By Joshua Dylan Mellars
I was honored recently to be elected to serve on the San Francisco/Northern California Board of Governors. I thought I would take this opportunity to introduce myself.
I was born in San Francisco and I grew up in the Bay Area. My earliest memories include frigid nights at Candlestick Park, weekends attending the San Francisco blues festival at Fort Mason, and the Western Regional folk festivals in the Marin Headlands. I remember sailing from Sausalito to Angel Island on a friendly neighbor’s sailboat, and exploring the old bunkers and trails along the coast. When I looked out at the expanse of the Pacific, the possibilities always appeared to me to be limitless.
The Bay Area has always seemed to me to be a place that was both open to the rest of the world and an opening to it. I hope it always stays that way. After 12 years studying in public schools, I went East—to Brown University. The experience widened my world, but it also did a lot to increase the appreciation I had for the unique character of my home on the West Coast. Upon graduation from college, I had plans to return to the Bay Area to look for a job at a TV station or a local production company. But at the time, I was also experiencing a growing desire to live in Latin America. (I had spent a year studying abroad in Madrid practicing my Spanish and picking up salsa and merengue steps from Latin American friends). So when, only weeks after graduating, I was offered a job as a reporter in Venezuela during the middle of a watershed election year there, I found myself hopping on a plane to Caracas, with not much more than a new suit, a tape recorder, a couple of spiral notepads, and a camera.
When I arrived in Caracas in the summer of 1998, Comandante Hugo Chavez was running for president against former Miss Universe Irene Saez. El Comandante had, a few years previous, staged a failed military coup for which he had been imprisoned. The establishment parties feared his popularity and his power. There was concern that, were Chavez to be elected, the army would attempt to prevent his taking power. There could even be civil war. Then as now, there was much uncertainty and danger in Venezuela. I covered visits by then US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and election monitoring efforts by former president Jimmy Carter and The Carter Center. When Chavez was elected, I followed him everywhere.
Wherever he or Energy Minister Ali Rodriquez went, from the backrooms of the Vienna OPEC conference to the oil rigs of Lake Maracaibo, I was there. They called me “la sombra.” The time I spent in Venezuela was formative. My reporting there led to filing stories for the BBC, NPR’s Marketplace and UPI in Argentina…which led to filming a documentary about tango in Buenos Aires…which led to meeting an Academy Award nominated director in Brazil…which led to working on Brazilian and Hollywood productions in Rio de Janeiro…which led to making my own documentary about Portuguese fado music in Lisbon…which led to my introduction to the Portuguese communities in Central California, the South Bay and the North Bay… It was a circuitous route which led me home. At present, I am a producer-director at Northern California Public Media, which operates PBS station KRCB in the North Bay and public television station KPJK in the South Bay.
My public television work includes: Building a Better Society, The Catch, Apple Country. I continue to produce independent work for my own production company Abuela Luna Pictures which has aired on television and screened at festivals and venues throughout the world. My latest independent production, “Shakespeare in the Shadows,” after receiving a San Francisco/Northern California Emmy® nomination last year, is being distributed to public television stations nationally. I’m looking forward to serving on the Board of Governors, getting better acquainted with our fellow NATAS members throughout the chapter, and having the opportunity to contribute to the chapter’s important work.