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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Josiah T-Shirts

Back of shirt
Front of shirt
Our little hero Josiah, who has progeria--and loves to play baseball, has created such a buzz around the country since the airing of his story on E:60!! There has been such interest in the t-shirts and so many requests from college to major league teams, and just those who want to be a part of his story!

Therefore, we are going to do another t-shirt and hat sale that will go nationwide and also be included within the ESPN websites!!
Proceeds will benefit Josiah and his family!! Sizes are listed below and hats will have Velcro backs.
If you are interested, please read all info below and get your order in immediately! Orders will only be taken until December 2. We cannot accept orders after that date.

$12.00 S-XL
$13.50 XXL & XXXL
$14.50 XXXXL

If you cannot pickup your order at the Hegins Ambulance building on December 16 from 6pm-8pm, you will need to include shipping chrages as follows: 
1-9 items--$4.95
10-30 items--9.95
31-100 items--14.95

Checks or money orders should be made out to:
Jen Bordner
c/o Josiah Viera
63 Schwartz Road
Hegins, PA 17938


Anatomy of Chemistry

Josiah plays baseball with the crew.

          Last spring reporter Tom Rinaldi was about to leave home to work on an E:60 feature.   Before he left, Rinaldi explained to his 6-year-old son, Jack, about Josiah Viera, also 6, who has a rare disease and a love of baseball. 
          “Wait,” Jack said.
          The little boy ran to his room and returned with a book about how Babe Ruth “saved” baseball.
          “Give it to him.”
          By the time Rinaldi arrived at Hegins, Pa., senior producer Ben Houser was already there, with a plan.
          Josiah suffers from Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria syndrome, which causes accelerated aging in children, and has a life expectancy of eight to 13 years.  He is 27 inches tall and weighs 15 ½ pounds, and has a squeak of a voice, infectious smile, and a spirit buoyant and courageous.
          But like any 6-year-old, Josiah doesn’t necessarily talk to suit producers or reporters.  After an initial meeting with Josiah and his mother, Jennifer, Houser knew a conventional interview would not work.  He conferred with Rinaldi.
          “He just loves baseball,” Houser said.
          “Let’s talk to him while he’s hitting or throwing,” Rinaldi said.
          When Rinaldi met Josiah he handed him his son’s book about Babe Ruth.  Maybe chemistry can’t save Josiah, but it can tell his tale.  The two clicked and the story took off.
          Houser shot the interviews outdoors while Josiah swung a bat or threw a ball.  In one shot, Rinaldi says, “Tom pitches, Josiah crushes it over his head! Oooh!”   To which Josiah says, “That is gone!”  Rinaldi echoes, “That is gone.”
          One morning Houser asked Josiah to sit on a bench holding his bat.
          “Just a few shots.”
          “No.  I just want to play baseball.”
          Houser and Rinaldi discovered Josiah Time, which meant a lot of throwing and hitting.   Passion indulged, Josiah agreed to the specialty shots Houser wanted.
Ben Houser at Josiah's 6th birthday party
          ‘Josiah’s Time’ became a metaphor on which to hang the story – a boy whose time is limited playing a game without time.  Houser had seen the BBC series, “Life”, which features visual representations of the passage of time, such as flowers blooming and growing.  He decided to shoot Josiah’s birthday party, an obvious marker.
          “Time was one thing you could definitely say he has less of than me or you,” Houser said. “He’s not going to graduate high school or get married or have the things we have.  That’s what gives meaning to the moments he has – why baseball is so important to him.”
          Rinaldi’s rapport with Josiah enabled him to ask Josiah what heaven is.  Josiah trusted Rinaldi enough to answer.
          “It’s God.”  He pointed skyward. “Heaven.”
          “And what do you think heaven looks like?”
          Houser and Rinaldi collaborated on the writing, though Houser credits Rinaldi with the memorable final track, set over images of Josiah slapping hands with the enraptured who lined the field to watch him:  “It would be easy to say the scene was timeless.  But really, it wasn’t.  It was Josiah’s time.”
          Said Rinaldi: “It seemed time was a natural theme. Ben and the editor who shaped the piece, Matt McCormick, enabled me to write more ethereal tracks because they could visualize them.” 
Josiah with DP Thom Stukas
          Houser’s initial meeting with Josiah took place after he had played his first game for the Tri-Valley White Sox.  He assigned two cameras to Josiah’s second game – one to cover the crowds and people, the other dedicated to Josiah.
          “It went wherever he went – running to first, scoring, sitting in the dugout,” Houser recalled. “He would actually push the camera out of the way, like we were paparazzi.  He got comfortable with us.”
          One camera covered Josiah’s third game, but for his fourth and final game Houser again had two cameras, plus a mini-cam he operated.  In addition, Houser’s wife, Christina, shot still photos.  Tom Stukas, director of photography, and shooter Jim Grieco, were in position when Josiah reached base, and danced for joy.
Josiah meets Chargers TE Antonio Gates
          The story aired on November 9.  Three days later Josiah, with his entourage, came to the ESPN campus.  Josiah sat on the shoulders of E:60 executive producer Andy Tennant, showed off his Ryan Howard swing for “Outside the Lines”, high-fived network execs and another visitor, Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, and ran around the tables in the cafĂ©, as carefree as any six-year-old.
          Those touched by Josiah’s story include six-year-old Jack Rinaldi and his three-year-old sister Tess.
          “They have watched it every day since it aired – several times a day,” said Jack and Tess’ father. “They feel a connection to Josiah even though they never met him.  It’s wonderful.”

(posted by Steve Marantz, November 16, 2010)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Travel Essentials for a TV Producer

Since E:60 launched back in the fall of 2007, my assignments have taken me to many locales throughout the United States, including California, New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Florida, Minnesota, South Dakota, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Nevada.  International destinations have included England, Iceland, Germany, Italy and South Africa. 

