This past spring, Southwest Community Television Coordinator Dan Carpenter was contacted by independent video producer Alec Fischer. Between Feb. 1 and March 30, Fischer had uploaded six videos to YouTube. He named the series “Covid Confessions.”
The videos are chapters, each featuring folks in a single job category: teachers, grocery workers, restaurant servers and bartenders, drag performers, nurses and fitness professionals — 75 people in all. One at a time, they speak about themselves and their jobs — critical jobs that were putting them at risk of Covid-19 infection, stress and fatigue. Their stories — their confessions — are honest, revealing, emotional and very personal.
Dan Carpenter, a seasoned broadcast and community access television professional, recalls that Fischer, an Edina High School and University of Minnesota graduate, wanted to expand the distribution and impact of the testimonials beyond YouTube and social media.
Carpenter’s advice prompted Fischer to combine the six videos into an hour-long special as well as two half-hour programs. The six bundled chapters became programmable for community television. In April, Carpenter scheduled them for airing on SWTV’s Channel 15 in Eden Prairie, Edina, Hopkins, Richfield and Minnetonka.
On Oct. 9, Fischer and “Covid Confessions” were honored with four Regional Emmy® Awards by the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Emerging from a year of social distancing and Zoom calls, television professionals from four states in a festive ballroom at the Radisson Blu/Mall of America Hotel were, perhaps, signaling that the virus and its variants were coming under control. On stage accepting the first of his Emmies (for the video featuring nurses), a delighted Fischer said, “I want to say ‘thank you’ to all of them for being so intimate, and trusting me to bring their stories to life.”
The hour-long version of “Covid Confessions” is slated to continue airing on SWTV (Comcast Ch 15) at 11 a.m. on Saturdays into January 2022. The half hours will air sequentially at 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, also into January.
During his Dec. 1 report on SWTV to the Southwest Suburban Cable Commission (SWSCC), Carpenter said that Fischer’s program serves well the important mission of Channel 15.
In a subsequent email comment to EPLN, Carpenter wrote, “I commend Alec for taking the time to hear from so many diverse voices here in Minnesota and for choosing to carry those voices to the Southwest Metro through public access television.”
In spite of social distancing and masking protocols, the SWTV coordinator safely helped several local churches transition to broadcasting virtual recordings of their services on Channel 15. He also assisted authors, artists, library staff and exercise coaches to record programs in their homes. This included production advice on lighting, camera framing, and microphone placement for good sound.
Carpenter also told the SWSCC commissioners (via the little windows of their Zoom call) that he would soon be holding an in-person introductory class for residents of Eden Prairie, Edina, Minnetonka, Hopkins and Richfield. There are folks out there, he implied, that want to make a TV show of their own. The free class is planned for Jan. 27 at the Edina Senior Center at Grandview Square.
“Producing a show is a lot of work,” says Carpenter, “but it’s also a rewarding experience.” It most certainly has been for Alec Fischer.
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Email address: dcarpenter@EdinaMN.gov
Editor’s note: Writer Jeff Strate is a board member of Eden Prairie Local News and produces programming through Southwest Community Television and its partner Bloomington Community Access Television.