VOCES: Tales of Masked Men – A Q&A with Filmmaker Carlos Avila

September 28th, 2012

“Lucha libre,” famous for its masked wrestlers, provides a sense of “home” for new immigrants in the United States. Photo courtesy of Cuauhtemoc Garcia and Echo Park Films.

Tales of Masked Men explores the sport of “lucha libre” and its role in Latino communities in the United States and Mexico. Here, VOCES talks with filmmaker Carlos Avila about his inspiration for the film and gaining the trust of the “lucha libre” community.

Tales of Masked Men airs Sunday, September 30 at 7 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

Interview courtesy of VOCES 2012. For more interviews and other VOCES film content, visit the VOCES 2012 site.

How did you come to make “Tales of Masked Men?”

The film has been in my life a long time. I loved lucha libre when I was a boy. I have very vivid memories of Friday nights when my mother and stepfather would drive my brothers, sisters and me, as well as some friends of the family, across town to the Olympic Auditorium in Downtown Los Angeles. The great Mexican wrestler Mil Mascaras (the “man of a thousand masks”) would regularly wrestle there and he was our favorite. The times when he would wrestle on television, was a special event. In the 1970s – and it’s often the case today – it was rare to see a Mexican man or any Latino on American television who was heroic, charismatic and victorious. Mil Mascaras had those qualities on a massive scale. Perhaps there was a larger-than-life aspect to what I was experiencing but for a ten year old kid, which I was at the time, it was an amazing revelation.

Because those images stayed with me for so long, as they did with many people from my generation, I thought that a documentary that explored the roots and history of lucha libre would be an important undertaking. I do feel that in some ways lucha libre has been dismissed as a “kitschy” sideshow but knowing how long it has endured it felt right to give it it’s due and examine its place in Mexican and Latino culture.

What were some of the challenges you faced?

As with so many of these “passion” projects, the biggest challenge was getting the funding together. Latino Public Broadcasting was on board from the outset but I was surprised by how little interest there was from other funding sources to make the film. In Mexico, there’s some people who call lucha libre, “el patito feo de los deportes” (i.e. the ugly duckling of sports) because it mixes theatre, sports and spectacle. I was starting to feel as if my documentary was becoming the “ugly duckling of documentary film projects.” But we forged ahead and on the most of modest budgets, we made an ambitious film.

From the beginning of the process, I wanted to film the documentary in Mexico and to include people with first hand knowledge of the sport. I wanted to film in the great “lucha” arenas – large and small – in Mexico. Because of this, gaining entrée into the lucha libre world was a challenge. Your expectations are that people are going to be instantly supportive of such a project but it took some effort for this to happen. Mascarita Sagrada was the first to agree to participate and then others started to support the project. Solar and Solar Jr.’s support made a big impact on the film and opened a lot of doors. El Hijo del Santo was reluctant at first but once he saw a cut of the segment on his father, he also lent his support.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHfP86xs0NU&w=560&h=315]

How did you gain trust of the lucha libre community?

I try to be straightforward in my dealings with people and I think the “luchadores” (wrestlers) appreciated that. I am also big on following through on things and that was also something that they and other participants responded to. I think that I was fortunate to have met the right people along the way and I could ask for their help in leveraging certain favours. Mascarita would speak to a promoter at an event he was going to wrestle at and they’d give the okay to let us film. It was that classic technique of building relationships and then leaning on them from time to time. Having the right people vouch for me and the project made all the difference in the world.

Did anything happen during the filming that was unexpected?

The biggest surprise had to do with a wrestler that we were working with early on. He couldn’t have been more generous and welcoming and then he decided he no longer wanted to be involved with the project unless he was paid a substantial amount of money – which I didn’t feel was appropriate. We had filmed with him for two full days and then he backed out. That was a big blow to a project with such a small budget as ours. But I wish him well. He’s done some incredible things in his career and with his life but for some reason things didn’t work out with our project.

What has the audience response been so far? Have the subjects seen it, and if so, what did they think?