No matter where E:60 assignments take me, there is always an essential “go bag” of things I like to have with me to make my travels more productive and more comfortable.
Some of the tools of the trade are obvious: passport, money, laptop computer, etc.  But some items are less obvious and good to have whether you are producing a TV segment or just traveling leisurely on vacation. They include sunscreen and all-weather gear (I’m often shooting outdoors at all times of the year in many different climates) and it can be extremely hot and sunny in places like Florida and Nevada, and incredibly cold (Iceland) or wet (Britain). Having the proper protection from the elements are essential.

Also essential are comfortable and appropriate footwear.  As a TV producer, a lot of time is spent standing on your feet, and traveling on all types of surfaces.  A comfortable pair of sneakers are great if you are working on a basketball court, but I have a great pair of trekking shoes that provided the best traction in the Italian Alps.

When traveling to more remotes places like South Africa or even rural areas in the U.S. , having bottled water, toilet paper, and over-the-counter medications for to prevent or cure contaminated water, or bad food can keep you on schedule.

But believe it or not, I think the two most important items that I never travel without these days is an HD pocket video camera and a really good pair of noise cancelling headphones.  At E:60, we pride ourselves on production value, and whether capturing another angle, or saving costs by using a small inexpensive HD video camera instead of hiring a full crew, today’s technology has allowed producers a great deal more flexibility and opportunity to get more high quality footage for less. They are great for grabbing photos for producer blogs, too. 

Similarly, whether trying to be productive on an airplane, or trying to access the quality of the sound during an interview, and just need quiet while screening footage in a noisy room in Bristol, a quality pair of noise-canceling headphones can be a game changer. Noise-cancelling technology allows me to focus on the task at hand without being distracted by the person next to me, or the crowd at a noisy sporting event.     

T. Sean Herbert
E:60 Feature Producer

Friday, November 5, 2010

E:60 Josiah from E60 on Vimeo.

Airing on the season finale. Tuesday, November 9th at 7 pm ET on ESPN.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

E:60 Roberta Mancino teaser from E60 on Vimeo.

Airing on the season finale. Tuesday November 9th @ 7pm ET on ESPN.

E:60 Bhopal Trailer from E60 on Vimeo.
Airing on the E:60 season Finale. Tuesday, Nov. 9th @ 7pm ET on ESPN.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Two Traditions

Middlebury College of Vermont celebrates a precarious tradition.

Fifty years ago a Middlebury athlete escorted Butch Varno to a football game for the first time. Varno, then a young teen, was disabled by cerebral palsy and could not attend on his own. Now in his 60s, Varno continues to attend Middlebury football and basketball games, escorted by generation after generation of varsity athletes in a ritual of compassion and love.

Senior Producer Ben Houser wondered how to do visual justice to the tradition. How to convey its timeless values? How to convey its inherent fragility?

On a drive through Vermont, Houser and his wife stopped at an antique shop. They spotted an old film camera, a Keystone 8mm, made in the late 1930s by a now-defunct Boston company. An idea took shape.

“No real film existed from the 60s. I thought, if I can shoot something in old film, and something in HD, and place the two next to each other, it would give a sense of the passage of time, visually,” Houser recalled.

Houser bought the Keystone. Film for it no longer is made, but he found a hobbyist in California who owned an old supply of ASA 50 color film – tiny spools in a metal disk. The Keystone has settings from ASA 10 to ASA 40. He bought five rolls of the ASA 50 color.

“Those old cameras don’t have iris control (which regulates light), so you hit-and-run and you get whatever image you get,” Houser said. “I got the ASA 50 knowing I could fix a little of the brightness or darkness in post-edit.”

Wielding the Keystone, Houser and production assistant Megan Anderson shot the nursing home where Varno lives, a campus archway, and the football field.

“It was hard – I had never used anything like that before,” Anderson said. “Luckily I had a cameraman – Jim Greico – who knew how to work with it.

“Each roll of film was only about eight minutes, and you had to crank the camera, and it would only roll for seven or eight minutes. So you roll, and crank it, and then roll and crank it again. You were constantly getting one shot and stopping and trying to reset.”

At a climactic moment honoring Varno at Middlebury’s homecoming ceremony, film ran out.

“It’s not something you can easily replace,” Anderson said. “You have to go somewhere out of direct sunlight and reload and re-string it through – it took like 15 minutes.”

Developing the film was the next hurdle – and not a small one.

“Old 8mm has two sides to it – when you run it through the first time, you take it out of the spool on the bottom and put it back at the top and run it through again,” Houser said. “Because if you think of an old film strip, think of two images next to each other, and that’s what old 8mm is.

“We had to find a guy who could take that film, split it down the middle, so now there’s two separate rolls. The rolls are 25 feet long, so you get 50 feet out of it because it runs through twice.”

Houser found a small studio in Seattle that pulled off the feat. The developed film then was sent to a New York studio, where the images were transferred onto digital beta tape. With that, Houser completed the journey by converting the digital beta into the 4x3 HD format used by E:60.

“It took five states – Vermont, California, Washington, New York, and Connecticut – to get 10 shots,” Houser said.

He thinks it was worth the effort. The new ‘old’ film will augment two authentic shots from that era culled from a Middlebury College promotional reel.

“Artistically it made a lot of sense because this is a 50-year-old tradition,” Houser said. “It shows you what it would have looked like in 1960 if he (Varno) had walked on the field, versus today when you see the pretty HD and slo-mo cameras.

For Anderson, the Keystone connected her to her own tradition of film technology. She said it heightened her empathy for producers of that era.

“It made me realize how lucky we are that it’s so easy and how hard it must have been for them,” she said. “It made me feel sorry for them.”

posted by Steve Marantz, November 3, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Shower Scene

Film fans of a certain age have ‘Dr. No’, when Ursula Andress emerges from tropical surf, bikini-clad as Honey Ryder, to the delight of Sean Connery’s James Bond.

Football fans now have E:60’s shower shot – 25 seconds of water pouring over the bare torso of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

“Unique and different,” producer David Salerno said.

