Tuesday, November 17, 2015

From Documentary To Stage

Sometimes a story comes along that captures the heart and makes the heart its slave. Like many of our Midpen Media producers, Charlie Class has a full life and produces for the sheer fun of it. Charlie has produced hundreds of access TV shows since 1982 on topics ranging from square dancing to high tech to art and sustainability. Charlie joined the Midpen family 11 years ago during our first year here on San Antonio Road. Charlie was content to go as he was, until he met “the story.” Charlie’s good friend, Ruth Mix entrusted her daughter Claire with the telling of her experience as a nurse’s aide at the Gila River Japanese Internment Camp in Arizona. Charlie devoted himself to supporting Claire and Ruth and served as Executive Producer of a moving documentary entitled “Gila River and Mama: The Ruth Mix Story.” 

The story began on February 19, 1942 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, designating certain areas of the United States West coast as military zones. This order paved the way for the unlawful imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese American Citizens in internment camps. Through Class Productions, Charlie also published Claire’s young adult novel about her mother’s experiences entitled “The Girl with Hair Like the Sun.” Both the documentary and the book have helped to break the silence around this terrible page in America’s WWII history. Sadly, both Ruth and Claire have passed away.  The good news is that Claire lived to see the documentary that she wrote and directed receive Best Documentary honors from the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club in 2012.  The documentary was also nominated for a Northern California Emmy Award, received two WAVE Awards and two CreaTiVe Awards. Charlie proudly displays the Press Club plaque on Midpen Media’s own Wall of Fame because he believes it represents the pinnacle of his producing career. “Karen (Adams) suggested we enter the competitions,” Class says.  “I am so grateful for all of the support I’ve received from the Media Center and the friends I’ve made there.” But this amazing story doesn’t stop here. There was a chance meeting between Charlie and a member of the Houston Repertory Theater, which has resulted in an upcoming stage version of the Ruth Mix Story! Doug Kreitz, principal instructor of the “Zoom In” Workshops and a deeply committed volunteer, introduced Charlie to his brother Gary Kreitz who serves on the Board of the Texas Repertory Theatre.  Gary fell in love with the story, and took it back to Houston where Artistic Director Steven Fenley and playwright Charles B. French fell under its spell. The rest, as they say, is history. “Hair Like the Sun” based on Gila River and Mama: The Ruth Mix Story” will have its world premier at the Texas Repertory Theatre in Houston, March 17-April 10, 2016 

To learn more about the Texas premier and to get your tickets, visit http://www.texreptheatre.org.

To read more about Claire’s experience, read her interview on Discover Nikkei.  


written by Becky Sanders

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Future of Community Media

Our area is famed as the birthplace of the computer and one of the jewels of our Silicon Valley region is the world-renowned Computer History Museum. We were honored to have its President and CEO, John C. Hollar, as our keynote speaker as we celebrated Midpen Media Center’s 25 years of community storytelling at our September 13th event: Mosaic – Telling your story brings the whole picture of our community together. We invite you to join the audience to hear John’s thoughts on the Future of Community Media. His gracious comments acknowledged the important role that Midpen Media Center plays in our community. 

His message grounded us in communications history and inspired us regarding the possibilities for our future and for the communities we serve.  We are grateful to John for giving us an historical context and a vision for our future.  John Hollar’s background is perfectly suited to speak to these issues.  HIs career spans global media production and exemplifies his longstanding passion for media and education.  He led the development behind the Computer History Museum's major, permanent exhibition, Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing, a multi-platform history experience that has been described as the Valley's answer to the Smithsonian.  John serves as Executive Producer and frequent host of Revolutionaries, a weekly series produced with KQED SF.  Before joining the Museum, he was President of Penguin Television and Pearson Broadband in London. He served as executive Vice President of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), where he founded and launched the award-winning PBS.org, PBSKids.org and a wide array of national education services, including PBS TeacherLine.  He has been the executive producer of more than 200 hours of documentary and children's television.

