By AIR Media Strategist Jessica Clark
“Some people are hat people,” Olivia Rose Griffin told Lauren Benichou, who reported on her 100-year-old hat shop for Localore project The Making Of…
“It’s because they’ve been doing it a long time. And then there are some people who are like ‘oh, I don’t look good in any hat.’ They just have to practice. They’ve just got to throw hats on and get comfortable.”
For many public stations, collaborative production might feel similarly awkward. But award-winning producing duo Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva—known jointly as The Kitchen Sisters—have honed the practice to a fine craft. Over the past year, they’ve headed up The Making Of… at Bay area station KQED, mastering a series of increasingly ambitious collaborations—with the public, storytelling innovators, and local organizations. Their work offers models for stations seeking to update their style.
Cooperation at the Core
“So much of the impulse to collaborate with an array of people and organizations comes from the fact that Nikki and I work collaboratively,” says Nelson.
Together, they’ve produced more than 300 stories for public broadcast, including a string of award-winning NPR series: Hidden Kitchens, Lost & Found Sound, The Sonic Memorial Project and The Hidden World of Girls. Nelson attributes their approach to previous work in team-focused environments— Silva’s in museums with a strong community focus and her own in filmmaking, where she says working with crews is “like being with an orchestra and bringing everyone to the highest level of their craft.”
Collaboration is also intrinsic to the design of AIR’s distributed Localore production, a 10-station public media innovation initiative with primary funding from CPB. In a unique three-way arrangement, each project is jointly produced by the lead producer, a public station, and AIR. Localore producers lead multidisciplinary teams that include designers, developers, reporters and station staff. In addition, AIR has encouraged these teams to work in tandem with audience members to document their lives and communities, in the process expanding the station’s reach into untapped corners.
For the Kitchen Sisters, that meant reframing audience members as fellow makers, and inviting them to share their stories online and via a call-in line. Over the last several months, they have gathered more than 200 such stories. From this pool, they produce broadcasts, videos, and multimedia explorations on topics including the making of bespoke prosthetics, a jar of jam, data sculptures, a senior dog rescue service and others—some quite abstract and profound.
Tapping Fellow Innovators
To help explore Bay area creativity in all of its variegated glory, they’ve also worked with others who are forging new storytelling forms.
In January, the Kitchen Sisters co-produced a packed event at the offices of social audio platform SoundCloud to launch The Making Of…Studio with Zeega and KQED. An interactive storytelling team led by Jesse Shapins, Kara Oehler and James Burns, Zeega has co-produced several of the Localore projects. They’re building an open platform that allows to users help “remake the internet” by creating immersive productions drawn from audio, video and images in the cloud. The Making Of… site invites participants to make their own “strange, beautiful experience,” and share it with others in the community.
In another experiment, the Kitchen Sisters partnered with reporter Charla Bear, illustrator Wendy MacNaughton and digital storytelling platform Cowbird to tell the story of Ignacio Gonzales. Better known as “Notch,” he builds hot rods in his shop, Top Notch Kustoms, plus tiki bars on the side. He explains that his craft is “all about the stance and the style.”
Joining Forces With Cultural Hubs
Along the way, the Kitchen Sisters have shared The Making Of… stories at a series of events—including a feature slot in a sold-out Pop-Up Magazine live event last April, and a stint as hosts at the Third Coast Competition awards.
But all of this has just been been a warmup for what looks to be their biggest collaboration yet: a two-day celebration to mark the closing of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for a three-year expansion process. On May 30-31, The Making Of…@ SFMOMA will attract an estimated 12,000 people a day to a pop-up-style event featuring local makers of all stripes.
Magical Cinema Snowglobe from JD Beltran on Vimeo.
Artists who have been featured in the series will be on hand to demo their inventions, such as Evan Holm, whose Submerged Turntable simultaneously celebrates human culture and mourns its eventual loss, or JD Beltran and Scott Minneman, whose Cinema Snowglobe marries digital video technology with nostalgic tourist tchotchkes. SFMOMA architects and designers will also reveal the story of The Making Of…a Museum.
A smorgasbord of locally produced delicacies will be available—from underground Korean restaurant FuseBOX, karaoke ice cream truck TreatBot, cheesemakers Cowgirl Creamery, heirloom jam-maker The Still-Room, and others—and creators will share culinary origin stories. In addition, KQED and the Kitchen Sisters will invite locals to submit videos about what they are making for the chance to demo their productions at the event in a series of hour-long sessions.
Nelson says that co-producing this event with SFMOMA “is like coming full circle,” after many years of making “cinematic audio” that aims to tell stories visually. “We were always gathering 3D materials,” she says—a topic the pair wrote about for Transom. Now, they are able to bring The Making Of… to life in a way that celebrates, as so many of their stories do, “people who are possessed, with a passion, with a mission—people who are building something new.”
Want to learn about how other Localore producers are connecting with publics and community partners in fresh and surprising ways? Catch up on the monthly series featured on the NCME blog, and join us for a webinar on April 10th at 2:00 EST for Go Outside: New Visions For Community Engagement from AIR’s Localore.