I wish I could answer this question but given the tight delivery schedule for the film we are literally still finishing a few final touches to it. The film screens for the first time with an audience later this week. So far Solar, Solar Jr. and Mascarita Sagrada haven’t seen the film. El Hijo del Santo saw the segment on his father and was very complimentary. I’ll try to update this reply in a couple of weeks after we’ve had a few screenings.

Making independent films can be tough.  What keeps you motivated?

I’ve worked in the commercial world and in the independent world. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. On the indie side of things, there is that sense of “authorship,” that sense that the work that you’re doing expresses something vital and personal to you. Perhaps that’s an odd thing to say about a lucha libre documentary but I think it’s important to tell the story of Mexicans and Latinos that were entrepreneurial and that bet on themselves to build something – be it a business or an identity. To be able to tell that story in a creative and unfettered way is why you undertake these independent projects.

The other thing that keeps you motivated is your collaborators. Solar used to always tell me, “Carlitos, todos somos luchadores” (Carlos, we’re all in the struggle). It’s true, we were undertaking a sizeable project with limited resources – we were definitely luchando (i.e. in the struggle). My editor and co-producer, Thom Calderón, was also a huge motivator. His great enthusiasm for the project and his love of filmmaking was extremely motivating.

VOCES explores the amazing variety of Latino arts and culture – is there another aspect of the Latino experience that you’d like to make a film about?

I’m still catching my breathe on this one. I’ll get back in touch with you on this.

What advice would you give young Latino filmmakers just starting out?

My advice is practical, I’d encourage young filmmakers to learn a craft in addition to having projects they’d like to direct or produce. Learn how to be a visual effects artist, a dialogue editor, a camera operator or a re-recording mixer. Learn a craft at which you can make a living at while you’re trying to get your projects made.

What’s your next project?

I’m writing something. There’s also a documentary I’m exploring.

Inside America’s Dropout Epidemic: A FRONTLINE/NBC Education Nation Live Chat

September 25th, 2012

Photo courtesy of FRONTLINE.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of teenagers in the United States quit high school without diplomas—an epidemic so widespread that nobody knows the exact number. What is clear is that massive dropout rates cripple individual career prospects and cloud the country’s future.

FRONTLINE producer Frank Koughan and his team spent a semester at Houston’s Sharpstown High School to explore a high-stakes experiment to rescue students from the edge and turn around one of the city’s worst performing schools.

What is at stake for students who dropout? What are the challenges they face? And what can be done to stem the tide of this national emergency? Join Frank Koughan, Houston school administrators Brandi Brevard and Mark White, and John Bridgeland from Civic Enterprises for a live chat to discuss these questions — and answer yours. Guest questioner Rehema Ellis, chief education correspondent from NBC News, will also participate.

This live chat is hosted in partnership with NBC News Education Nation.

Join the discussion below at 2 p.m. ET on Weds, Sept. 26, and submit your questions in the chat window below.
Dropout Nation Live Chat

Great Lakes Week Returns to Public Television, September 10-13

September 10th, 2012

Detroit Public Television and WVIZ/PBS ideastream® are returning to cover this year’s Great Lakes Week conferences, offering widespread public access to important discussions around the future of the Great Lakes, the United States’ largest source of fresh water. In addition to the regular daily programming listed below, there will also be nightly summaries of the day’s events at 6:30 pm ET from September 11-13.

Watch live coverage here:

Free live streaming by Ustream

Live Programming  Schedule:

Monday 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm ET
Great Lakes Commission-International Joint Commission Joint Meeting

  • Topics: Lake Erie Algae Bloom, Ontario’s Lake Erie Protection Program

Monday 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm ET (Online only, no broadcast)
International Joint Commission-U.S. EPA Public Hearing on Lake Erie priorities

Tuesday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm ET
Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition Conference

  • Welcome from the Mayor of Cleveland
  • Plenary session on the federal budget debate and its impact on Great Lakes

Restoration Funding

  • Luncheon Speakers
  • Farm Bill
  • Great Lakes Restoration Success Stories (Tape delay from earlier in the day)

Wednesday 8:00 am – 1:00 pm ET
Joint Session (all organizations)

  • U.S.-Canadian Report-Out
  • Asian Carp: What To Expect When You Are Expecting
  • A Special Announcement from the U.S. EPA

