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Hanging Out at the Dohyo of Dreams

Of the many SoCal Connected shows that I’ve worked on, Grappling with Giants is my favorite. It’s a short doc that I produced for KCET about Jim Lowerre, a tech writer from Garden, Grove, Calif. that built an authentic sumo ring (dohyo) in his backyard. Believe me when I say that this is a rare thing since it takes a lot of work to build and maintain a regulation dohyo. Most amateur sumo wrestlers practice on canvas.  I’d met Lowerre at a regional sumo tournament while working on a story for Muscle & Fitness. I was there to interview Trent Sabo, a weightlifter from Oceanside who was working towards becoming a pro sumo wrestler. Sabo’s wrestling club, Oceanside Sumo Kyokai, regularly drove 60 miles north to practice at Lowerre’s “Dohyo of Dreams” which ended up…


Covering My First Wildfire

I live in Los Angeles and all of the smoke from local fires is giving me flashbacks of the Woolsey fire that raged through Southern California in 2018. I remember it vividly because I had been asked to cover the event by my executive producer at SoCal Connected who called me at 7 p.m. Her story, The New Normal, was about how overdevelopment into fire-prone areas and climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of wildfires in California. We both donned flame-resistant turnout coats and drove down the eerily empty 101 freeway past Calabasas and through several police roadblocks. Power throughout the burn areas was turned off so we were either driving in total darkness or bathed in the intense red flare of raging fires that were burning down entire neighborhoods. What struck…


Deep Dive Into Production Audio

The last few seasons of SoCal Connected were produced on a shoestring budget which is why camera operators had to handle their own audio. The show could not afford to hire dedicated location sound guys. I naturally took my soundie role a bit further since I have never been satisfied with the heavily companded audio that you get from the budget gear that is typically used as a backup by a lot of camera ops. Over the past few years, I’d been upgrading to the Hollywood location sound trinity of Lectrosonics, DPA and Sound Devices. I’d schooled myself in their field use by working on independent documentaries where I learned how to properly gain stage and swing a boom. It took a lot of practice learning how to hide mics. Hidden lavs pick up…


The Nonpartisan Kindness of Strangers

After eight long days shooting stories in Humboldt County, our tired PBS Suburban gave it up at a gas station in the tiny agricultural hamlet of Maxwell, Calif. Even the minimart attendant heard the tensioner pully bearings seize and shred the serpentine belt that operated the power steering, brake booster, water pump and alternator. We were lucky that our misfortune happened in a safe place since we’d spent that entire morning driving up and down curvy mountain roads. We had been pursuing a story about illegal cannabis growers that had been operating out of the national forest. They were using a banned pesticide that was so toxic that it could kill an adult bear. Cleanup required a special certified disposal crew that we followed into the site. Another customer filling up his…