Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Friday, March 2, 2012

El Latino TV en Vivo! Production Notes: En Contacto Con la Comunidad (Episode 5)

TRENTON -- The broadcast was solid because host Carlos Avila and his guests engaged in meaningful conversation, and the graphics stuck, so that made me happy.

I thought the production would get an added boost when Carlos, editor of El Latino Expreso, which is The Trentonian's Latino newspaper, brought in Zarina Paz to be my assistant. She was going to translate important points to make it easier for me to scour the Web for complementary visuals in the picture-in-picture.

Well, having Zarina helped and didn't help.

Zarina did a great job listening to the conversations and relaying what Carlos and his guests were saying. But those conversations shifted many times, so by the time she told me what they were saying and I found something on the Web, they were talking about something else, it seemed. My left ear was locked onto Carlos and his guests trying to pick up a key word, and my right ear was close to Zarina's mouth, whose eyes and ears were locked onto the conversation, which she translated by whispering into said right ear, so my Gringo mind was pulled in two directions. I didn't utilize Zarina like I should have. Also, not only was I listening to Carlos and his guests to my left, and Zarina to my right, but I was focusing on the graphics and the audio levels and the preview window on the desktop screen to make sure Carlos and his guests were lined up within the parameters. There are so many little things I'm checking to make sure the conversation look good on the Livestream studio window -- which gives me a pretty good idea of what the audience sees. Those tasks are so much easier when I understand the conversation. My brain multitasks well under those circumstances. It's a bit tougher when you're trying to produce a show and understand a foreign language (even if you did take 3 years of Spanish in high school).

Anyway, I dropped the ball at the goal line when the second guest, Maria Lisett Rodriguez, talked about her daughter, Zulemy, who won New Jersey's Miss Hispanidad Pageant about 18 months ago. Carlos looked at the laptop monitor a few times to see if I had pulled up a photo; through five episodes, I'm learning to read his body language; and when he peeks at the screen it's his way of saying "Jose, donde el graphico?" He even said "Jose" clearly (which should have been my cue to really perk my ears up) and "Miss Hispanidad." Zarina repeated that into my right ear, and I tried finding something on Google. I wasn't making it happen. I'm not even sure why I didn't check Trentonian.com. After the broadcast, with Rodriguez standing next to me, I did a search of Zulemy Rodriguez on NJExpreso.com and found a story Carlos did on her after she had won the pageant -- with a photo of her at a speaking engagement. Total fail on my part. 

So for a good chunk of time Carlos and the proud mom are talking -- I'm pretty sure waiting to see an image or two of Zulemy in the picture-in-picture -- and I didn't produce. I totally fumbled at the goal line like Earnest Byner, and I'm not pleased with my effort there. I began thinking of solutions right after the broadcast -- the No. 1 priority is to find a producer for El Latino TV en Vivo! who speaks Spanish and then train him or her how to run things. It's a practical solution.The show is a gold mine for the Latino community of Greater Trenton. I think a Latino needs to run the show from the booth to make every broadcast special.

Carlos' first guest was Pedro Medina, who retired from the Trenton Police Department toward the end of 2011 after 29 years on the force. He retired as Sgt. Medina.


Medina was a superstar with Carlos. Whatever he was saying, I was buying. You can always hear passion in a voice, and Medina's is full of it. He's well-respected in Trenton's Latino community. He ran for mayor years ago, and now I can see why: his energy is vibrant, full of life, radiant, it exudes confidence and compassion. Medina and I had a few phone interactions when he was the police spokesman, but I never remember being wowed by him. It was different this time because he didn't have to worry about what he was saying. As police spokesman, you've got to mince words with the press. Sometimes you can't say anything at all. But now, Pedro Medina was speaking as Pedro Medina. One of the neat things that stood out, Zarina said, is the story Medina told about trying to learn English as a kid in Trenton, when the city didn't offer much in the way of bilingual studies. Medina cited "Mrs. Whitaker," a teacher who would spend 2 extra hours with Medina every day teaching him English. There were so many other things Medina was saying with such conviction. I wish I understood them. Zarina was telling me fast as she could, as I scoured Google to find images that would go well with Medina's stories, but I wasn't finding too much, so I pulled back the search somewhat and showed his Facebook page and a picture of him as a young cop on the Trenton force and a picture of him and his wife and graphics of the schools he went to (Rider, Trenton State). A little voice inside also told me Medina could run for mayor again -- and this time he could win.

Juan Cobos was the other guest. He is a social worker based out of Hightstown. Again, I struggled to follow the conversation even though Zarina was translating well. At one point she said Cobos spoke about how much food we waste as a culture, food that could be used to feed the hungry. I did manage to call up a picture of the Hightstown Library, where he works, but I wasn't sure if he was asking the community to bring excess food there so his organization could deliver it -- because I would've posted the phone number to the library (609-448-1474). I so understand Bill Murray's frustrations in "Lost in Translation."

But, Episode 5 was a success. In the end, I strive to bring you the steak, not the sizzle, be it on "En Contacto Con la Comunidad" or "Live with L.A." or "Freedom." The bells and whistles i.e. graphics and picture-in-picture are solid, sure, but the steak is the ideas that emerge from the conversations. Carlos Avila and L.A. Parker and Darren Freedom Green are excellent Trentonian TV hosts because they know how to engage their guests and extract ideas for the audience to chew on, swallow and digest.

Gracias, Zarina Paz. Hasta Episode 6 ...

UPDATE 1: After the show I went to post a link of the replay on Medina's wall, but he had done so with this note on his status:

"Quiero darle mis mas sinceras gracias al Sr. Carlos Avila y a su asistente el Sr. Joey Kulkin por esta oportunidad. Como todos saben servir y representar bien a mi comunidad Hispana siempre a sido una prioridad mia y ahora como uno de los Undersheriff en la Oficina del Sheriff del Condado de Mercer el Sheriff Jack Kemler me ha dado esa otra oportunida para seguir sirviendo, no solo a la comunidad Hispana, pero sino a la comunidad del Condado de Mercer en general. Nosotros los Hispanos tenemos amor para todos: Que viva el orgullo Latino!"

I ran that graph through Google Translate: 

"I give my sincere thanks to Mr. Carlos Avila and his assistant Mr. Joey Kulkin for this opportunity. As you know well to serve and represent my Hispanic community has always been a priority of mine and now as one of the Undersheriff in the Sheriff's Office Mercer County Sheriff Jack Kemler has given me that other opportunities to continue serving, not just the Hispanic community but the community but Mercer County in general. We Hispanics have love for everyone: live the Latino pride"

UPDATE 2: The graphics get stripped by Blogger when it uploads a video, so all of the names and titles do not appear below. But they appear on the embedded replay. Also, I incorrectly typed the title of Cobos. It should say "trabajador social" not "trabajado social."

Below is Episode 5 of "En Conducto Con la Comunidad"