Wednesday 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm ET
Healing Our Waters and/or Areas of Concern Conference

  • The Clean Water Act at 40
  • AOC Accomplishments
  • Making Progress

Thursday 8:00 am – 4:00 pm ET
Healing Our Waters and/or Areas of Concern Conference

  • CSO Control (recorded Wednesday afternoon at HOW)
  • Citizen Action to Stop Asian Carp (recorded Wednesday afternoon at HOW)
  • Oil Pipelines and the Great Lakes
  • Presidential Candidate Forum
  • Ohio and the Future of the Great Lakes Compact (tape delay)
  • Jerry Dennis Keynote Address at the AOC Conference

Celebrating the Stories of Our Community: Marica and Dr. Jan Vilcek

August 21st, 2012

This month, our Community Stories campaign highlights Slovak Americans Marica and Dr. Jan Vilcek. Here, the Vilceks discuss arriving in New York from Slovakia (then Czechoslovakia), and the unique experiences and opportunities their new life in America provided them.

Learn more about the campaign and view previous videos here.

Check out related stories on THIRTEEN’s local news and culture site, MetroFocus.

Filmmaker JL Aronson on Last Summer at Coney Island

August 15th, 2012

JL Aronson. Photo courtesy of Bailey Photo (2008).

Inside Thirteen recently spoke with filmmaker JL Aronson, whose documentary Last Summer at Coney Island explores the transformation of one of New York’s favorite playgrounds and the controversial proposals to redevelop the area in recent years. Here, Aronson explains what led him to make the film and how Coney Island has become a quintessential part of New York City history.

Last Summer at Coney Island airs August 19 at 10 p.m., August 22 at 4 a.m., August 24 at 2 a.m., and August 25 at 3 p.m. on WLIW21.

Mr. Aronson answered our questions via email.

Inside Thirteen: What inspired you to make Last Summer at Coney Island?

JL Aronson: I’d been going out to Coney Island and shooting there for a long time. I always loved piecing together the history with the reality of the present day. When I heard that a developer had bought out most of the amusement zone and that there would be massive changes coming, I felt it was important to document the way things had been. What I didn’t realize at first was how much push back the city and the developer would get. I don’t think they realized that either. Many people saw a complete makeover as a mortal threat to this place that meant so much to them.

IT: With a history very much tied to New York City, what do you think makes Coney Island so unique and distinct from other amusement parks and beach side attractions in the country?

JA: Well, first of all, most seaside amusement areas are wholly owned or subsidized by municipalities. But aside from the construction and occasional maintenance of the actual boardwalk, Coney Island was never that way. In fact, it seems like Coney Island survived all these years in spite of the city’s attitude towards it. Coney Island has sometimes been known as “the people’s playground” and that sense of egalitarianism is also reflected in the independent businesses that have comprised the amusement area. But more generally, Coney Island has its own feel that is distinctly New York City even though it doesn’t look, feel, smell or taste like any other part of New York City.

IT: How do you think Coney Island’s role in the city has changed over the years? Has it become less relevant to New Yorkers?

JA: If you compare the Coney Island of today with what it was during the first half of the 20th century, then it is less relevant. Before everyone had access to air conditioning, cable TV, cheap car rentals and cheap airfare, most New Yorkers had a lot fewer options for summertime recreation. Fortunately, what they did have was known to be the greatest collection of rides and attractions on the planet, not to mention a very nice beach. Now Coney Island doesn’t have the biggest collection of anything. And the beach has gotten a lot better, but according to a widely circulated report on American beaches, that too is lagging behind. However, Coney Island is still vital to the millions of New Yorkers who either can’t afford to go elsewhere or who simply prefer the convenience of going to a seaside park in their backyard (only a subway ride away!), and that describes a majority of New Yorkers. Also, I think New York is a place that few of its inhabitants take for granted. People know that there is an important history and legacy here, connected to the city’s larger history. And they also see the potential to make it a world class destination, once again.

IT: What do you see as the biggest challenge to the redevelopment of the area? Do you see any way of making the existing model more sustainable?

