The Making of

Three years ago, I moved to Maxwell Park in East Oakland. Not long after arriving, a neighbor told me about a street, just five blocks away, that went "all out" every Christmas with a big light show. It wasn't the elaborate decorations that I found appealing, it was the quaint Tudor houses connected to each other with a single strand of lights. This sense of community was heartwarming particularly in a neighborhood that has been characterized by the media as dangerous and often neglected by the city.

The weekend before Thanksgiving 2002, a friend helped me mail more than 70 letters inviting the residents of Picardy Drive to participate in the "Picardy Holiday Project." I bet my friend a burrito I wouldn't get more than 10 responses. In the end, 54 residents are listed in the credits.

The following two weeks were spent planning, recruiting volunteers, borrowing gear, and soliciting sponsorship. We arrived, on Picardy Drive, at 8:00am the morning of the big decorating day that culminates in an evening tree lighting ceremony. The novice, volunteer crew of 20 set up "base camp" in a resident's backyard. By 9:00am we had two camera crews working from each end of the street interviewing and shooting people as they hung their lights. A third wild camera did drive bys and pick-ups. I rode my bicycle up and down the street directing. We shot into the night.

Throughout the holidays, we went out in the evenings to shoot visitors coming to see the lights. We also did scheduled in home interviews with the residents. Historian Jane Powell took me on an architectural walking tour of the street and I did research at the Oakland Library, Oakland Heritage Alliance, and Oakland Heritage Survey office.

We ended up with 27 hours of footage. It took 7 months to edit, working nights and weekends at home around my day job. After many technical challenges, the picture was finally locked, original music recorded, dialogue cut, sound fx and audio mixed and the picture color corrected. I sent out preview tapes to local TV stations, Oakland clergy and City Officials.

"Picardy Drive" was made by a mostly inexperienced, volunteer crew for $6,500.

The program has aired on Oakland's KTOP, the Dish Network's Free Speech TV channel and the "video i" series on the PBS station KTEH in San Jose.


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© 2002 Smartgirl Productions
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