In the future, we will share more about our 25-year community storytelling history including touching testimonials as we continue to celebrate!  Please accept our invitation to continue the journey alongside us and to shape the future of 

community media!

written by Annie Folger

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cuba Through the Lens

Until recently, travel to Cuba from the US has been severely restricted. For half a century US visitors were sparse and only allowed to venture to Cuba as part of rare cultural exchanges and educational trips. Such trips were arranged down to every detail and in most cases heavily supervised. Foothill College Photography Instructor, Ron Herman, has conducted his students on such trips to Cuba numerous times. "A cultural and physical landscape so different from our own is an inspiring laboratory for any student of photography," Herman says. While on one of his trips to Cuba, Herman became a fan of photographer Raul Canibano and arranged for his students to work with him. As diplomatic relations between Cuba and US warmed, Herman was anxious to bring Canibano and his work to the Foothill College. 

As a young man, Canibano worked as a welder but a chance meeting with a professional photographer sparked Canibano’s interest in photography. Making photography his career didn’t occur to him until he walked into the Fototeca de Cuba art gallery in Havana in 1989 when he was 28. Inspired by photographer Alfredo Sarabia’s surrealistic approach to landscapes, Canibano wanted to do the same thing but with people. Within a few days of the Sarabia exhibition, Raul Canibano traded in his blowtorch for a camera and started his journey. Canibano’s thick portfolio traces the story of a quarter century of Cuban life, a culture deeply isolated due to the trade embargo imposed on it by the US. 

With a little hoop jumping, Herman made arrangements to host Canibano on January 21, 2015. Canibano would speak at the opening of an exhibit of his work. Herman was confronted by grim budget realities. Wanting more than press in the local papers, Herman wanted a lasting record of this historic world event. Herman asked Midpen Media Center staff to recruit a crew to cover the opening gala. The volunteer team, lead by Mary Skinner, not only covered the event, but the team shot an exclusive interview with Canibano himself. This coverage inspired them to create a documentary that shows the relevance of Canibano’s work for present and future generations to experience. 

“Cuba, Cubano, Canibano” is a 28 minute journey through Canibano’s world and conveys many of the stories behind his photographs. Its release coincided with the reopening of the US embassy in Cuba on July 20, 2015 and the reopening of the US embassy in Havana, which is scheduled for August 14, 2015 .

Art Historian William Casellanos has called Canibano the most “iconic and prolific documentary photographer working in Cuba today." Casellanos praises Canibano for the “dignity and intimacy” with which he captures “Cuba’s national identity at the end of utopia.” With the influx of wealth and investment bound to pour back into Cuba after a half a century of isolation, Cuba is poised for change. Canibano’s portraits document a unique time in Cuba’s history. Beyond their historical significance, Canibano’s work hopes to inspire its viewers with images of the indomitable human spirit created by the artificial boundaries of war, ideology and politics. The images convey the pain, the joy, the love, the suffering and the intimacy of Cubans' daily lives. Canibano shows us our sameness with a people that generations of Americans really know little about.  

That Herman could bring Canibano here ahead of what is sure to be “Canibano fever” sweeping the art world is pure serendipity. With this opening up of doors between the US and Cuba, it is expected that appreciation for Canibano’s work will soar, proof positive that art survives when war slips into the annals of history. The heart of human stories beats longer than political regimes.

written by Becky Sanders

* If you want to learn more about the changes coming to Cuba and US relations , “Other Voices,” a monthly TV show produced in the Midpen Media studio by Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, covered Cuba in their May episode. Guests include Karen Lee Wald, researcher and writer, expert on Cuba and Richard Hobbs, Executive Director of Human Agenda. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Behind the Scenes: Tuolumne To All of You

California's drought is an issue that currently affects many of our lives. Our state and cities have instituted water usage restrictions, and the dryness is apparent by the yellow lawns popping up everywhere around us, some even with signs saying "Brown is the New Green." Leah Rogers, who took both our Zoom In and studio class, put her amazing talents to use and created a beautiful documentary called "Tuolumne to All of You." This documentary, which recently debuted at the Tuolumne River Film and Culture Fest, tells the story of our main water source, the Tuolumne River. Touching on its past, present, and possible future, it illustrates the important roll this river played in the development of this area, and how it continues to be a lifeline for our community. The Midpen Media Center is kicking off new blog series called "Behind the Scenes" where we highlight the great achievements of our volunteers and get a closer look into what goes into the making of a great documentary or studio series. Considering the timeliness of this issue, I can not imagine a more suitable person than Leah to ask a few questions about her film and background. I hope you enjoy her documentary and learning about Leah as much as I have.  

