In the latest installment of New York on the Clock, Chris Baker pilots tugboats for Staten Island-based McAllister Towing, one of New York City’s two towing outfits. Back in May, New York on the Clock producer Daniel Ross joined Captain Baker as vessels from the United States and Canadian Navies called to port for Fleet Week 2009. Captain Baker’s tug, the Rosemary Ellis, helped dock the U.S.S. Iwo Jima, an 844-ft Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, and the U.S.S. Roosevelt, a 500-ft Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
Q. In the film, there are scenes that take place from sunrise to sunset … so how long were you on the boat?
We met the McAllister crew at their headquarters on Staten Island around 3 in the morning. An hour later we motored out into the harbor to meet inbound ships. We stayed on the boat the rest of the day, and called back to headquarters around 7pm.
Q. How busy is Captain Baker’s workday? Were there long periods of just sitting there, waiting for boats to dock?
Captain Baker was asleep when we boarded the Rosemary McAllister. His first mate piloted the boat until about sunrise, at which point Captain Baker took over. He remained in command throughout the day.
Q. What kind of ships does Captain Baker dock? How long does it take to dock a ship?
The range of ships that Captain Baker docks varies. Like he says in the video, he never really knows from day to day. He gets a call and goes out to meet the ship. His ship, the Rosemary McAllister, was like the top of the line boat, so he can really tow almost anything. Of course, the really big ships require more than one tug to guide them to port.
Q. Was it very difficult filming on the water? What kind of challenges did you face?
It wasn’t difficult filming on the water. The tugboat was large enough that it didn’t pitch much. Nothing like trying to film from a dinghy like we did for The City Concealed: North Brother Island. In hindsight, I think the biggest challenge — or maybe oversight on our part — was getting a variety of sounds. The engines on the boat are extremely powerful and extremely loud, so throughout the piece you get a constant drone that doesn’t offer much in the way of dynamic audio.
Watch Captain Chris Baker and more original films about the people that make New York tick at New York on the Clock.
“Tito Puente: The King of Latin Music” explores the life and career of one of the most recognizable names in the history of Latin music, the percussionist and bandleader Tito Puente. Inside THIRTEEN spoke with producer and director George Rivera about his documentary. “Tito Puente: The King of Latin Music” airs on THIRTEEN Thursday, September 24 at 8 pm and Friday, September 25 at 1:30 am.
Q: Did you know Tito Puente personally? How did you get involved in doing this film?
Tito was an acquaintance, though I did not know him well, and he was familiar with my work as a producer and director. Over a period of time, others had asked to do a biographic film and he always refused. Eventually, through a mutual friend, he let it be known that he would do one with me.
Q: So what was Tito Puente like off the stage? What kind of access did you have to him?
For Tito, being off-stage was very much an extension of being on-stage. He was lots of fun and at the same time a real leader. He was a member of the community, who cared very much about his family and where he came from. He was an ordinary guy: He didn’t project “star” or was a prima donna, and he didn’t expect or ask people to treat him like one. He was very cooperative. We had complete access. Tito made himself available before, after and during performances.
Q: Tito Puente and his music is beloved all over the world – was there a lot of pressure in how you approached the film?
I don’t think there was any pressure except what was self-imposed to get the story right and give the music the respect that it deserved.
Q: Tito Puente passed away in 2000 while you were making the film; what challenges did you face as you finished the film without him?
Originally, we had planned to travel with him to Europe later that year and to record much more footage. We had no idea that the interview that we did with him in San Juan and the performance recorded that evening would be his last. When Tito died a few weeks later, we had to think quickly and change the scope of the project. Fortunately, so many celebrities who knew and admired Tito, as well as his family members, were willing to step up and be interviewed. In the wake of his loss, everyone felt such a tribute was important, and we were able to get the documentary done fairly quickly.
This year, “American Masters” received the 2009 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Series awarded by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) at the 61st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. This is the series’ seventh Primetime Emmy win in this category in the past decade. “American Masters’” winning entrant for this category is Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About. Inside THIRTEEN spoke with the creator and executive producer of “American Masters,” Susan Lacy.
Q. This is the seventh time that “American Masters” has won the Emmy for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series, a record for any PBS series … How do you feel? Where are you going to put the statue?
It feels gratifying to be honored so many times by one’s peers. This is our 7th win for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series in the last 10 years, but prior to submitting for the series, we used to submit individual show for Non-Fiction Special, for which we were also nominated almost every year since the series’ inception. We also won many times, although I can’t remember the exact number of wins. I believe this speaks completely to the quality of our films, as well as the fact that our subject matter has always stood out from the majority of television fare. So, our Prime Time Emmy history has been truly unprecedented, at least in terms of public television series. It makes me feel proud on behalf of public television, as well as all the talented directors, writers and post-production individuals we work with who contribute to the high quality of the series.