JA: A lot of people think that Coney Island was forever doomed by the placement of large housing projects in the vicinity of the amusements. I think that’s one challenge but it’s by far not the only one. Right now, the City of New York owns a majority stake in the amusement area, having bought much of the land from a speculative developer. Since 2010, the city has really focused on sprucing up the area in order to attract more investment: specifically national retailers and market rate housing developers for the adjacent land. They also need to improve the infrastructure of the whole island before any major development projects can get under way. But in the meantime, the Bloomberg administration has brought in new ride operators and set a high bar for being a vendor on the boardwalk and in other locations where the city is now the landlord. The cosmetic aspects are a step in the right direction although there’s been a lot of trial and error and a number of long time business owners were forced out. I personally feel that change should happen gradually and that the kind of oversized ambitions in evidence with many of the development plans going forward are probably not sustainable. But, at least for now, things have been improving.

IT: In the film it is said that “a single owner is a dangerous concept,” with regard to a private developer taking over Coney Island. Do you agree?

JL Aronson filming Astroland's closing. Photo courtesy of Bailey Photo.

JA: For sure. One of the things that has made Coney Island distinct all these years is the variety of styles and themes amongst the various businesses, and there’s a healthy competition there, too. However, the ideal situation is one in which the city owns or at least subsidizes the amusement park as an investment, with an ongoing commitment that can withstand the vacillating attentions of various administrations.

A thriving Coney Island makes New York a more livable space and also brings in money from tourists. We’re at a pretty good stage now, but there are plans to develop market rate high-rise housing in the area to subsidize the investment in amusements. Many of those people who pushed back against development asserted that there should be more amusements on that property and that a greater capacity for amusements and recreational uses would pay for itself. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong, but I think that if there’s anything Coney Island does not need more of, it’s high-rises.

IT: Both Last Summer at Coney Island and your 2008 film Up on the Roof (about the last remaining pigeon keepers in Williamsburg) explore how time and gentrification have changed neighborhoods and pastimes in Brooklyn. Do you think these films are representative of what is happening in the city as a whole? What attracted you to this topic?

JA: I won’t be the first to assert that New York has been undergoing a process of homogenization and corporatization for some time. Those things are a result of all the money that gets generated here and having a very pro-business and pro-development mayor. An independently organized amusement area doesn’t fit in with that kind of climate, nor does an old-time hobby like pigeon raising. I made Up on the Roof for similar reasons as Last Summer at Coney Island, which was to document and celebrate something that thrived when New York was a more adventurous place. Pigeon keeping hasn’t died out because of any specific policy changes or campaigns, but because people sort of fall in line with the general track that society is running on. As you see in the film, landlords and building tenants who used to accept pigeon flyers as a part of city life, adapt to a new reality. Suddenly you turn around and what used to appear to you as your neighborhood now looks like an investment. Everything appears sanitized and digital. People don’t want reminders of the old country or the pastimes that were brought over. They want to keep up with the ever-evolving American dream.

So, these films are about a collective experience of living in New York that used to be more the norm. The changes are symptomatic, I think, of our closing ourselves off from everyone else, aside from our small circles. The city is arguably more diverse than it ever has been (overall) but we’re losing the naturalness of interaction and the attendant sense of community that has long distinguished NYC from other metropolises. Still, we’ll always have the subway.

In Memoriam: Robert Hughes

August 8th, 2012

THIRTEEN looks back on the life of art critic and historian Robert Hughes, who passed away on Monday night at the age of 72. Born and raised in Australia, Hughes went on to live in Italy and then London before settling in New York and establishing himself as an influential art critic at TIME magazine. His 1980 documentary The Shock of the New was the first to air on PBS, followed by American Visions in 1997 and Australia: Beyond the Fatal Shore in 2000.

Read a Q&A with Hughes from Australia: Beyond the Fatal Shore.

PBS NewsHour remembers Hughes and fellow critic Judith Crist, who died yesterday at the age of 90 and is perhaps best known for championing of a new generation of American and international directors and actors in the 1960s:

Ruckus Reader launches Cyberchase Interactive Storybook Apps for iPad

August 7th, 2012

Ruckus Reader has launched the worldwide English language release of three digital interactive storybooks – iReaders – based on the popular PBS KIDS television series Cyberchase through the iTunes App Store for Apple’s iPad.

