WEDU PBS Honored with Awards from The Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists
WEDU PBS, West Central Florida’s primary PBS station, was honored Saturday, October 12 by The Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists during the 2013 Griot Drum Awards. The annual ceremony recognizes print, broadcast, and online media professionals for quality coverage of people of color in the Tampa Bay area.
The Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists, 2013 Griot Drum Awards:
WINNER BEST DOCUMENTARY
Diamonds Along the Highway: “Baby Artist: The Gale Fulton Ross Story”
WEDU PBS, Meat Captain Productions
About this episode: Gale Fulton Ross, the acclaimed African-American artist living and working near Siesta Key, has an amazing story and life she wants to share. Her paintings are a unique blend of the black experience, ranging from high profiled commissioned work to the abstract. But this is only part of her story. Her father, Herman Fulton Jr., committed suicide when she was a young woman. Also an artist, Mr. Fulton battled depression, especially after his seminal work, as Gale makes claim, was stolen right out from under him. Mr. Fulton’s creation would become a landmark automotive design—the Cadillac “fin.” But, is Herman Fulton the “father of the fin?” And, did General Motors confiscate his blueprints and give credit to another designer, a white designer? In the film, Gale has several revelations as she learns more about the man she called “Daddy” and the legacy he left behind. (The Diamonds Along the Highway series is a production of MCP, Meat Captain Productions in partnership with presenting station WEDU.)
Sarasota area filmmakers explore Florida history and culture on PBS
BY MARTY CLEA
firstname.lastname@example.orgOctober 13, 2013
Gus Mollasis, left, host and co-producer, and Mark Reese, director and co-producer, of "Diamonds Along the Highway" at the iconic Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. An episode titled, "The Fontainebleau: Enter and Play Your Part," airs at 8:30 p.m. Jan. 9 to kick off WEDU's new "Diamonds" episodes. PUBLICITY PHOTO
Cortez Fishing Village. Jack Kerouac. A childhood friend of Anne Frank.
At first glance they don't seem to have anything to do with each other. But to Gus Mollasis and Mark Reese, they're among the people, places and things that make Florida special.
"I love Florida," said Reese, a documentary filmmaker and Peabody Award-winning radio commentator who divides his time between Sarasota County and Los Angeles. "What we like to do is go out and find Florida's gems."
Reese and Mollasis, a writer and TV host, respectively, who live in Sarasota, are stringing those gems together for a PBS series called "Diamonds Along the Highway" that's just started its second season on WEDU.
In each episode, Reese and Mollasis introduce viewers to fascinating, and often little-known, aspects of Florida culture through half-hour documentaries
The series premiered with "Jack Kerouac Slept here," a look at Kerouac's one-time home in Orlando that is now a writer's retreat.
Another episode told the story of Pieter Kohnstam, who now lives in Venice. When he was a child in Amsterdam, one of his playmates was Anne Frank. His family had the chance to go into seclusion with the Franks, but decided young Pieter wouldn't be able to stay quiet, and opted to flee through Europe.
An episode slated for Feb. 13 is titled "Gone Fishing for Old Florida: Voices of Cortez."
"It's one of the last old fishing villages anywhere," Mollasis said. "Once they banned net fishing it really had an impact on Cortez, but there are still people going out fishing every day."
He and Reese trace the show's origins back a few years to an evening at the Sarasota Film Festival. Reese was there with his award-winning documentary, "The Boys in Winter: The Toughest Season," that deals with the last year in the life of his father, baseball Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese, and other baseball legends.
Mollasis was hosting a movie review show. He introduced himself to Reese and they became instant friends.
Some years later, Reese phoned Mollasis with the idea to produce a documentary series about Florida. Mollasis loved the concept and they got to work immediately.
Reese said the concept could work in any state, but Florida's special properties make it especially well-suited. The state geography leads to a diverse range of lifestyles, its history offers rich possibilities and the influx of new residents and visitors means there are always people discovering Florida and wanting to learn more about it.
