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Creative Pagosa: Bob Hite

Photo courtesy Bob Hite Bob Hite is one of Pagosa’s MAKERS, following a successful career in the television news business by continuing to tell important stories via his work as a film maker and documentarian.

Photo courtesy Bob Hite
Bob Hite is one of Pagosa’s MAKERS, following a successful career in the television news business by continuing to tell important stories via his work as a film maker and documentarian.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is building a web-based directory of all the creative people and businesses in the community. By creating this website, it will make these MAKERS easier to find in online search engines and help share the wealth of innovative and talented individuals that call our small town home.

This sort of database is called “cultural mapping” and is being done by communities around the country in order to realize and recognize the value of their creative assets.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is establishing the groundwork for continued collaboration,  cooperation and promotional efforts of the combined community. The goal of the project is to establish a solid foundation of cultural and creative individuals and businesses, to create a viable plan for promoting these assets and to promote the Pagosa area as a worthy place of residence for creative people, a productive place for creative business ventures and a desirable destination for arts tourism.

At present, the PACP is also planning an event for fall 2013. The event, the MAKERS Expo and Tour, is set for Oct. 12-13.

To register and be listed in the database, go to http://pagosaacp.org/Register.html.

In order to highlight the MAKERS in Pagosa, the PACP will profile its members, giving readers of The PREVIEW a sense of the depth and breadth of the creative community.

This week’s MAKER is Bob Hite.

Q: Tell us a little about who you are, where you were born, educated, your family, growing up and how you came to be doing your creative work?

BH: I was born and raised on the Connecticut coast of Long Island Sound, growing up on Indian Harbor in Greenwich, Conn. My childhood was spent on, in and under the water. Summers it was sailing, fishing, spear fishing, scuba diving and water skiing. Winters it was skating on the big pond in our park, hockey on the rink at school and snow skiing on the mountains of New England. My ice skating skill stood me in good stead for the ice frequently encountered on our mountains back east — nothing like the powder our Wolf Creek provides. As for education, other than writing and the photography club, school kind of lost me through my teen years. My one interest was telling stories through photography. Principally, motion picture photography. That was instilled in me by my dad. I grew up listening to my father reporting the news on CBS Radio and watching him anchor the news on WCBS-TV in New York. He would frequently take me into the studios with him and I would watch him do his job. It fascinated me. When he put his 16 millimeter wind-up Bolex motion picture camera in my hands and started teaching me how to use it, my fate was sealed. I had my own dark room for still photography as well. After high school I did go on to college but after one semester I quit and joined the Marines. Because of my experience in photography and writing I was given on the job training for broadcast photojournalism. My mentors in the Corps were veteran “Combat Correspondents” as the M.O.S. (Military Occupational Specialty) is called today. They were equal to any photographer, cinematographer, film editor and writer that the Networks had to offer and being Marines they pounded their craft into my head like… Well, Marines! With the skills they gave me when I got out of the Corps in 1969 I worked freelance in industrial films, radio, with marine salvage work in between such jobs. With a wife and baby coming along I thought a regular job like my dad had might be a good idea. Living on my sail boat I sought work at coastal TV stations as a photojournalist. I first got a job in Philadelphia where, in addition to reporting, I was made an anchor. That was in 1975. But when I got a job offer in February of 1977 from a station in Tampa, Florida, I jumped at it. After all, at that time my beloved boat, the ketch “Kinship” had 19 inches of ice encroaching on her hull in the Chesapeake Bay. I set sail from the Chesapeake for Tampa Bay in June of ’77 and joined the staff at WFLA-TV Channel 8. While a good photographer and editor can be pretty secure in his job, it’s not so certain for people on the air. The security of reporters and anchors is always subject to whims of management who are in turn subject to the whims of consultants and focus groups. This in mind, we simultaneously launched our production company “Kinship Productions.” I called it “anchorman unemployment insurance.” Fortunately I enjoyed a wonderful 30 years at Channel 8 and through my work had the opportunity to experience everything I had ever dreamed of short of space flight. The production business also idled along nicely just in case.