It was conceived at an initial interview, in Jacksonville, in which Jones-Drew talked about his late grandfather, Maurice Jones. He told Salerno and reporter Lisa Salters that his mental preparation for games involved relaxing under a shower and thinking about his grandfather.

“We’ve got to shoot that,” Salters said.

Jones-Drew consented. The shot took place in the locker room at De La Salle High School, Concord, Calif., where he starred early in the decade, known then as Maurice Drew.

Some viewers will be disappointed to learn that Jones-Drew stripped only to his shorts.

“We had the shower lit, and had one mini camera, and one Varicam to shoot the 60p slow-mo stuff,” Salerno said.

Salerno had Jones-Drew strike several poses – head down, hands in front of chest, hands pressed against the wall – as water sprayed and tumbled over him.

Over the sensual imagery Salerno laid Jones-Drew’s voice, “There is one thing I do the night before a game...turn on the shower and turn the lights off...put my head down and try to relax...and the only thing I think about is him, man, and everything he done for me...”

Salerno led with the shower shot. It was a triumph of access, but that was not Salerno’s first consideration.

“It was more of an artistic thing,” Salerno said. “The dim lighting and the moodiness – you don’t see it that often in stories about athletes.”

posted by Steve Marantz, October 26, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

From Finish to Start

Newton Marshall’s journey took him from Jamaica to Alaska, from reggae to frostbite, from obscurity to E:60.
         Producer Mike John’s journey was the opposite – minus the obscurity.
         “Mush Mon” is the story of the first Jamaican to pilot a dogsled in the Iditarod, the 1000-mile Anchorage to Nome race.  It is a light-hearted story, a variation on ‘Cool Runnings’, about the Jamaican bobsled team of 1988, and as inspirational.
         To tell it, Johns and reporter Seth Wickersham, a native of Alaska, started near Fairbanks, where the 27-year-old Marshall trained last February.
         “You think of him going from Jamaica to Alaska, but we did the main interview in Alaska and the follow-up in Jamaica,” Johns said.
         Johns shot Marshall on a rural expanse owned by Lance Mackey, the four-time Iditarod champion who was hired by sponsor Jimmy Buffett to teach Marshall the ropes. The weather was milder than expected.
         “Zero degrees,” said Johns.
         To shoot Marshall on his dogsled, Johns put a camera in a sled towed by an all-terrain vehicle.  But when the ATV braked, the sled kept on going.  Wipeout.
         Minus a smashed camera battery, Johns soldiered on.  He shifted from an outdoor shoot to a heated indoor location.  Oops.  His cameras fogged up from condensation.
         “They needed at least 45 minutes to warm up,” Johns recalled.
         The crew flipped on the light switches in Marshall’s cabin, adjacent to Mackey’s house.  No light.  Broken generator.
         They used natural light from a window.
         “Given the humble nature of the cabin that kind of limited lighting worked,” Johns said.
         Marshall, raised in poverty with little education, proved to be a strong character, after he overcame his initial shyness.
         “Our first day around him I was a little concerned that he wasn’t going to be as expressive as you would like to tell his own story,” Johns said. “But this was a kid stuck in a cabin in Alaska for four months – after a couple of days with him – in some ways he was anxious to talk to people.  Once we sat him down we couldn’t shut him up.”
         When the race began early in March, Johns was gone.  Footage from the race and interviews at four checkpoints came from Iditarod organizers. 
         Johns finished in Jamaica, where it had begun for Marshall.   He shot the back-story about how Marshall came to be in the race, as well as Marshall’s reflections on his 12-day mush and 47th place finish.
         In the telling Johns and Wickersham managed a bit of story magic.  Marshall had related that at his lowest point, in the second week, he had sung to himself – a popular Jamaican tune.  Wickersham asked him to sing it for the E:60 camera. 
         Marshall offered up his front porch version of “All Will Be Fine”, by Buju Banton.  Johns transitioned from Marshall’s song, at the Jamaican location, to the Buju Banton studio version, over a shot of Marshall guiding his team across a frozen trail.  
         Johns called it “a device for emotional resonance.”  He could have said it was a device to tug at the heartstrings, or to make the spirit soar.   In the end, “Mush Mon” did both.

posted by Steve Marantz, October 22, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Roundtable: Not A Con

