It’s quite busy as the cooks, pastry chefs and flower shop workers all begin prepping for the Christmas season.
As you can imagine, there are many people involved in this type of production. On Thanksgiving Day, producers and crew from Scripps Networks travel from Knoxville, TN to Washington, DC. They join up with a few of the local crew members to prep for the next 5 days of shooting. Very early in the morning, the day after Thanksgiving is when the real action begins.
Before the rooms can be decorated, the White House staff is tasked with the responsibility of removing all the priceless antiques and furniture from the “State Floor”. (Rooms on the first floor.) Once everything is removed, hundreds of volunteers from all over the country start decorating. The decorating must be completed in 4-5 days.
When all the final touches are complete, the First Lady typically hosts an event to kick off the White House Christmas season. After this event, the footage is taken back to Scripps, where the editing process has already begun. To complete the editing in time for the air date, there are five different edit rooms, working around the clock to finish the program in time. As you can see, its quite a production!
Be sure to tune in to this year’s show! It airs on Sunday, December 11th at 6PM.
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