"When we find a story," Mollasis said, "we attack it."
So far WEDU is the only PBS station airing "Diamonds Along the Highway." It airs first at 8:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month, and then runs at other times during the month on WEDU's digital channels.
Reese and Mollasis picked up a sponsor this season, Premier Sotheby's International Realty. They financed the first season out of their own pockets. The next step is to try to get other PBS stations around Florida to pick up the show.
Jack Conely, WEDU vice president of content, actually envisions bigger things for the show. He thinks it's strong enough to interest PBS stations all around the country, and he said WEDU will help provide Mollasis and Reese with the contacts and infrastructure to make that happen.
"It's Florida stories, but it's universally strong storytelling," Conely said. "We're happy to support it."
WEDU ran a Florida-themed show for in years called "Gulf Coast Journal" that was popular around the country, and Conely said he thinks "Diamonds Along the Highway" can be just as successful.
The first few months will feature repeats of shows from the first season, including the story about Kohnstam, Anne Frank's friend,
on Dec. 12.
New episodes start Jan. 9 with "The Fountainebleau: Enter & Play Your Part," about the legendary Miami Hotel.
In May, "Diamonds Along the Highway" will feature "Embracing Our Differences," the annual Sarasota art exhibit that celebrates diversity.
The film that inspired the series, Reese's "The Boys in Winter," will air in April as a segment of "Diamonds Along the Highway" during a WEDU pledge drive. It will be the television premiere of the film, which eared critical praise from the Washington Post and the New York Times.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.
Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2013/10/13/4768101/sarasota-area-filmmakers-explore.html#storylink=cpy
'Diamonds Along the Highway' focuses on people, places and history of Florida
By Susan Rife , Herald-Tribune / Wednesday, January 25, 2012
It's been almost exactly two years since two Sarasota men pitched their idea for a documentary series focusing on the people, places and history of Florida to WEDU, the public television station in Tampa.
Thursday, the first of five episodes of "Diamonds Along the Highway" will premiere. Series host Gus Mollasis and director/writer Mark Reese hope the show will be successful enough to become a mainstay on WEDU and even grow to other Florida markets.
Watch a preview of the first three episodes of "Diamonds Along the Highway"
Modeled on the successful travel series "California's Gold," hosted by Huell Howser for 17 years on KCET in Los Angeles, "Diamonds Along the Highway" aims "to tell positive stories about people we admire or places we want to know something about, the history, just the sort of television I want to see," said Reese, a Los Angeles-based documentary filmmaker and visual artist who has owned a home in Venice since 1980.
"Diamonds Along the Highway" co-producers Mark Reese, left, and Gus Mollasis attend a prescreening of their documentary TV series at Burns Court Cinema in Sarasota Wednesday. (Staff photo by Dan Wagner)
Howser's "come along with me" tagline on "California's Gold" is the stuff of West Coast legend (and spoof), but Reese thought Florida had just as many great stories to be told as California.
"Florida is not different than California," said Reese, whose background includes everything from an ESPN miniseries on the Brooklyn Dodgers to essays and poetry. "It has a lot of diversity; the southern part is different than the northern."
Reese tapped Mollasis, a Sarasotan who was host of "At the Movies" on BLAB TV for insights into Florida's most interesting stories. The first five are Pieter Kohnstam, a Venice resident whose family fled Amsterdam ahead of the Nazis; Gale Fulton Ross, an acclaimed African-American artist who lives and works on Siesta Key; Jack Kerouac, who wrote "On the Road" while living in a small house in Orlando; Carl "Moose" Muscarello, a Fort Lauderdale native who claims to be the sailor depicted in the Sarasota bayfront's controversial sculpture "Unconditional Surrender;" and the mystical side of Siesta Key Beach.