Production assistant Max Brodsky senses something amiss. The E:60 roundtable segment on disgraced former basketball star Rumeal Robinson is into its 12th minute, and has yet to yield what Brodsky needs.
As the cameras roll, Brodsky signals Executive Producer Andy Tennant, at the table with six others, and mouths a question: “If he’s not a con man what is he – without giving away the details.”
Tennant nods, turns back to the table, and breaks in. He references a comment by reporter Lisa Salters, who earlier had called Robinson a “con man”.
“Go back to what Lisa said,” Tennant says. “If he’s not a con man, what is he?”
Reporter Jeffri Chadiha re-focuses. He ponders Robinson, convicted in September of eleven federal counts from a sham business deal, and of Robinson’s adoptive mother, who lost her Cambridge, Ma., home in her effort to help him.
“What he is...he is a guy who had a lot of success as a basketball player, and got in way over his head, and once he was over his head, didn’t know how to reach out for help. He wasn’t humble enough to go to the people he loved and ask them to help him out.”
Chadiha says more, in a tidy and poignant summary. Brodsky has enough.
The 10-person production crew and the roundtable participants relax. Brodsky shakes his head. He is 25, with a thick shock of brown hair, three-day stubble, and wry sense of his work.
“Sometimes they forget that it’s about the big themes – not about the details,” he says.
The shoot is into its second hour, at a meeting room called the “garage”, at ESPN the Magazine, East 34th Street, Manhattan. Roundtables for three of the six fall shows – 15 stories total – are being shot on a weekday evening early in October.
The roundtable is a simulation of a news meeting in which producers and reporters discuss the news value, characters and themes of stories.
When E:60 was conceived by ESPN Content Development early in 2007, the roundtable was not unanimously embraced - some feared it would appear “phony”. But advocates believed if it was unscripted, and captured the spirit of a real news meeting, it could work.
Fast forward to October 2010. E:60 is the first show to migrate from Content Development to Production. Now in its fourth season, E:60 features the roundtable before and after most segments – as a preview and postscript.
It reaches for big themes, as Brodsky insists. It also evokes casual banter, and a thoughtful and irreverent take on sports.
At the table, which is not round, are Tennant, along with coordinating producers Robert Abbott and Michael Baltierra, and, by turns, reporters Chadiha, Salters, Jeremy Schaap, Rachel Nichols and Seth Wickersham, magazine editor Gary Belsky, and columnist/commentator Bill Simmons. All are made up and miked.
Only Tennant, Abbott and Baltierra are familiar with all of the stories. The others know about their own, but hear about the rest with fresh ears and opinions.
Brodsky directs the crew, which includes an overhead camera, two handheld cameras, and a dolly camera that moves on a semicircle of tracks. Production manager Sue Friedman hovers at the periphery.
Tennant acts as a moderator – initiating and guiding discussion. Typically, a reporter explains his or her segment, and others chime in with comments, questions and wisecracks. The conversation, at its spontaneous best, mirrors an actual newsroom.
Typical is the discussion about Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Nichols pitches it as a story about a second-year quarterback facing high expectations because Jets coach Rex Ryan “loves to talk and draw attention” and because Sanchez is the “first Hispanic-American playing quarterback in a market like this” and because of Sanchez’ popularity with celebrity/gossip media which taps into the cultural legacy of Broadway Joe Namath. Whew.
Schaap disagrees – he thinks Sanchez is not burdened with particularly high expectations because the Jets aren’t built around him the way other teams are built around their quarterbacks.
“He’s in a position where he doesn’t have to be a great player,” Schaap says.
Nichols demurs – she points out that after the Jets lost their opener he was pilloried. She goes on to say that he draws more attention because of his USC pedigree, which draped him in the glamour of “Hollywood”.
Simmons points out, as a Los Angeles resident, that Sanchez was not as big a deal as two USC stars that preceded him – Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush.
“That’s like following the Beatles – nobody is going to win in that situation,” Simmons says.
“I think he did quite well,” Nichols says.
The discussion veers – with ribald humor - towards Sanchez’ sex appeal. Abbott mentions that the Jets’ off-field problems – the DWI charge against Braylon Edwards, and the harassment of reporter Ines Sainz, are making Sanchez’ job more difficult.
Sanchez is up against a phenomenon, Nichols explains, in which opposing defenses get ahead of second-year quarterbacks.

“We got behind the scenes to see how he will hold himself together for this season,” Nichols says.

At this point, 12 minutes into the Sanchez discussion, Brodsky has what he needs – and probably too much.
         The participants wander off to snack on pizza and Friedman’s brownies, save for Simmons, who taps furiously on his Blackberry, absorbed in a white-knuckles Twitter drama.

Soon the roundtable will enter its fourth and final hour. Shoulders will sag, eyes will glaze, and voices will drone. The dolly camera will de-rail. Brodsky will shrug and help put it back on track. The dolly – and the show – must go on.
On the seventh floor of a deserted mid-town building, a custodian leans in the doorway to watch the making of journalism and entertainment.
“Roll ‘em.”

(Posted by Steve Marantz, October 12, 2010)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Prime of E:60

TRAILER: E:60 Bhopal India from evolve. J EDWARDS on Vimeo.

E:60 shooters Joel Edwards and Bill Roach went to Italy in August – for a story on model/skydiver Roberta Mancino – and India in September – for a story about children who play cricket on the toxic fields of Bhopal.
         Before they left they acquired new equipment that – they hope  - will deliver those stories with greater impact.
         The just-out Zeiss CP.2 prime lens, Edwards said, “offer serious upgrades to image quality, aperture control and dynamic range.”
         Filmmakers long have used older versions of prime lens. Now, television is using prime lens as it gravitates towards digital cinema.
         In Italy the new lens were used for some specialty and scenic shots.  In India they were used, when possible, on the A and B cameras, for interviews, scenes, and scenic b-roll.
         Prime lens creates a “huge” depth of field, which leaves some of the image out of focus, and draws the viewer’s attention to what is in focus.
         For a shooter, the prime lens poses a challenge.
         “The big difference is that it slows everything down – it makes you think out your shots,” Roach said.  “You can’t zoom – you have to walk closer or change lens.  It’s a very methodical way of shooting.”
         Said Edwards: “It's all about mood setting and image control when choosing a lens - so depending on the creative content of the scene - we'd use the best matching equipment setup accordingly.”
         Shooter lexicon is rich with arcana such as iris ring, flare suppression, aperture, and t-stop.  My personal favorite is “bokeh” – the out-of-focus areas in an image produced by a lens.  But viewers need not know any of that to appreciate the next flight of E:60 stories, which starts October 5.   You can just watch.
         Posted by Steve Marantz, Sept. 23, 2010

          Here’s the link to Zeiss:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Justin Timberlake

On Labor Day weekend, an E:60 production crew headed to Memphis, TN, to complete it's feature with Justin Timberlake. His biggest fans probably know how much of a golf fan Timberlake is...BUT everyone else might be surprised to learn how much passion Timberlake has for the game of golf.

Long before he made a name for himself -- first as a member of the New Mickey Mouse Club, and then as one of the lead singers of the boy band 'N Sync -- Timberlake learned the game of golf from his step dad, Paul Harless. His first round of golf was played at a public course in Millington, TN, his hometown, at a place called Big Creek.

Then about 10 years ago, while on tour, Timberlake played a round with some of his roadies and ever since has had a love affair with the game. He told E:60's Rachel Nichols in an interview -- perhaps half jokingly -- that on his concert tours, he would adjust the travel schedule to accommodate golf.

Then a couple years back he got a call from his mom, Lynn Harless, and Paul, telling him that Big Creek was up for auction. For less then $1 million dollars, Timberlake became the owner of the course where he first learned to play the game.