Designed for children 5 and up, the three new mobile applications reflect the show’s mission to inspire all children to approach math with confidence and a “can-do” attitude. The young heroes of the stories – Inez, Matt and Jackie – also show how useful math is and model good reasoning and problem-solving skills. In addition, Ruckus iReaders empower parents with a digital report card providing direct, actionable feedback on their child’s mobile reading.

This first Cyberchase Ruckus Reader bookshelf – featuring “The Hacker’s Challenge” (available for free download), “A Perfect Score” and “Unhappily Ever After” — is geared towards independent readers and helps kids with decoding and comprehension skills and enriching their vocabularies.

Each iReader includes video and integrated, age-appropriate learning activities and games within the context of the story to further the plot. Story-driven activities such as a word hunt, “what’s wrong with this picture,” “catch a falling object” activities and mazes help kids learn word recognition and reading comprehension.

Powered by the Ruckus Reader, the Cyberchase iReaders are designed to match age-appropriate standards determined by the Common Core State Standards for language arts and reinforce national educational standards for preschool through second grade. As children enjoy content from one of the biggest names in entertainment, parents receive weekly Reader Meter reports that assess their child’s in-app reading skills, such as phonics and word recognition, print and phonological awareness, fluency, sequencing and story comprehension in real time.

Families can download the free Ruckus iReader Cyberchase bookshelf from the iTunes App Store.

A Look Back at Gore Vidal's Life Through Charlie Rose

August 1st, 2012

Author Gore Vidal. (AP File Photo)

Prolific American author Gore Vidal passed away on Tuesday at the age of 86. A renowned novelist, playwright, and screenwriter, Vidal was a controversial figure of both the literary and political worlds since the release of his first novel, Williwaw in 1946.

Since 1995, Vidal has been a guest on PBS’ Charlie Rose an impressive four times! Take a look back on his life and works through these interviews with the late writer, and tune into Charlie Rose Friday, August 3 at 11 p.m. for “An Appreciation of Gore Vidal.”

WNET's 2012 Emmy Nominees

July 19th, 2012

This year, WNET garnered 14 Emmy nominations – five for the News and Documentary Emmy Awards, presented on October 1, and nine for the Primetime Emmy Awards, presented on September 23. PBS collectively received 58 nominations, third behind HBO (81) and CBS (60). Congratulations and good luck to all of our nominees!

And the nominees are…

News and Documentary Emmy Nominations

Outstanding Nature Programming
Broken Tail: A Tiger’s Last Journey
My Life as a Turkey

Outstanding Individual Achievement In A Craft: Cinematography – Documentary And Long Form
Bears of the Last Frontier
Broken Tail: A Tiger’s Last Journey
My Life as a Turkey

Primetime Emmy Nominations

Outstanding Variety Special
Tony Bennett: Duets II (Great Performances) • PBS • A Production of RPM TV Productions, Inc.

Outstanding Special Class Programs
Herbie Hancock, Gustavo Dudamel And The LA Phil Celebrate Gershwin (Great Performances) • PBS • A production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET, BFMI, WDR in cooperation with ARTE, Los Angeles
Philharmonic Association and C Major

Outstanding Nonfiction Series
American Masters • PBS • A Production of B Plus Productions, LLC in association with Thirteen’s American Masters for WNET
Susan Lacy, Executive Producer for American Masters
Robert Weide, Producer
Erik Gordon, Executive Producer
Andrew Karsch, Executive Producer
Michael Peyser, Executive Producer
Brett Ratner, Executive Producer
Fisher Stevens, Executive Producer

Outstanding Directing For Nonfiction Programming
American Masters • Woody Allen: A Documentary • PBS • A Production of B Plus Productions, LLC in association with Thirteen’s American Masters for WNET
Robert B. Weide, Director