Pieter Kohnstam is the subject of the first episode of "Diamonds Along the Highway" on WEDU. / HERALD TRIBUNE PHOTO
"We started looking and seeking the stories we wanted to do," said Mollasis. "We've got about a hundred of them. As Mark likes to say, 'There are no boring stories, there are just boring producers.'"
The series has music by acclaimed stage, screen and television composer David Amram, whose scores include the music for "Splendor in the Grass" and "The Manchurian Candidate." He and Kerouac performed live jazz and poetry together in 1957.
The series thus far has been funded personally by Mollasis and Reese. They're hoping for corporate sponsorship and, as always with public television, support from "viewers like you."
"We love this state. We think there are great stories here," said Mollasis. "Our goal is to employ some people, too."
"Diamonds Along the Highway" premieres at 9:30 p.m. Jan. 26 on WEDU. Future episodes will air at 9:30 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month through May.
Susan Rife is the arts and books editor for the Herald-Tribune Media Group. She holds a bachelor of science degree in journalism from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4930. Make sure to "Like" Arts Sarasota on Facebook for news and reviews of the arts.
Diamonds' showcases Florida's undiscovered gems
Published: January 26, 2012 | Updated: March 19, 2013 at 12:32 PM
A former playmate of doomed teenager Anne Frank, the man who claims he created the Cadillac tail fin, writer Jack Kerouac's final days in Florida and the story behind a famous World War II victory photo are all part of a new TV series debuting on WEDU, Channel 3, tonight.
"Diamonds Along the Highway" is an ambitious, locally-produced series that tells stories of Florida people and places.
"We're taking a unique look into the heart of the state with stories that are like undiscovered gems of Florida's history, culture and diversity," says Gus Mollasis, host and co-producer of the series.
Mollasis, a Sarasota-based author and longtime host of a live cable TV show about movies, has teamed-up with film-maker and TV producer Mike Reese, son of baseball legend "Pee Wee" Reese, to develop "Diamonds Along the Highway."
"This has been a labor of love, months in the making, and we're still looking for funding and underwriters," says Mollasis. "We have completed five half-hour episodes and there are so many more stories that we want to tell."
The series opens at 9:30 tonight on WEDU with "A Chance to Live: A Story of Survival," a look at the life of Holocaust survivor Pieter Kohnstam who now lives in Venice. Kohnstam was an Amsterdam neighbor and playmate of famed teenager Anne Frank, who left behind a touching diary before she died a victim of Nazi hate.
Kohnstam, author of "A Chance to Live," talks about fleeing Amsterdam during the Nazi round-up of Jews. The Frank family remained in hiding and did not survive. He recalls Anne as a "friendly, energetic and buoyant" girl, bright with no inhibitions. He was only 6 when his family undertook an arduous journey to freedom.
The second episode, airing Feb. 23, is "Baby Artist" and tells the story of acclaimed artist Gale Fulton Ross, of Siesta Key, known for her paintings that reflect the black experience in America. She recounts how her father, Herman Fulton Jr., felt he was cheated by General Motors over the classic design of the sweeping tail fin that was popular on cars during the 1950s and '60s.
"Jack Kerouac Slept Here," airing on March 29, traces the last days of the fabled "On the Road" author who lived in Orlando and St. Petersburg before his death. Kerouac's former lover, Joyce Johnson recounts her time with him.
"Unconditional Surrender," airing April 26, features the search for the U.S. sailor who was immortalized in a newspaper photograph taken in Times Square during a victory celebration over the end of World War II. The sailor spontaneously grabbed a woman and planted a kiss. Many have claimed to be that sailor including the late Carl "Moose" Muscarello, whose son lives in Fort Lauderdale.
The fifth episode, airing May 31, is a profile of Siesta Key. The series features music by David Amram, who scored films such as "The Manchuran Candidate" and "Splendor in the Grass."