Last fall, E:60 started this project with Timberlake at his PGA Tour event in Las Vegas, The Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.  Since his involvement, the event has been gaining in popularity with pros on the tour. Timberlake has a celebrity Pro-Am that kicks off the event each October at the Summerlin TPC, and he also throws a concert on the night before the final round.

On Labor Day, after investing at least $16 million of his own money, Timberlake was back in his hometown and E:60 cameras were rolling as he cut the red ribbon at the grand re-opening of Big Creek, which he has renamed Mirimichi, a native American word which means, "Place of Happy Retreat."

After the ceremony, Timberlake sat down with Nichols for an in-depth interview about his love for golf, before showing off his tricked-out golf cart, and giving Nichols a driving tour of the course. Mirimichi is a luxurious and upscale par 72 golf course, which stretches more than 74-hundred acres. And after all of the improvements and upgrades Timberlake and his team have made, it is now recognized as among the most eco-friendly golf courses in all of the Americas.

Tune in to E:60 in October for this entertaining feature with one of America's Most Sexiest men, Justin Timberlake.

T. Sean Herbert
E:60 Feature Producer

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bhopal, India - September 6, 2010

You're probably wondering why I haven't written a blog in the last couple of days. I thought about it a bunch of times. After all, we've sat in traffic for far too long (jeez, and I'm not even in Mumbai yet.). What can I tell all of you about India?  What would you like to know?  I just never felt I had a theme for a blog entry. But maybe my theme is just what India's all about.

Is the food good? Yes. Fantastic, actually. I love Indian food, and here, the spices pop. I always describe Indian food (in America, of course) as spicy, but not in the hot way. In the flavorful way. Here, it is a mixture of the perfect heat with the perfect taste.

Is it crowded? Indeed. So many people. Everywhere. There isn't a street corner that isn't populated, a road not full of mini-taxis, and a slum devoid of naked children running barefoot through waste. India is dense. And claustrophobic.

Here's what you need to know about India: Imagine you want to direct a movie, and inside your cozy studio, you need to create a scene of poverty and despair. What would you put in there? Sewage in streets? Dead frogs in your drinking water? Barefoot children walking through shit?  You can find that everywhere in Bhopal.

Ok. To India's defense, this is Bhopal.  I've spent much of the last week within a couple of miles of the Union Carbide factory. As you know, the factory still stands. Corroding. Toxic. And dangerous. Why would you live by the site? Well you wouldn't. Unless you were so poor you couldn't go anywhere else.

What's worse is that it appears no one cares? Ok. People say they care. But they let them live. And no one intervenes. Why is that?

India is all about a sense of community, and these people like that. No matter if they live in filth or wealth. Especially the filth. I can't quite wrap my head around that. How do you live in a place so dirty? Well, they don't know anything else, and for most of them, they'll never be afforded any other opportunity. But they smile. And they live through it. After all, they have no other choice.

I promise. Next blog entry, I'll tell you more about the story out here. It's about a factory. Its destruction. Its presence. And its aftermath that lingers through the streets both visibly and invisibly.

Yaron Deskalo

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Roberta Mancino Day 5

E:60 wrapped up its production on its feature of Italian fashion model and extreme adventure athlete, Roberta Mancino, on Tuesday, by traveling from Rome to Bomarzo, Italy to shoot a formal interview and more specialty portraits in a 16th century park of carved stone gargoyles.

It was a unique but fitting backdrop to try and explain what makes Mancino do what she does so well. Check out this link to learn more about the Park of Monsters in Bomarzo.

In was an exhausting 5-day shoot, with over 1,000 miles travel by car and truck from the most northern parts of Italy (the Dolomites), down to its largest city (Rome), and further points further south (Cisterna and Anzio).

On September 1, the E:60 production team was back in Rome, but not for long. Some headed back to the United States, the others moving on to assignments in India.

Tune in to E:60 this fall to see the exciting feature on Roberta Mancino. And check out tomorrow’s daily blog to find out more about what they are working on in India.

T. Sean Herbert
E:60 Feature Producer

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

India Blog Entry - September 1, 2010

All India had been was rain and hotels for me the first two days here...
But today, the sun was finally shining in Bhopal, the site of our first story.
As some of you recall, in 1984, a major gas leak from the Union Carbide plant in the city of Bhopal killed thousands instantly. It was utter chaos for weeks in Bhopal. Many would be afflicted with permanent injuries like deformities, blindness and mental problems.
In the last 25+ years, not much has changed in the city of Bhopal.  The UC plant still stands, now amongst twisted weeds. The inhabitants surrounding it are still dirt poor.
What does this have to do with sports, you ask?  I've said that the best sports stories are not stories about sports, but human interest stories and the effect they have on the world of sports.  It can be something small or something big. But likely, anything that has happened -- calamity or success -- has some tie to sports.  Bhopal is no different.
Children in the neighboring slums, who cling to nothing but a shirt on their back, still dream of getting out one day. Without a viable school system, sports may be their only option. And it is a gigantic longshot. But still they dream. And they do it on the playing fields in Bhopal -- of which many in the slums are located on or around the Union Carbide plant.
While this image may appear romantic, it is hardly that. Because of the gas leak and the lack of cleanup throughout the last two and a half decades, these children are playing on grounds that are likely highly contaminated.
Today, accompanied by a reknowned testing agency, we went around to a couple smaller cricket fields to see how contaminated they were.
Imagine knowing that as a child you were playing your favorite sport on a ground so contaminated it's unsafe. What would you do about it? If you live in the slums, you have no choice. Either play there or don't play at all.
Who's to blame for this? Not an easy question to answer.. More to come on that in later entries.

Yaron Deskalo

Roberta Mancino Day 4

E:60 continues production on its feature of Italian fashion model and extreme adventure athlete, Roberta Mancino on Monday filming more Rome sights before traveling 90 minutes south to spend time with fashion photographer, Stefano Manfredini. He has been one of Mancino’s favorite photographers and has shot many of the 29 year-old’s most memorable images.

