Background: Steve Herzberg — President/CEO of PrairieFire Productions, Inc.
During my second year of Law School, I decided I wanted to be a film maker. Made sense to me — but not to anyone else.
During my second year of teaching at The University of Wisconsin Law School, I decided I wanted to be a film maker. Made sense to me — but not to anyone else — especially not to my Dean.
However, that year I got a break. No I wasn’t discovered sitting at a soda fountain in Hollywood. Quite to the contrary. The Dean of the Law School got a call from the Milwaukee Public Television station — Wisconsin had passed the first “cameras in the courtroom” law, and the station wanted to be the first in America to broadcast, gavel-to-gavel, a real live trial. They needed a producer/commentator, someone who would get along with the court and understand and be able to explain the proceedings to the viewing audience. Within two days, I was on TV — and I never looked back.
Over the years, I’ve hosted, produced, written and directed a broad array of programming. Before I moved to Texas, PrairieFire Productions, Inc. was a very active company, based in a very cool, old dairy building in Marina Del Rey, California.
I qualified for membership in and joined the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America (I was the Houston picket captain in the recent, successful strike) and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
However, moving to Texas pulled me away from my agents and the studios that were financing and buying my projects.
Frustrated and in need of a creative outlet, I turned back to photography. I’d grown up with a darkroom in my home — my Dad was a very good photographer. And, coming from the hi-tech world of television, I was fascinated with the technology that was fueling the flames of the digital revolution.
My first big step was to attend a Texas School — where I was clearly the dumbest stump in the classroom. How do I know? Because I said the dumbest thing ever said in a Texas School Classroom: The teacher, Scott Smith, was going around the room having each of us introduce ourselves and tell why we were there.
I was in the last seat of the back row — hoping to hide my ignorance for the week. I watched as photographer after photographer said things like “I have a studio in Katy and I photograph weddings, portraits and seniors.” Or, “I have a studio in Dallas and I photograph seniors and weddings.” You get the picture, this was a PPA school and everyone photographed some combination of seniors, portraits and weddings.
Ok, so it was my turn. I started slowly be explaining that I was making the transition back to photography from TV and Film, and that I was hoping to learn how to apply what I knew from those disciplines to the new world of photography. But, no, I didn’t stop there. I had to say more, and it is the “more” that has been recorded as the dumbest thing ever said at Texas School.
Without hesitating, I went on to say: “I have to add that I really admire all of you who are doing senior photography — going to those nursing homes and taking pictures of all of the old people.” The room was absolutely silent for a moment, and then Scott started in with a lecture.
It was not until the last day of class that a couple of my newly made friends came up and said “Seniors, as in high school seniors.”
My closest friends in photography are people I met at that Texas School.
And, I also learned something that dominates the tone of my seminars — there are no stupid questions, and no one should ever be embarrassed while trying to learn.
I tell myself that if the right project comes along, I’ll spring into producer mode. But, the truth is that I’m so excited about my photography and teaching that it would have to be a really great opportunity. As much as I like writing scripts, I like writing articles and this blog. And, I’m about to move into video, again — this time creating photography tutorials.
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Some of My Credits:
Co-Writer, The Accident, a made-for-television movie, written for Showtime/Viacom, (1999);
Executive Producer/Creator/Director/Writer: Juvenile Justice, a syndicated reality series distributed by Genesis Entertainment, (65 Episodes Delivered/On Air January 1995);
Supervising Producer/Creator: Inside the Jury Room, a pilot produced for ABC Productions, January, 1992;
Co-Producer, Trial and Error, a special produced by Adam Productions for Fox Broadcasting Company, which was broadcast in May, 1992;
Technical Advisor/Script Editor: A Killer Among Us, a made for TV movie produced for NBC by Dave Bell Associates, Hollywood, California, and broadcast in November, 1990;
Producer/Writer: Inside the Jury Room, a documentary for PBS’ Frontline series in which, for the first time, cameras recorded and presented the deliberations of a jury in a real criminal trial. The jury may be the last place in which the ordinary citizen can have an impact on governmental decisionmaking; the documentary explores the tensions inherent in this “check and balance” on the power of the other branches of our government. This film received a Blue Ribbon at the American Film and Video Festival, in New York, in June, 1987;
Field Producer: Moyers: The Secret Government …The Constitution in Crisis, a 90 minute essay/special for PBS in which Bill Moyers presented the threat secrecy poses to our constitutional form of government. (November,1987). This program was awarded an Emmy in 1988;
Producer/Director/Reporter: The Trial of Filimon Amaro, Jr., the first gavel to gavel broadcast of a trial in Wisconsin for WMVS/WMVT TV (PBS Milwaukee). Received CPB Award;
Producer/Director/Reporter: The Trial of Filimon Amaro, Jr.: A Retrospective, a two hour documentary in which all of the participants, including the jurors, were interviewed;
Producer/Director/Reporter: In re: the matter of Christ Seraphim, the first gavel to gavel broadcast of a Wisconsin judicial disciplinary proceeding (PBS Milwaukee);
Producer/Director/Reporter: The Shuter:Herzberg Edition, a magazine format program that appeared on the Milwaukee PBS station during the 1979 season; and,
Occasional sports reporting for the Milwaukee PBS station.