The Emmy will join the others, as well as the Peabodys, Grammys and assorted other honors on shelves in my office. It’s pretty crowded up there and everyone worries the shelves will cave in someday.
Q. Since you created “American Masters” in 1984, a lot of programs that profile American artists have come and gone … How do you manage to keep your program relevant to today’s audience?
I think when you are focusing your programs on people whose cultural contribution was significant and whose body of work is defining, the films are always relevant. I have always made it a point to balance so-called “high” art with popular culture to reach as broad an audience a possible. Not everyone will be interested in every subject but, taken together, they cross the boundaries imposed by traditional means of measuring demographics. I also feel strongly that if we remain true to the mission of public television and, therefore, not bow before the ratings gods, we will always stand out, attracting a loyal audience not necessarily drawn to reality television and sitcoms, but who will stick with us year after year and, in fact, continually grow.
Q. What are some of your favorite “American Masters” programs, and why?
It’s difficult to pick my favorites, as I choose the subjects, put the teams together and often direct an episode myself, so there are many children in my stable. I can say that my favorite film to direct was Leonard Bernstein. In general, I am drawn most to those films which successfully transcend the traditional straight-ahead, narrative format to achieve layers of complexity and texture. This isn’t easy to do and not every subject lends itself to this, but when we do hit it, I am ecstatic. I would love to hear from our audience what their favorites are.
Q. What artists can we look forward to seeing on upcoming episodes of “American Masters”?
We have incredible subjects in development for future seasons, including John Lennon, Miles Davis, John Muir, Dustin Hoffman, Johnny Carson, Odetta, Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey, Mel Brooks, Jackson Pollock, Jessye Norman, Stephen Spielberg, Robert Altman, Helen Keller, Alvin Ailey, August Wilson, Joe Papp, Bill T. Jones, William Buckley, Cachao, to name but some of the films we are working on.
Funding remains our biggest challenge. Everyone loves and values the series, but it is very difficult to raise the money to make these films. The high cost of the rights associated with them, as well as our high standards of filmmaking, makes it impossible for them to be produced inexpensively. But, that’s another story.
The folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary defined the 1960’s protest era with their earnest renditions of ballads like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “If I Had a Hammer.” The group appeared many times on public television since then, lending their vocal talents to numerous concert specials. The 2004 PBS special “Peter, Paul & Mary: Carry It On, A Musical Legacy” chronicled their lives over a four-decade career in the music business. Read more about Mary Travers and her legacy at Great Performances.
On Wednesday, September 17, female vocalist Mary Travers passed away at the age of 72 after a battle with cancer. Watch a clip of the group performing “Blowin’ in the Wind” in 1966.
On September 16, 1962, THIRTEEN first signed on the air, marking the birth of a unique source of outstanding television for the New York metropolitan area and viewers all across America. Nearly half a century later, the adventure continues. On the occasion of this 47th anniversary, Rafael Pi Roman interviews the station’s Founding General Manager, Richard D. Heffner.
News and Public Affairs: Weekly Programs: Washington Week: President Obama’s health care plan and Congress; Supreme Court on campaign finance; 9/11 eight years later. NOW on PBS: This week’s show examines how Rwanda’s health care system is impacting both its citizens’ health and the nation’s economy. Bill Moyers Journal: A conversation with McClatchy Pentagon correspondent Nancy Youssef on Afghanistan; an interview with global health specialist and Dartmouth College president Dr. Jim Yong Kim on public health. Religion & Ethics Newsweekly:
Consuelo Mack Wealthtrack: Covering the topics of higher inflation, rising interest rates and higher taxes; featuring Armored Wolf CIO John Brynjolfsson, Loomis Sayles & Company vice chairman Dan Fuss; and ISI Group managing director Tom Gallagher. New York Now: The State Senate and ethics reform. Available for one week. Foreign Exchange: A talk with embedded journalist Nir Rosen, who has covered the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2003; a report on the education system in Afghanistan.
News and Public Affairs: Wide Angle:Time for School 3, Part 2. A look at kids in several different countries seeking a basic education. Part of Wide Angle’s decade-long documentary project.
