Public TV station KRCB has presented the nationally syndicated anthology program “Natural Heroes” to PBS affiliates around the country for six seasons. I am very proud to have produced three segments that have been accepted to this Emmy Award-winning series. After receiving inquiries and positive feedback from educators, series producer Valerie Landes and General Manager Nancy Dobbs sought out a curriculum writer to create professionally produced lesson plans to go with their successful show.
They chose Suzie Boss, who spoke with me on the phone from Portland, Oregon about how central a role the 21st Century Learning concept of Project-based Learning (PBL) plays in her work. The beautiful materials can be downloaded from the “Natural Heroes” website.
The highest purpose of a documentary film is to educate and effect change. The Working Group’s “Not In Our Town” series started with one segment, and has grown into a leading anti-hate, anti-bullying initiative. To refer to “Not in Our Town” materials as “study guides” would be like calling Facebook “a promising start-up.” Not in Our Town is now an extensive movement with scores of videos and downloadable guides, a vast website, and resources for communities, schools, even law enforcement. Still, the NIOT and NIOS (Not in Our School) outreach campaigns are replete with examples that we smaller indies would do well to emulate with our own individual projects. One example of a NIOS assembly guide for students is included below after interview highlights.
I spoke with Executive Director Patrice O’Neill when she graciously took the time to meet with me at the NIOT offices in downtown Oakland.
I have actually now lost count of how many times I have watched Ron Blatman’s stunning 4-hour series “Saving the Bay.” Narrated by Robert Redford, shot over a period of seven years and apparently sparing absolutely no expense, this documentary film is a master class in how it’s done. The cinematography, the writing, the locations, the research, the archival material, the animation, the interviews–absolutely everything comes together in the way that only a meticulously well-crafted labor of love can do. I guess it helps that it is about our beloved home region, but I’m not ashamed to admit it: this piece has moved me to tears out of sheer artistry. More than once.
So imagine how exciting it was when the Executive Producer returned my email inquiry about a possible interview over coffee…within twenty minutes of me sending him the message! I asked if Ron would meet to talk about the equally gorgeous educational materials he and his team created to accompany the film. He generously agreed and when we met he excitedly started sharing a behind-the-scenes account of building what I consider a gold standard of ancillary materials for documentary. (A portion of sample study guide is included at the end of the interview highlights).