Vampire Forensics

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Explorer: Vampire Forensics Premieres Tuesday February 23 10P et/pt.

By Matteo Borrini

Working with National Geographic Television on the Explorer Episode “Vampire Forensics” has been a terrific experience.  Organizing, directing and working on archaeological excavations is usually crazy and chaotic; with a lot of people working shoulder to shoulder with their different personalities and roles, working on the television production was exactly the same. The crew has been really tremendous and amusing in each situation.

At first I thought that it would be very strange to be an “on-camera” talent. In the past I have been interviewed for TV Magazine shows and news, but I never was a leading man in a movie! I thought that this situation would be extremely bizarre because I am not an actor with a role and script, I had to act myself and in a natural way- how surreal! Fortunately Gareth, Peter and Mark were fantastic and really helped me, so after the first shoot it became easy.

The thing I enjoyed most was demonstrating the experiments for the camera.

For example we filmed the forensic light test.  It can only be demonstrated once so it had to be filmed like a live broadcast. This enabled me to do my experiment naturally, and perform the test as I would usually do at a crime scene. I think that it was a very tricky situation for Gareth and all the crew- because they only had one opportunity to capture the segment.  Unlike other times on the set- when I had to repeat same movement, and situation, over and over again (like closing the car door during Pisa section) for different camera angles, but of course this is cinema…

Other very remarkable moments were the camera-car and the filming on location in Italy. There were lots of people looking at us, perhaps hoping to meet a movie star or a sexy actor. Unfortunately for them they only saw a common forensic anthropologist.  But I gloated for their attention, especially when someone, after realizing what kind of documentary we were shooting, asked to take my picture. 

While filming with the camera-car I found it very amusing to drive around the beautiful cities of Rome, Pisa, Florence and Arezzo  with Peter Zin hanging halfway out of the back of the van to film me.  I was really cautious not to lose him in the congested traffic of Rome.  Then Mark Brewer filmed from the back of Lorella Muzi’s motorcycle.  She was our local fixer/producer, so fortunately for Mark she was very skilled at driving in the crazy traffic of Rome.  These people are not only filmmakers; they are also acrobats!

In my job as a Forensic Archaeologist I reconstruct the lives of individuals by their bones, and sometimes there is a sad story linked to their murder or violent death, I never have the opportunity see them living again.  The most poignant moment for me occurred when we were shooting in Venice, and I finally got to meet the actress in the “vampire” role.  Obviously she was great in her performance, but the thing that moved me deeply was to see “the vampire” as she lived.

Here I had a living breathing person in front of me.  One I had recreated from history, with the live face I that I had reconstructed from a skeleton.   Here she was, she had come to life before my eyes.  In the 16th century she was an ordinary women, with her own history, feelings and emotions.  She lived as a normal person and not the scary vampire that someone accused her of being five centuries ago.  It was very satisfying to discover who she really was, and bring her some justice after such a traumatic death and exorcism.