Outstanding Writing For Nonfiction Programming
American Masters • Johnny Carson: King Of Late Night • PBS • A Co-Production of Thirteen’s American Masters for WNET and Peter Jones Productions, Inc.
Peter Jones, Written by

Outstanding Picture Editing For Nonfiction Programming
American Masters • Johnny Carson: King Of Late Night • PBS • A Co-Production of Thirteen’s American Masters for WNET and Peter Jones Productions, Inc.
Mark Catalena, Editor

Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction For A Variety Special
Andrea Bocelli Live In Central Park (Great Performances) • PBS • A Production of Sugar s.r.l. and THIRTEEN for WNET
Robert Barnhart, Lighting Designer
Ted Wells, Lighting Director
Matt Firestone, Lighting Director
Harry Sangmeister, Lighting Director

Outstanding Music Direction
The Thomashefskys: Music And Memories Of A Life In The Yiddish Theater (Great Performances) • PBS • A production of the Thomashefsky Film Project LLC and Thirteen for WNET
Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director

Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special
Memphis (Great Performances) • PBS • Broadway Worldwide, Inc.
Steven Cimino, Technical Director
Paul J. Cangialosi, Camera
John Pinto, Camera
Chuck Goslin, Camera
Barry Frischer, Camera
Jeff Latonero, Camera
Len Wechsler, Camera
Susan Noll, Video Control
J.M. Hurley, Video Control

Market Warriors' Bob Richter on Antiques Picking in NYC and on the Road

July 12th, 2012

Bob Richter of 'Market Warriors.' Photo courtesy of WGBH.

Market Warriors, a new PBS series from the producers of Antiques Roadshow, joins THIRTEEN’s Monday night lineup starting July 16 at 9 p.m. The series follows four antiques pickers on a nationwide treasure hunt as they scour flea markets and antiques shows for vintage valuables, with an eye toward selling their finds for profit at auction. The show grants viewers an up-close look at the fierce competition and obstacles the pickers face in the marketplace, and allows them to make their best guesses about who will come out ahead at the end of the competitions.

Here, Market Warriors picker Bob Richter, a New York City resident, weighs in on the show and his favorite NYC flea market finds.

(Fun fact: Bob Richter is not the only Market Warrior with New York ties.  John Bruno was born and raised in Long Island).

Enter our giveaway for a chance to win a market Warriors tote bag.

Mr. Richter answered our questions via email.

Inside Thirteen: Are there any items you collect that could only be found in New York City?

Bob Richter: While there is not one item I collect that can only be found in NYC, there are international shopping opportunities that can only be found at my “go-to” flea market in NYC. One of the reasons I love living here is that it is the most international city in the U.S., and as such, our flea markets reflect that.  There are dealers who I buy from regularly who come from France, Germany, England and Czechoslovakia. While I love shopping the fleas in Europe, I can’t get there right now as often as I’d like, so this winds up being a pretty sweet scenario. I have found incredible French Art Deco vases, hand-carved items (like a wonderful rabbit) from the Black Forest region of Germany, English Art Nouveau China and Czechoslovakian Art Pottery, all at my NYC flea market. It’s a one-stop shop for fantastic international finds.

IT: What’s the most unusual item you’ve bought? Do you ever find antiques at unlikely spots in the city (street fairs, thrift shops, etc.)?

BR: The most unusual thing I purchased recently was a carved wooden cloud with lightening bolts projecting from it. It stopped me in my tracks, and I knew I had to have it. I am going to add a mirror to the center, and it will be a real showpiece. It definitely has a “wow” factor. The piece is all handcrafted and was probably made in the late 19th Century. I was told by the dealer it was a prop for stage productions done by a group called the “Odd Fellows.” One of the reasons I love antiquing is that you can always learn something. After a bit of research online, I discovered the “Odd Fellows” are a “global altruistic and benevolent fraternal organization” whose motto is “Friendship, Love and Truth.”  Some of the more famous members included Charlie Chaplin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, Charles Lindbergh, Wyatt Earp, Rutherford Hays and Warren Harding.

Street fairs in NYC are great places to find antiques…. especially the ones that are organized by block associations. I’ve found particularly wonderful things at the fairs on Jane, Perry and Grove Streets. In addition, Housing Works and Angel Street thrift shops offer up an endless supply of treasures from generous New Yorkers who donate abundantly.