After E:60 cameras documented Manfredini’s talents up close, they turned their cameras on him, for an interview with Jeremy Schapp about Mancino’s talents and appeal as a fashion model.

Then the E:60 production team headed to the coastal town of  Anzio south of Rome on the Tyrrhenian Sea, where Mancino was raised. We visited some of her old stomping grounds and the Anzio train station where Mancino used to live in an upstairs apartment. The day ended with a sunset shoot in the town square, harbor, and at the beach.

Tune into E:60 this fall to see the interview with Manfredini, and more sights and sounds from our trip to Italy. And check out tomorrow’s daily blog to find out where E:60’s production team is headed next… a hint… it’s a very scary place.

T. Sean Herbert
E:60 Feature Producer
Aug 30, 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Roberta Mancino Day 3

The E:60 crew drove nine hours from the Dolomites in northern Italy to Rome in order to continue producing its feature on fashion model-turned-dare-devil, Roberta Mancino.  On August 29, 2010, at 11 a.m. on Day 3 of our shoot, we were in central Rome when Jeremy Schaap interviewed Mancino’s mother.  A translator was used to convert the questions into Italian and the answers into English.

By 1 p.m., the E:60 production team was scouting for a location for Schaap’s next interview. Jeb Corliss is among the top wing suit flyers in the world and Schaap was going to be asking him questions about his girlfriend, Mancino. E:60 produced a feature back in 2008 on Corliss and his pursuit of trying to jump out of an airplane in a wing suit and land safely without a parachute.  Some called him crazy, other call him a genius.  We’ll give you another chance to decide.

After the Corliss interview, the remainder of the day was spent traveling the streets of Rome capturing the best moments of Mancino’s Italian roots.  Even if you have never traveled to Rome, you will likely recognize some of the locales.

Watch E:60 this fall to see which moments from these interviews and what iconic Rome sights make the final cut. And check in tomorrow to here more behind-the-scenes tidbits from the Roberta Mancino shoot in Italy.

T. Sean Herbert, E:60 Feature Producer  

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Roberta Mancino Day 2

E:60 continues following Roberta Mancino in Italy this week on Day 2 of her attempt at her first helicopter proximity jump in the Dolomites.  On August 28, 2010, her day begins early, at 7:30 a.m., when she awakes to check the local weather reports with the chopper pilot.  She’s in luck…the weather is going to be very favorable.  She and her boyfriend, Jeb Corliss, start to prepare mentally and physically.  They travel with a few hundred pounds of gear, including their wing suits, helmets, some hi-tech HD camera equipment, and of course, their parachutes.

E:60 crews were dispatched to the heliport for Mancino’s 11 a.m. departure, while another camera crew headed to the area where she hoped to land, and another took a gondola to the top of Sass Pordoi, a 10,000-foot mountain top adjacent to Mancino’s jump site. That crew then had to take a perilous hike nearly a mile down to a perch on the edge of a cliff with the best vantage point for Mancino’s planned trajectory. 

At 11:10 a.m. the E:60 crew joining Mancino in the chopper called the other crews to let them know that they were taking off from the heliport in a few moments for the 6 minutes flight to the chosen drop site. And on schedule, with all of E:60’s cameras rolling, the helicopter quickly appeared on the horizon, climbed to about 11,000 feet, and then Mancino and Corliss stepped out onto the choppers rails in their wing suit poised to take an extreme leap of faith…

Watch E:60 this fall to see what happened next.  And check in tomorrow to find out what’s next on this incredible journey.

T. Sean Herbert, E:60 Feature Producer  

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Roberta Mancino Day 1

E:60 is traveling to Italy this week to shoot a feature on Roberta Mancino.  For those of you who are not familiar with Mancino, go to Youtube and check out some of her highlight reels.  Not only is she an accomplished fashion model, but she is also a world-class skydiver.  Several years ago she began base jumping off of some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, harrowing cliffs, and now has begun jumping out of planes wearing a wing suit. For the uninitiated, Mancino in flight looks more like a flying bat than anything else.

Our journey began Wednesday, August 26, with a trip to Milan, Italy before a four-hour trek north to The Dolomites in the Italian Alps to meet up with Mancino and her boyfriend, Jeb Corliss.  Together they are donning their wing suits to attempt a helicopter proximity jump…trying to fly as close to one of the tallest mountains in all of Europe without killing themselves. 

On Thursday, E:60’s cameras were rolling when Mancino and Corliss met with their helicopter pilot to check on the days conditions.  Unfortunately, they did not look promising, with strong winds and rain in the forecast.  They decided to take a site survey of the exact area where they intended to jump and their search for a suitable landing zone.

Corliss and Mancino located a small area off a road that took them to the base of the mountain no bigger than a football field and decided it would be big enough and easy enough to spot from a few thousand feet above.  By 2 p.m. the wind and rain as predicted rolled in and scrubbed their first attempt. They try again tomorrow. 

Submitted by T. Sean Herbert

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

From Belarus with Love

When Maria Sharapova returned to Gomel, Belarus in late June, E:60’s cameras wanted to be there. Belarus was the Eastern European homeland of her parents, who fled it in 1986 after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Sharapova’s mother and father moved to Siberia, where the tennis star was born in April 1987.

But a shoot in Belarus has special logistical challenges, as you might expect of a small country that at various times belonged to the Principality of Polotsk, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Russian Empire, and the Soviet Union.

Since 1990 Belarus has been sovereign, with its very own ‘elected’ dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, who did not take kindly to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling it an “outpost of tyranny.”

Amnesty International’s 2009 report on Belarus said “state control over the media increased, and restrictions on independent media continued. Some public events were banned; peaceful demonstrators were fined and detained for short periods; and civil society activists and journalists were harassed.”

Producer Matt Rissmiller’s job was to get in and out of Belarus without becoming another statistic. Napolean’s Grand Army marched through Belarus in 1812 on its way to infamy, and Rissmiller was determined to avoid the same fate. The way in to Belarus, he decided, was through Ukraine, to the south.

“Belarus is more challenging to get into than Ukraine,” Rissmiller said. “So we had contacts from Belarus meet us on the Ukraine side.”