Science and Nature: P.O.V.: The English Surgeon. A documentary film on Henry Marsh, an English brain surgeon working in the Ukraine and how he helps people in need despite obstacles under a failing medical infrastructure, Nature: The Good, the Bad, and the Grizzly. The return of the grizzly bears at Yellowstone raises a question of whether they should still be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Arts and Culture: Masterpiece Mystery: Inspector Lewis, Series Two: Life Born of Fire. Lewis and Hathaway look into the suicide of a man at a church. Available for online viewing through September 27, 2009. Masterpiece Mystery: Inspector Lewis, Series Two: Music to Die For. The underground world of bare-knucke boxing is tied with a murder in Oxford. Available for online viewing through September 20, 2009.
DIY: Your Life, Your Money. Hosted by Donald Faison, this program is for your young adults about the fundamentals concepts of finance such as banking and credit debt. Families Stand Together: Hosted by Al Roker and Deborah Roberts, this program presented by Sesame Street offers advice and suggestions to help families cope in these tough economic times.
“Celia the Queen” tells the story of Celia Cruz, the queen of salsa music and a national treasure to the people of Cuba. Inside THIRTEEN spoke with director Joe Cardona about his experiences filming the legendary singer, who passed away in 2003. “Celia the Queen” airs on THIRTEEN Thursday, September 17 at 8 pm and Friday, September 18 at 1:30 am.
Q. Why did you choose to do a film about Celia Cruz?
I know that I speak for my co-director, Mario de Varona when I tell you that Celia was the soundtrack of our lives. She was a performer that transcended generational, ethnic, genre, racial and cultural boundaries and that made her an appealing subject for us.
Q. Celia Cruz was a legendary performer around the world – how did you get access to her to tell her story?
Mario and I sent Celia a proposal for a documentary film in 1998 almost as a lark, never really thinking she would get back to us. Low and behold a few weeks later we received word from her management that she wanted to meet and it all came together rather quickly after that.
Q. So what was Celia like?
Celia was the persona you saw on stage, maybe a few decibels lower but essentially the same person. She was caring, generous, sincere and damn talented.
Q. Celia is beloved all over the world – was there a lot of pressure in how you approached the film?
Once we embarked on this journey, Mario and I knew we were taking on a serious task. We treated the project with the utmost respect and devotion. We poured every ounce of blood sweat and tears into it.
Q. Did you learn anything about Celia during the making of the film that you didn’t know before?
How amazingly generous and giving she was as a human being.
Q. Celia Cruz passed away in 2003; what do you think she would make of the recent political changes going on in Cuba?
I don’t feel comfortable answering this question for Celia. I can tell you that she did not agree with the regime that has governed Cuba for over 50 years and yearned for the day that there would be a change in power so that she could go back.
Daniel Ross and Bijan Rezvani are the producers of New York on the Clock, a new THIRTEEN original online video series that explores some of the New York-centric people and professions that make our city great.
Q. What was the inspiration behind creating New York on the Clock?
Ross: My work in the past has focused mostly on places. After producing The City Concealed, I wanted to work on a project that profiled people. For the last few months I’ve been following The New York Times’ One in 8 Million project, along with David Lynch’s Interview Project, and I thought it would be fun to try something along those lines.
Q. What kind of people and professions will you be profiling in the series?
Ross: So far we’ve shot a tugboat captain, a movie location scout, a street artist/vendor, and a coffee cart guy. We’ve got some leads we’re working on at the moment, but really any job in the city is worth exploring, and the list of professions in the five boroughs is obviously a long one.
Q. Who is the most memorable person who’ve filmed so far, and why?
Ross: Chris Baker, the tugboat captain (which we’ll post in two weeks), stands out to me simply because we spent the most time with him. We boarded his ship at 4 am and stayed out on the harbor until 7 pm. Chris describes his job as long hours of boredom punctuated by moments of intense concentration. During our fifteen hours aboard his tug, we got to experience that first hand. Plus, escorting an 800-foot aircraft carrier up the Hudson as the sun rose over Manhattan isn’t something I’ll forget.
Q. What challenges did you face in filming the premiere episode in Coney Island?
Ross: The most challenging part of filming at the Cyclone is deciding what not to film. We had four 32GB memory cards, which can hold about 2 hours of HD video. We spent an hour interviewing Jerry, and then moved on to shooting B roll. There’s just an endless amount of visually exciting subjects to shoot in and around Coney Island. We kept having to remind ourselves of what shots took priority because it’s so easy to get excited and distracted by all the weird sights.
Q. Is there a job in New York that you would never want to do?
Ross: Police officer. Not because it’s dangerous, but because I don’t think I could take the stress of making so many ethical/legal split-second decisions on a daily basis.