Q: Describe the objects you make or the creative work you do.

BH: Today, as in the past, I like to think of myself as a story teller not a reporter. I have found that the stories people are most interested in are stories about people. It may be a story about a boat or a building or battle but it is the people who are involved in it that most attract our interest. Photographically I use unusual angles, those that one wouldn’t see from a typical standing or sitting position. Very little camera or optical movement for, as I was taught a long time by ago “The motion picture camera was invented to capture movement, not create it!” Use of nat sound, that is, ambient noise, is essential in bringing a story to life. And in every feature story I can think of I have always used music. I may spend a day or a week or more shooting a story. During that time I have become immersed in that environment and the people who inhabit it. To try to impart that same experience and the emotions it stirred in me to a viewer in what may be a few minutes or even an hour program is beyond my ability. The use of music is as close as I can come to instilling the same perceptions and emotions I had during the filming to the viewer. For that matter some stories have even inspired me to write and perform a song to tell the tale as part of the sound track.

Q: What is your favorite tool or material used in making your work? Why?

BH: The tools of my trade have changed dramatically through my career. Starting with that wind-up Bolex 16mm, then a big 16mm camera, you know, the kind with the mouse ears, but it had the capability of recording sound internally on magnetic tape. Then it was on to the first and ensuing generations of standard definition broadcast video cameras to today, the high definition cameras that shoot in a 16×9 ratio as opposed to the cameras of old that shot 4×3. I’m thrilled with HiDef because of the superior image and wide format but also because they are smaller and lighter as are the tripods that go under them and I’m not getting any younger! Also, editing motion picture film and early video tape was a laborious process literally involving cutting the medium and pasting it together. With video, transferring the images from one tape deck to another and having to dub the original to another tape in a third deck to do such things as a dissolve. Today’s computer editing is a breeze with edits made instantly and sometimes of equal importance, unmade instantly!

Q: Do you have a regular routine or schedule?

BH: On a shoot, yes. As most of our work is of a documentary nature, it’s up with the sun and down with the sun. Don’t ask me about shooting in Alaska in the summer time — boy, that makes for a long day. When back in the edit suite, well, I love that part of the job as much as being in the field for that is where the story comes together. In fact, that’s really where I discover what the story is going to be like. Though I’m the only person at the edit station, in a sense I have many partners. The footage, the interviews or conversations I’ve recorded, the nat sound, the music, they all have much to do with and often dictate what I write and in what order the story will unfold. Sometimes I’ll go twenty hours straight in the edit room so anxious am I to find out how the story will turn out.

Q: What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

BH: We’ve all heard it. “Find something you love to do and make a living at it.” I have been blessed in making a living with my hobby.

Q: When you’re not making art, what is your favorite thing to do in Pagosa country?

BH: My wife, Bonnie, says, “We moved out here so he could play Cowboys and Idiots!” And, it’s true. We’ve traded boat rides for horse back rides, exploring underwater wrecks for exploring ghost towns, walking for hiking, and of course, out here we get to play in the snow. That would be called a “disaster” back in Florida!

Q: What are your goals for the coming year?

BH: More travel, hopefully sometimes on assignment. Completing the next stage of our forest ag plan to improve the health of the forest. Getting the rest of our place fenced in so the horses have more room to roam, and helping our neighbor build a barn.

Q: What is your dream project?

BH: Documenting a space flight as a member of the crew. I was one of the applicants for the Reporter in Space Program, part of the Civilian in Space Program. The reporter selected would have followed the flight of the first civilian in space, teacher Christa McCauliffe aboard the Challenger. That disaster claimed the lives of seven American heroes and put an end to NASA’s Civilian in Space Program. Almost eighteen months passed before our next launch would occur. I couldn’t tell the story as if it were a typical launch. I ended up writing a poem about it.

To learn more about Bob Hite and Kinship Productions, visit his website at www.kinshipproductions.com.

This story was posted on May 23, 2013.