He and his crew flew into Kiev. Customs was slow because of 10-11 cases of production equipment. Led by their Ukrainian and Belarusian guides, the crew drove two hours to the border. There, they were detained for 8 to 10 hours, even though they showed the proper paperwork and letters from government officials.

By the time they reached Gomel, a drive that should have taken 5-6 hours took 15 hours. They had flown out of New York on Saturday evening, and arrived in Gomel at 3 a.m. Monday.

The exhausted crew slept for a few hours and shot Gomel for the rest of Monday and Tuesday. Sharapova arrived on Wednesday, June 30. At

5:30 a.m. Rissmiller and his shooters – Bill Roach and Joel and Jesse Edwards – began to set up in a local “palace” for the Sharapova session scheduled at 9 a.m. But they ran into a problem.

“As we were setting up fire started shooting out of the electrical strip that the equipment was plugged into – it was jumping off the ground and cracking,” Rissmiller recalled. “Power in another country can be sketchy.”

The crew could not fix the problem, and Sharapova’s arrival drew nigh. Rissmiller scrambled.

“I called an audible,” he recalled.

The interview of Sharapova took place outside the palace, in natural lighting.

Sharapova left on Thursday, as Rissmiller’s crew made its way back to northern Ukraine to shoot desecrated Chernobyl. The crew was cautioned to walk on the pavement and avoid stirring up dust or dirt. It was warned about local food, water and air. Rissmiller had no urge to linger.

“We had our points mapped out pretty well,” he recalled. “We shot from 10 to 3 and got out of there.”

They returned July 4, touched ground on an international runway, jet propelled back home, from overseas to the USA. The fruits of their journey air tonight.

Posted by Steve Marantz, August 17, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Phantom Debut

Chelsea Baker is a 13-year-old girl whose knuckleball baffles the boys of Plant City, Fla.

Producer Ben Houser wanted to tell her story – of crossing baseball’s gender line with a signature pitch she learned from the late Joe Niekro – in a special way.

“How do you represent the knuckleball visually?” Houser asked himself. “I wanted to see it coming off her fingers.”

He decided to throw the high-tech version of a knuckleball – the Phantom HD Gold Model camera– at E:60 viewers, for the first time.

The Phantom shoots in extremely slow motion – 1000 frames per second as compared to the normal 30-40. It also shoots in a 1080p resolution, which is presently the highest HD TV video format available.

Because of its speed and resolution the Phantom requires “a ton of light”. It also requires more planning than usual.

“You can’t do it on the fly – it has to be directed like a movie,” Houser said.

Shooters Joel and Jesse Edwards and Bill Roach helped Houser conceive several Phantom shots that tell the story in gorgeous slow-motion metaphor.

One is of a fluttering butterfly – captured for the crew by Baker’s brother.

“I put it in front of the lens and let it go – we shot it for maybe 1 ½ seconds before it flew off,” said Jesse Edwards.

The Phantom turned it into six seconds of air time.

The crew purchased glass panes and had Chelsea throw baseballs through them. Shards of glass explode before the viewers’ eyes.

“We put Plexiglas in front of the Phantom so as not to damage it,” Houser said. “That’s a $300,000 camera we rented for a day.”

Posted by Steve Marantz, July 20, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

A League of HER own

Chelsea Baker
E:60 Blog Entry
Monday, July 12th

A League of HER own

Chelsea Baker is a thirteen year old female little league pitcher. She’s as dominant as any little league pitcher in the country.

In the last four years Chelsea has NOT LOST an official sanctioned little league game.




Oh yeah, and she pitched TWO perfect games in the last two years, one of them was in an all-star game…all against BOYS.

Can you remember when you played little league and there was that one pitcher that threw harder than everyone? You grabbed a batting helmet, walked to the batter’s box and saw the hype in your area. I remember the first time I faced Corey Meyers. He was the best little league pitcher in my area along with former Villanova pitcher Casey Geib. I vividly recall not seeing the pitch, but hearing the sizzle of the ball go by. I trembled, stood there waiting for the next pitch. I shook, took strike two, strike three. I sat down and dreaded going back up to face Meyers. Call me a wimp, but I was more afraid of getting hit than swinging the bat and hitting the ball. Luckily, I was on Geib’s team, Harmony and Sons. I don’t really remember facing him, but if I did, I guarantee I struck out.

(If you are wondering the scouting report on my little league career it wasn’t stellar. I made one year of all-stars as a replacement player. You might as well call me a little league scab. I hit a few home runs that year, and probably broke the record for most errors at third base.)

The point of my story is that Chelsea Baker is that pitcher, except she is in a league far better than my little league in Palmyra, Pennsylvania. She is playing against boys that look like full grown men in Plant City, Florida, a state where baseball players seem to be born and bred.

Chelsea’s story is unique in that she is a girl completely superior to her boy counterparts in little league baseball. She isn’t just a good player; she dominates…and throws a knuckleball!

Our E:60 cameras filmed Chelsea for four days in June, and I personally witnessed her pitch against 16 batters. She walked one. Three players grounded out, (one into a double play), and she struck out twelve boys. As I sat in the stands an opponent’s mother explained the situation, “they were all intimidated before they ever got in the batter’s box.” It was seriously like watching a late 1980s Mike Tyson fight. One young spectator had built her up, saying to our E:60 cameras, “She throws a 65 mile per hour knuckle ball.” He was close…she throws her knuckle in the low fifties, but her knuckle ball is legit. We also filmed in Hinsdale, Massachusetts at former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette’s Sports Academy.  I witnessed the best knuckleball I have ever seen live in my life. She struck a boy out after throwing two fastballs right past him and completed the K with a knuckle curve that would buckle the knees on any hitter.

Duquette told me after watching her pitch, “Chelsea has a good delivery, and I saw that she throws down hill. I also say that she has good life on her fast ball and she’s a good competitor.”