1.  Leah, how and why did you become involved in the Midpen Media Center?

I took the Zoom In and TV studio classes in the Spring of 2014 to explore the world of video and community TV.

2.  Your film is such a great film and such an important topic. What motivated you the create “Tuolumne To All of You”?

I have always been interested in water. As a geologist I chose to specialize in groundwater. Even though it doesn’t flow by us in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Tuolumne is OUR river, the one from which we get most of our water.

3.  If there was one lesson your viewers take from watching this film what would it be?

I just want to remind people that when we are tightening our belts in regards water usage, that we are in fact saving water that comes from Yosemite National Park and that feeds a great and beautiful ecosystem. That might make it easier to honor and savor it.

4.  Tell me about your background and how it contributed to the making of this film. Why did you become interested in hydrology? When did you develop an appreciation for nature?

I have loved nature for as long as I can remember. The musician, Bill Walker, whose music I used for the soundtrack, is a childhood friend. We have a memory of saving tadpoles out in the field behind my house, moving them from a drying puddle to a bigger creek.  We were about 5 years old at the time, so maybe that is one of my earlier environmental efforts. I loved the college field trips in geology and many people were going to work for oil companies, but I decided water was more important to people than oil. I worked as a research hydrogeologist for years. Also I went with friends on river trips in rafts and kayaks.

5.  What was the biggest obstacle you faced in making this film?

I would say film editing is the biggest struggle for me and thank goodness my friend Nate Gardner who stepped forward to help save the day. Sound is also a real challenge, especially when I wanted to do interviews outside. I learned a great deal by doing things poorly the first and second and third time.

6.  What was the greatest moment you had in making this film?

Actually having almost 300 people in a theater watching the movie( at the Tuolumne River Film and Culture Fest) was perhaps the most intense moment, which was both frightening and thrilling.  No one threw vegetables and many kind people said the film touched them deeply.

7.  What is your relationship to the Tuolumne River Trust?

The Tuolumne River Trust is just a great organization whose leadership has such love of the river and such energy for local and state action. It has been one of the non-profits that I support with my resources however I can.

8.  Do you feel water conservation is important? If so, why and what steps do you feel we can take to engage in water conservation?

Absolutely, conservation is the one thing each of us we can really do in terms of our water resources use. No one really wants to talk about population control or moving out of state, so we had better get better at conserving.

9.  How have people responded to your film so far?  Do you have any big hopes or plans for your film like entering it into contests or impacting a specific audience?

The response has been very supportive and enthusiastic! I am deeply grateful people have found it opened their eyes in some way about how and from where they get their water and also how lucky we are to have this sierra water in our dry climate. I feel too busy to really enter contests. I started filming again for next year as we hope to have another Tuolumne River Film and Culture Fest in 2016. I wanted some footage of the Paddle to the Sea paddle-a-thon, which started just after the film festival. (www.paddletothesea.org)

10.  Do you hope to produce more films? If so, on what types of topics?

Besides the Tuolumne River, I am working on two projects right now. The first one is about tango musicians Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Lepera and the other is about the botanist, Sir Joseph Banks who went with Captain Cook on his first voyage to the Pacific 1768-1771.

