Media and Events

MEDIA & EVENTS

J Kent Layton

J Kent Layton in the 2021 HFX Documentary ‘The Odyssey of Titanic’s Lifeboat No. 2’.

Although my primary focus is on written works, I have been proud to consult on or help create or consult on various media endeavors and live events, as well.

It has become clear to me that when people want to learn nowadays, they don’t always reach for a book first. The internet, media, and video are the new ‘go-to’s for hungry enthusiasts. However, these often have to wade through a veritable minefield of cleverly-crafted nonsense, tangled webs of conspiracy theories and uneducated guesswork. I had been hoping to be able to make the leap into more modern media formats for some time, but was concerned about content and quality control.

I had been hoping to be able to make the leap into more modern media formats for some time, but was concerned about content and quality control.

In 2019 and 2020, on the anniversaries of the Titanic disaster, I was honored to be asked to co-host the live real-time sinking animations with Tom Lynskey from Titanic: Honor & Glory. But little did I know that this journey had only just begun…


ON A SEA OF GLASS–LIVE! (2021)

In early 2021, after Tom had left the THG team, we decided to put together an entirely new real-time sinking animation for the 109th anniversary on 14-15 April. A new team was united under the banner of Tom’s production company, HFX. For the first time, it was we as historians — Tad Fitch, myself, and Bill Wormstedt — who were at the helm of a serious Titanic production. We were able to have the final say in the production’s content and give it a ‘stamp of approval’ for authenticity; although we were on a very tight deadline, and there are a few things that need refining over time, the final results were nothing short of incredible.

It is important to point out that this venture was completely unprecedented. To our knowledge, this endeavor was the first time that historians were given the final say on the content; most televised programs are created by a production company and are designed to sell commercial space. Historians who are interviewed are often dismayed to find after the fact that their interviews were edited to make it look like they supported a non-historical premise presented in the show to get viewers. The historians rarely have any say over the show’s final content, in spite of appearances to the contrary.

This project was happily different: Tom and his team gave the historians the opportunity to present the information that we had compiled over the course of many years of research and writing in a finished ‘composite’ that was so accurate that we were often able to literally see how certain disparate events ‘lined up’ and came together for the first time since they actually happened in 1912. It was an incredible experience.

The anniversary broadcast animation was entitled On A Sea of Glass–LIVE! It was literally a multi-hour event that brought to life all of the findings contained in our 2012 book On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the RMS Titanic. Tom, Tad, Bill, and myself were joined in the live broadcast by our modeler and animator Levi Rourke, as well as artist and researcher Michael Brady of Ocean Liner Designs, who helped us create the digital model used in the animation.


TITANIC SINKS IN REAL TIME: “HISTORIAN EDITION”

In the weeks after the live real-time event, our team worked very hard to finish a more detailed real-time animation of the sinking, one that was not narrated by historians and researchers. Called Titanic Sinks in Real Time: “Historian Edition” this production showed the disaster in real time, and included sound effects and music. Again, Tad, Bill and I were given the opportunity to give a final stamp of approval on the film’s content, to ensure the highest accuracy.


THE ODYSSEY OF TITANIC’S LIFEBOAT NO. 2

After completing the two real-time sinking animations, our team realized that there was much more material contained in the sinking animation than could be shown off even in a real-time animation nearly three hours long. We thus decided to make a test documentary focusing on one particular subject, and see it through from beginning to end.

Our selection was the complete story of Emergency Boat No. 2, which had a thrilling and oft-overlooked story that played a crucial role in the disaster. Again, the historians were given the keys to creating a documentary with accurate content. Thanks to Ton’s brilliant directing, the finished piece was a worthy equal to any documentary program shown on television.


RETRACING THEIR FOOTSTEPS: THOMAS ANDREWS, SHIPBUILDER

With the completion and success of the documentary The Odyssey of Titanic’s Lifeboat No. 2, we realized that we were just beginning to scratch the surface of what could be accomplished in helping tell the story of Titanic and of those who were aboard her. Our attention quickly turned to producing a quality piece focused on Thomas Andrews, a much-beloved and often misunderstood figure in Titanic‘s history.

From his role in helping to create Titanic all the way to the last place that he was seen during the sinking, this full-length documentary retraces the steps of Thomas Andrews as no one ever has before.


QUINCY & CLARE TALK CONSPIRACY

April 2022
I was recently asked to join Quincy & Clare for the debut episode of their new podcast; the topic for this episode was discussing conspiracy theories surrounding the Titanic. It was fantastic to be able to join them and my fellow historian and frequent collaborator, Mark Chirnside, to have a sort of virtual ’round-table’ discussion of the subject!


ON A SEA OF GLASS–LIVE! (2022) (110th Anniversary Livestream)

After the success of our On a Sea of Glass livestream last year, and the other ventures we’ve embarked upon since then (which can be found on this page), our intention was always, right from the start, to maintain a tradition that Tom had started about eight years before: an annual livestream on the anniversary of the Titanic disaster, in real time.

This year, we used the same animation which had been generated by HFX for last year’s broadcast. We intended to have Michael Brady of Ocean Liner Designs join us again, but in the event he took ill just a day before we were to go live, and couldn’t join us.

Although we were deeply saddened that Michael couldn’t join us, we were thrilled to have Ken Marschall join us live, on very short notice, to fill Michael’s shoes and help answer the many questions that our audience posed. Ken has been involved with Titanic for so many years, has learned so much about the ship, has personally dived the wreck, and worked on many Titanic documentaries and films through the years, and in the end, we all spent five hours together talking about the disaster and helping to bring it to life for our viewers. For me, personally, this was a genuine highlight of my career in maritime history, and I’d like to personally thank Ken for joining us and helping us out – particularly at the last minute.

As an aside, you can order copies of Ken’s artwork, in various formats, through either of his web sites:


Titanic: A Deeper Dive! (2022) (110th Anniversary Live Event)

Just a couple of hours before we did the 110th anniversary livestream, Tad, Bill, and I were all invited to participate in a live author discussion for the Mark Twain House & Museum. Our co-panelists included authors Charles Haas and Brandon Whited. We really enjoyed the little more than an hour we all spent discussion Titanic. You can watch the video of our discussion that evening here:

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And yes, ​I look forward to participating in more of these projects in the future!