The story has its parallels with a successful movie from 1992. A League of Their Own starring Tom Hanks, Madonna and Geena Davis among others. It was a movie about the all American girls professional baseball league in the 1940s. Geena Davis played the best player on the team, her fictional character’s name was Dottie Hinson. My initial thought for a narrator was Hanks…two-time Oscar winner.  I thought about it, even made a call to Hanks agent, but after further review, it was obvious who the perfect fit was for voicing this E:60 story…Geena Davis.  She is classy, successful and has the perfect female voice to narrate Chelsea’s tale.

Today, Geena recorded her voice in a production facility in California and narrated Chelsea’s story. The story should be a special one because of Geena’s involvement and we are all grateful to have her be a part of the E:60 summer premiere.

Geena arrived at the production facility in California around 4:30 eastern today. She was cordial and voiced our story as a true professional. We sent her the script in the morning for her to review prior to the tracking session. She read the script with eloquence.  I directed her by speakerphone and she was very receptive. She respected me in her style and approach. It didn’t take long for Geena to get the voice down for our story and after just a few minutes, she nailed it.

Obviously, actors and actresses are very talented, and Geena was similar to another actor I directed years ago, the star of 24 Kiefer Sutherland. Our ESPN Super Bowl coverage needed a voice to open the show and Kiefer, who was a complete class act, voiced our open. He read it dramatic, slow, fast and punchy. He gave us options. Kiefer liked to read the script three times through, then get feedback from myself and a production assistant who produced the tease, Mike Hughes.

After our voice over session, Geena and I spoke for a few minutes. She told me that she is completely impressed with Chelsea and “couldn’t believe a young girl could throw a knuckleball.”

Chelsea Baker’s story is compelling. I am glad Rod and Missy Mason and the entire family chose E:60 to tell her journey.  The story airs July 20th in the E:60 summer season premiere and includes some unreal super slow motion shots. Check it out.

Ben Houser is a Senior Producer for ESPN’s E:60.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Combine Demolition Derby

          The Combine Demolition Derby pits giant farm machines against one another in an eerie spectacle suggestive of a sci-fi ‘alien invasion’.
          Producer Al Kahwaty was at the rural town of Lind, Washington – population 500 – to shoot the annual June event that began in 1988.   His challenge, in 2 ½ days on site, was to capture the derby, and its context.
          Lind makes a busy weekend out of it, with a car demo derby, truck races, soapbox races, parades, and a barbecue.  The derby itself draws a crowd of 5,000 to the Lind Arena. 
          “It’s all in good fun,” Kahwaty said.  “But economically times have been tough in Lind.  The town depends on the derby – it donates money back to the community.
          “I wanted to get a feel for the people in town and the event.”
          Interviews with the mayor, the head of the Lion’s Club, and a married couple who met at a past derby helped establish the scene.
Meanwhile, Kahwaty attached himself to “Team Jaws”, the combine crew of Matt Miller and Josh Knodel, seven-time winners of the event.
          In a specialty shoot inside the garage at Knodel’s farm, Kahwaty backlit the combine and shot through machine-generated fog.  Fog was used to make the combine “seem more ominous”, Kahwaty said, as it enhanced the lighting. The shoot went smoothly until Miller unexpectedly hit the gas pedal and the combine lurched forward.  The cameraman jumped to avoid being pinned against the garage door.
          Later, outside the garage, Miller drove the combine in donut patterns, as Kahwaty recorded it on his I-Phone.
          “I had no idea you could do something like that with a combine,” Kahwaty said.
For the derby itself, cameras were mounted on two driver’s helmets in two different heats and on a combine in a third heat.  Another camera was at the perimeter of the arena.
          “Safety is the first concern,” Kahwaty said. “You want to make sure the camera crew isn’t too close to the action.  You don’t want the cameras on the drivers’ helmets to obstruct vision.
          “The safety of the equipment is also a concern.  It’s a challenge to see that everything is on tight and nothing flies off when the machines slam into each other.”
          Kahwaty won’t say if one of his cameras was mounted on the winning combine – you have to watch E:60’s summer flight to find out.  But he did hint at the music: “I’d like to find something ominous-sounding to connect Jaws the combine to its namesake.”

Posted by Steve Marantz, June 24, 2010

Friday, June 4, 2010

Phil Laak Poker Record Day 2 1/2

Friday June 4. 4:00 am. To celebrate the halfway mark, hour 40 of 80,
Phil Laak made a surprise announcement. With fans and fellow poker
players watching, Phil reached underneath the table and revealed a
stack of $100,000 in chips. He decided to up the ante in order to keep
up his energy and motivation as he enters the next phase of his
journey. Let's see if it pays off.

Submitted by Hillary Wasch

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Phil Laak Poker Record Day 2

Slow and steady. That's how I would describe day 2 of Phil Laak's 80 hour attempt at the Guinness record for endurance poker. He finally climbed out of the gutter and is now showing a profit.
In 32 hours, Phil has only taken six breaks- five 5-minute breaks and one 20-minute break. He has consumed only 4 bottles of water, and has eaten only five small meals, all prepared by his nutritionist, All-American Dave.

Phil's girlfriend, actress and fellow pro poker player Jennifer Tilly has been stopping by, offering hugs, kisses and words of encouragement.

He is still coherent and says he is feeling great. His only ailment so far is his back. He is combatting pain with a sturdy seat cushion.

The Bellagio poker room is packed on a busy Thursday night. Fans are crowding around the table just to get a glimpse at the history-maker

Submitted by Hillary Wasch

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Phil Laak Poker Record Day 1

Phil Laak began his 80-hour poker playing journey today at 12 noon on the dot. He began with 4,000 dollars and was down 1200 in the first hour. He is wearing his signature grey hoodie and sunglasses, the uniform that gave him his famous 'unabomber' nickname. Laak has three staff members taking shifts to be with him at all times. They are logging his times and filming him nonstop for the Guinness book of world records.

There have been a few fans come to watch, and people are waiting in line to play at Phil's table.

So far I have seen him yawn twice.

Submitted by Hillary Wasch