Written by Katie Rentzke

Thursday, May 28, 2015

We All Have Something to Give

We all have something unique to offer no matter what package we come in.  This is the concept behind the Abilities United Community Connections series.  Created and produced by long time Media Center volunteer Andrea Throndson, the show highlights achievements made by local men and women with physical and mental disabilities. Throndson says, “I realized there was no programming about adults with disabilities. I wanted to showcase to the community the great things these people are accomplishing.” As part of the nonprofit Abilities United, Community Connections is a program that helps the disabled population be a part of their local community by giving them an opportunity to commit to social and volunteer activities. With 35 local organization partners, activities include park cleanups, book sorting at libraries, and helping to produce the Media Center’s Community Connections series.

First launched in 2007, the show was birthed out of a grant from the Silicon Valley Foundation. Since then, there have been approximately 15 episodes interviewing people like Temple Grandin and former State Senator Joe Simitian. The most recent show partnered with the Bridge School and addresses the topic of Alternative Communication.  Interviewing two guests that use augmentative communication devices, the show divulges the hardships her guests faced in the past lacking proper communication. But also reveals how these devices become a portal to their thoughts and lead to great accomplishments.   

It is episodes like this one that help break the stereotypes of people with disabilities. “I regularly face misconceptions about people with disabilities,” says Throndson.  It is through education that Throndson feels those negative opinions change.  Educating people about developmental disabilities teaches people that the disabled are reliable, respectable and hardworking individuals who are more than just their disabilities.  Education shows the strengths of the disabled and shows people that inclusion is important. “We all have our struggles and dark places. We have all been pushed aside at some point in our lives,” says Throndson.

 Being on the show allows her guests with disabilities to openly talk about those dark places, but also embrace their stories of perseverance. Throndson says her guests get very excited to be on the show because they get to be stars.  “The last guest Clay got so excited that we saw the apparent joy on his face. Being on the show was wonderful recognition for him,” says Throndson. The show positively affects both the guests, and Throndson as well.

“It has given me a joy of life. I know that sounds corny but it’s true. There is brilliance in seeing a person with disabilities. For often having a disability can seem like a drawback but then so many gifts and joy can come from their struggles. Hearing and seeing these stories of perseverance is what has kept me doing this show for 10 years,” concluded Throndson.

Written by Katie Rentzke 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Men's Health Matters

When my son and his teammates (ages 12-18) were training for the men's gymnastics State Championships, their coach came down with a sore throat and fever. He continued to coach the boys despite being sick because performing well at this competition meant a shot at Regionals and ultimately the Jr. Olympic National Championships.

A week went by and his "cold" didn't go away as you would expect for an apparently healthy man, but instead grew worse. His fever peaked at 105°F. Being a former gymnast, he had a high tolerance for pain and didn't feel compelled to seek medical attention. Committed to his athletes ahead of his own health, he continued to spend four hours a night in the gym coaching.

We pleaded with him to see a doctor. Finally, on a Tuesday he went to an urgent care center, but ended up with nothing stronger than some over-the-counter medication. By Thursday morning, he had become so weak that he could barely walk and asked a neighboring team parent to drive him to the hospital. By noon that day, he was on life support -- unable to sustain life on his own. We were stunned.

On Saturday, the boys competed at the State Championships without their coach by their side and hundreds of people prayed for his recovery. His team won the title of State Champions and most of his gymnasts qualified to compete at the Regional Championships. Seven hours later, on Sunday at 3:00 AM, their coach was pronounced dead at the age of 44.

The cause of death was scarlet fever. Most people raised an eyebrow when told he died of this illness because in today's world, most Americans only read about people getting this once feared disease. Scarlet fever was a major cause of death before antibiotics, but today, it's rare and usually a mild illness. Scarlet fever is caused by the same streptococcal (strep) bacteria that causes strep throat. Strep today is easy to diagnose with a rapid strep test (throat culture) and just as easy to treat with antibiotics. The urgent care physician missed the clinical signs and symptoms and failed to perform the critical diagnostic tests, but I believe if my son's coach wasn't a man, he may still be alive today.

The urgent care doctor underestimated the extent of the coach's illness in his assessment. Many men with sports backgrounds are used to tolerating unusually high levels of pain. Men are also raised to not reveal weakness and often minimize signs of discomfort.