Series co-creator Mark Reese, who divides his time between Los Angeles and Venice, has produced and written award winning documentaries, off Broadway plays, feature films and books such as an autobiography of baseball legend Roger Kahn.
"We have enough material to do 10 seasons if we can get the funding," says Reese, who did most of the camera work and editing.
Reese was born in Vero Beach while his father, a fabled player for the Dodgers, was at spring training. He says the state is in his blood. "It's a great place for stories because there is so much diversity," he says.
For more information go to www.diamondsalongthehighway.com
LOCALLY PRODUCED ORIGINAL PBS SERIES
Coming to a TV Near You
By Julie Milton
Recently I sat down with Mark Reese, the creator and co-producer of an exciting TV Series, Diamonds Along the Highway, which will capture the essence of Florida’s people, places and history. His co-producer and the host of the series, Gus Mollasis, is also a contributing SCENE writer.
JM: What prompted you to do a series on Florida stories?
MR: Two things prompted me: a) a chance to explore people and places of a state I love, a place I consider home, and b) a chance to work with Gus Mollasis, who I knew would be a great host and like-minded producer. He’s also my brother from a Greek mother. What could be better than exploring Florida with your producing partner and best friend?
SCENE: Where did the name of the series come from?
MR: The name of the series came from Gus’s and my love for Jack Kerouac. Jack was always searching while wondering what lay ahead at the last exit of the journey. He believed if you look deep enough at a long stretch of road a glitter in the asphalt will appear somewhere before here and the next mile marker. Film, or the only kind that matters, has to do with recognizing the journey and its emotions between the two stops-- or as Ken Kesey stated on his magic bus, the “Further.” The only way to do that is to explore, explore, explore. By exploring the emotions of others, it’s guaranteed you’ll discover something about yourself; or, in Jack-speak, that which winks up at you from the lonesomeness of two-lane highways in the dead of night. That, my friend, should be the goal of any art form.
SCENE: What feeling do you hope viewers get when they watch the series?
MR: I hope viewers come away with a feeling of the “quiet glitter” (my term), that the sparkle of life is most often trapped in the people and places we take for granted.
SCENE: Briefly describe why this series is important?
MR: The series is important because this sort of television doesn’t exist, and certainly not with Florida as its focus.
SCENE: What is the greatest compliment someone can give you after they have watched an episode?
MR: The greatest compliment for me, or any documentary filmmaker, is to have someone say three simple words – “I was moved.” Everything is summed up in those meager but very impacted words. Forget hearing it, but how often do we get to say it, and mean it? I Was Moved.
SCENE: What is the format or the show. Is it like Sunday Morning on CBS?
MR: The format is whatever the subject tells us it is. It might be as complex as crawling into the crevasses style of filmmaking, or as straight up as a standard documentary. Either way, life and the love of it is the intent.
SCENE: What is your overall feeling on the state of television?
MR: I think television has two profound variables. One, it is a great way to learn about the world at large (or at small); and two, it can be, and usually is, a mind numbing frivolity. Why do you think the Chinese government gave Tibetan radicals free TVs? The jury is still out there. And the same holds true for the Internet. Both are brilliant tools to explore the human strain only if we let them.
SCENE: Why PBS?
MR: The P in PBS stands for “public”, and the public needs a voice in a world controlled by con artists and conglomerates. Think about that the next time you feel the urge to complain about the spring pledge drive.
SCENE: Tell me a range of the stories that you are covering.
MR: The stories will be as evocative and diverse as a survivor of the Nazis’ death machine to the soulful and artful works of Gale Fulton Ross to the road Jack Kerouac traveled in Florida.
Diamonds Along The Highway will air on PBS and WEDU on the last Thursday of the month at 9:30pm through May 2012.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize
Boys In Winter (2001)
Best Doc at the New York Independent Film Festival; was the official opening program for the inaugural National Baseball Hall of Fame Film Festival.
Host Gus Mollasis and VP of Programming at WEDU, Jack Conely