IT: What flea markets in NYC would you recommend to novice collectors?

BR: I think The Garage in Chelsea is the best game in town. I’ve been shopping there for 22 years, since I arrived in NYC. My dorm room resembled a 1940s bungalow, and many of the items I used to furnish it came from the Chelsea flea markets. At that time, there were 5 outdoor markets, in addition to The Garage. As real estate developers tapped into the Chelsea, the parking lots which once housed the fleas turned into high rise apartments, so The Garage is really the best of what is left in that area. I’ve been shopping with some of the dealers there for decades, and they never disappoint when it comes to bringing wonderful things to the table.

IT: If you could give a flea market novice one tip what would it be?

BR: Buy what you love. At the end of the day, if it makes you happy and it enriches your home, then it’s all good. Live with what you love!

IT: What was it like Filming Market Warriors in “The Garage?”

(NOTE: Episode 111 of Market Warriors, filmed at the Antiques Garage will premiere on Monday, November 12 at 9 p.m.)

Market Warriors pickers John Bruno, Miller Gaffney, Bob Richter and Kevin Bruneau (l-r). Photo courtesy of David Aaron Troy.

BR: Every weekend that I’m in NYC, I’m at The Garage (usually both Saturday and Sunday). As a result, I have great, long-standing relationships with most of the dealers there.  Since flea markets are an arena where relationships are everything, I knew I would get good prices.  That said, we were buying for an auction in Virginia, and I had my eyes set on what would appeal to those buyers. I was looking for primitives and more rustic items, which made the shopping a bit more challenging, but since NYC offers something for everyone, and never disappoints, I was able to find Virginia-appropriate treasures with ease.

Our target round was to find “ephemera,” which is essentially printed material that was meant to be thrown out after its original use but instead has lasted over time so now has collector value. Examples run the gamut from vintage posters to magazines. While there was a lot of it to be found, the object of Market Warriors is to turn a profit on our purchases, so it was a challenge to not just find ephemera, but to find ephemera that would make money at auction.  Did I also mention we had to pair up for this round of shopping? Let’s just say it was very very interesting…and a whole lot of fun.

IT: What is your favorite season to shop NYC markets and thrift shops?

BR: I shop all year round at the fleas in NYC, but my favorite season to shop them is spring. Just as nature awakens after a long, cold winter, so do NYC fleas. Many dealers who come in from other states don’t come as often in the winter due to weather conditions, but once spring hits, they are back in the saddle with lots of fresh merchandise. Also, in the spring there are many outdoor markets in NYC that pop up to benefit charities or block associations, and those often have great bargains. Finally, under the umbrella of spring cleaning, many of the thrift shops have some of their best merchandise at that time of year, since NYC dwellers have limited space and often want to purge after a long winter.

Bob Richter. Photo courtesy of WGBH.

IT: As a collector who is also an interior designer, do you find the lack of space in NYC to be a challenge?

BR: We have to be very clever in NYC when it comes to maximizing space. To work in a room, many things have to do double duty (think an old steamer trunk that stores winter bedding, but also serves as a side table – I literally just tapped into this solution for a client’s studio). As a collector, I also believe in rotating my things, so they are not all on display at the same time. I do this a lot with artwork, which is one of my favorite things to purchase at bargain prices at flea markets.

IT: Are there any locations that you are particularly curious to explore with Market Warriors?

BR: I’m sweet on Texas. The Texans I’ve met and worked with are warm, bold and eclectic. As such, they tend to have cool possessions, which invariably wind up at flea markets. We’ve already gone to Canton, Texas with Market Warriors and it was great fun. I’d love to explore the markets of Austin, Houston and San Antonio as well.

IT: If you could only collect one thing what would it be?

BR: Artwork. I have so much respect for those who create. Whether an artist has captured a glance or a moment, or enabled us to see the world in a different way, I find that paintings in particular hold a great deal of emotion for me. Because I’m so passionate about artwork, I own a great deal of it, and have to rotate my collection. I need a few more walls!

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