This man's death shook the world. As a renown coach/gymnast in the international arena, his passing affected every man who ever said, "I don't have time to see a doctor. I'll be fine." As a cardiac rehabilitation clinical exercise physiologist, 95% of my heart patients are men and I hear time after time how they ignored or shrugged off their body's warnings.

Men typically resist getting medical attention when in need. They talk themselves out of their discomfort, forego asking for help, and second-guess (or refuse) going to the emergency room. Also, most men put work ahead of their health because in their world, work is what defines them. Many men have their heart attacks at work or on their way to work.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more men die from cancer, heart disease, injuries, stroke, and diabetes than women. However, they are half as likely to go to the doctor for annual exams and preventive care. Because men have made themselves so ironically vulnerable, I decided to focus on Men’s Health and healthy aging for our first episode of *The Health Reporter.


Written by Karen Owoc, The Health Reporter

*Karen Owoc is a Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Health News TV host.  The Health Reporter is the outgrowth of her blog  http://TheHealthReporter.tv  and was developed and produced in collaboration with the Midpen Media Center. This new half-hour television show addresses a range of medical conditions, concerns, the latest technologies, and health services with Bay Area physicians. Topics are current, relevant and provocative.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Social Media & the New Era of Policing

With the emergence of social media, often the first person on the scene of a crime is not a policeman or a reporter, but a person with a cell phone and twitter handle. Confronted with society’s changing ways of digesting information, the Palo Alto Police Department (“PAPD”) embraces the powerful tool of social media to connect with its community.

On February 6, 2015 the PAPD released a video documenting the 2001 unsolved murder case of Maria Ann Hsiao. Lt. Zach Perron was one of the first officers to arrive on the scene that horrific night. Now, he hopes this video and social media will bring in tips to help solve this cold case and bring peace to the Hsiao family. “People want to know about crime in their community and social media helps us update the public and provide transparency. We might not be able to release all the information, but social media allows us to release relevant details to keep the public informed,” says Perron. 

According to Police Chief Magazine, more than 62% of law enforcement use social media to assist in crime investigations and 40% use social media for community outreach and citizen engagement. The PAPD uses social media for both.  With their main sources being Twitter, Facebook and Nextdoor, the PAPD regularly uses social media to generate leads in investigations and get crime tips on neighborhood activity. The PAPD also uses social media to get information out to the community. They live-tweet from a crime scene and use both Facebook and Twitter to answer people’s questions or concerns.

No longer does the public rely only on the press for their news source. This can be both helpful and a hindrance for law enforcement. Just as much as social media can be used to help with an investigation, it can be a source of rumors. Perron says, “If you want your news covered, you must put it out yourself. Our hope is to grow our following so people get the initial community message from the police department and not from local rumors.” According to Perron, the key to growing that following is establishing a trust factor with your public and setting the right tone in your communications. He points to the 2013 Boston Bombing as a watershed moment for social media and policing. 

After two men set off bombs during the Boston Marathon, the hashtag #BostonMarathon instantly went viral. The Boston Police knew that conversation about the bombing was going to happen on social media with or without them so they decided to embrace those streams of communication. The BAPD, having been on twitter since 2009, had an established trust with the public, which quickly made them a main source of up to date information. Their twitter feed skyrocketed from 40,000 to 310,000 and it was not through a traditional press release but through Twitter, that BAPD first announced they had suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in custody. The Boston bombing is now considered a textbook example of how law enforcement can use social media as an outreach tool.

Having assumed the role of Public Affairs Officer, Perron is using social media to its fullest capacity. This cold case video has generated over 80,000 views and 1,020 shares on the PAPD’s Facebook page and over 8,900 views on YouTube. In this new age of community policing, social media has become an essential location for local law enforcement to interact with its community. Though he cannot confirm there is a definite connection Perron says, “We are putting out more information than we ever have before (and) crime has gone down during my 17 years of service.” 

Written by Katie Rentzke 

Upcoming Events