BCAT TV Network Community Producer Profile: Ralph Favilla

Ralph Favilla, producer "The Sound of Brooklyn"

In November, the Alliance for Community Media-North East Region announced the winners of its annual Video Festival. The yearly competition draws thousands of submissions from community producers creating video productions in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.  Two BCAT TV Network Community Producers, Rich Greco and Ralph Favilla, received awards for their programs: Greco’s AMOSTV received first place in the Arts & Theater (Including Comedy & Drama) category and Favilla’s The Sound of Brooklyn received first place in the Music & Performance category.  Each program has appeared as part of the Brooklyn Free Speech TV line-up on the BCAT TV Network.

To watch past productions of Mr. Favilla’s The Sound of Brooklyn, visit his Vimeo page.

How would your describe your show to someone who’s never seen The Sound of Brooklyn?

The show is intended to present an in-depth look at musicians in Brooklyn who compose and perform their own music. It features both a musical performance and an interview with the performer.  The host is not a constant, but is chosen based on who I think will work best with the performer.   The show relies more heavily on content then sound bites, lightning speed editing, fluff and filler.

Why do you make The Sound of Brooklyn? (Or, what makes you get out of bed, say to yourself, “I’m going to make a television show about the musical talents in the borough, darn it!,” and then actually follow through with the idea?)

I got interested in video through my friend Louise Tiranoff, who coached, advised and guided me through several projects we independently produced prior to my involvement with BCAT [TV Network].  I submitted a few of these pieces to BCAT [TV Network] and it was exciting to see them on the air.  Then I thought it might be fun to learn how to produce a show in the studio, so I took the studio production course at Brooklyn Center for Media Education.

I am a part-time musician – I play guitar and sing — and have lots of musician friends.  I thought it would be great to get them, as well as other unheard of Brooklyn residents, on TV and give them exposure that they otherwise might not have a chance to get.  Brooklyn has always produced a great deal of home-grown talent, but recently talent from all over the world is settling here because it is suddenly the place to be.  Brooklyn, which always was a world famous place with lots of character and characters, as borough president Marty Markowitz likes to say, all of a sudden has developed a new image of hip new music, art and fashion.

The idea for the show was easy.  The follow through part was difficult.  I did not feel I knew enough and had enough experience to produce a show on my own.  But then I helped out a fellow producer, Elma Belnavis, on her show and it gave me more confidence and helped me get ideas on how to put together a show of my own. Using my experience in music, I got the audio for the band set up and then worked the mixing board for the shoot.  I told Elma I wanted to edit the show, and that is how I got started.  But I still lacked confidence to go it alone.  I then worked on a show with fellow producer Joyce Clarke.  I liked her and was impressed with her abilities.  When I asked her if she would help me produce a show and she agreed, I was on my way.  But even though I was doing a BCAT TV Network studio show, I still relied on Louise for both pre and post production advice.

Tell me a little bit about the production process of creating your program—I know that Bernice Brooks serves as your host; do you collaborate often with her? How did you gain access to Ayako Shirasaki? What about other musical talents you feature?

As I worked on a few projects before doing the show, I learned a few things about the process of how to plan and assemble a video.  Because I had this experience, I wasn’t able to put together a “live” show the way most BCAT [Media Center Certified] producers do and how I was taught to produce a show in class.  My show relies heavily on scripting and editing.  Louise always tried to drill into my head the importance of pre-planning, writing a script and being prepared.  But even with all that, I’ve learned that you have to be able to adapt to different circumstances, improvise, and make changes on the spot.

So after I decided on a performer, I got familiar with their music.  I usually then met with them and learned more about their lives and their music. We discussed topics for the interview and also reviewed the songs and music they had composed. We then decided which ones to use.  I then wrote a mock script to develop the direction I wanted the interview to go.  Then I would go over it with the host.

After the shows were shot, I did intense editing.  I always shot more than would fit in the 28 minutes the show is allotted.  So I would try to squeeze in as much as I could and make every second count.  At the same time, I tried not to overdo it with too much clutter and I made sure that the show was paced in a way to keep the viewer interested.

For the show I produced featuring Ayako Shirasaki, I right away thought to ask Bernice “Boom Boom” Brooks.  When I first saw Bernice, she was playing drums in a trio with Ayako and a female bass player.  They were the back-up band for a tap dance show.  I knew Ayako, but I didn’t know Boom Boom at the time.  But I was very impressed and entertained by her drumming and stage presence.  I ran into her a few months later at BCAT [Media Center] and told her that I saw her perform once.   And that is how we met.  I thought Booom Boom would be a perfect host for this show since she is a jazz musician, familiar with the music, and she is very entertaining.

Louise’s brother is a tap dancer, so I’ve been to quite a few tap shows.  On many occasions, Ayako played piano accompaniment for them.  I would listen to her play and just sit there in awe.  I do not understand the intricacies of jazz, but when I heard some of the things she would play on songs that were familiar to me, I was like- how does she figure this stuff out, on the spot no less-as much of the things she played were improvised and were played off of what the dancers were doing.  So when I learned Ayako had moved to Brooklyn, I told her she was now eligible to be on my show and if she would be interested in doing it.  I was very excited to get such a talent to say yes.  Ayako has won numerous awards and has international credentials.

For my first show, I got my friend Nelson F. Ferrer to perform and another good friend, Barney McMahon, to be the host.  I told them I needed some guinea pigs and that they had to be patient with me as I learned how to work inside the studio.  Thank goodness I had Joyce on my team!  She got me through it and did not try to impose herself on me – she insisted that I was the director and that I should call the shots.  I must say, all the help and support I got from my fellow producers was awesome.  The show came out pretty good for a first show – it had a few rough edges in the intro and with the interview that I probably could have fixed if I had more studio time.  The three hours you get goes real fast, because setting up the lighting, audio, the set, and so on takes a lot of time, especially when you have never done it for real before.

My next studio shoot had Barney back as the host and featured another friend who I played with in a band many years ago, Joe Ardigo, who writes a lot of his songs about Brooklyn.  I thought he was a perfect guest for the Sound of Brooklyn.  This show looked a little better with some experience under my belt.  We had more time to do the interview, which allowed Barney to be more himself.  One of the cameras was not operational so we were forced to improvise and do the shoot with only two cameras

One of my camera persons for that show, Maricella, asked me if I would feature on my next show a band that she knew called Navegante and said that she would like to host the show.  I checked out their music and liked it, so I told her OK.  They play Latin-flavored electronic funk/dance club music.  Their frontman, Jean Shepherd, was formerly with the band Radio Mundial.  One of his songs was covered by Carlos Santana.   We filmed the show at one of their performances, which was not easy.  In spite of many problems we had to deal with, we made the best of it and got a very good show out it.  They had their own special effects lighting so the show had an outrageous look, nothing like we could have ever gotten in the studio.

My next show featured Ayako.  She wanted to do it in the Brooklyn jazz club where she was currently performing because they had a top quality piano. The club is called Puppets Jazz Bar, located at 481 5th Avenue in Park Slope Brooklyn. Jamie Aff, the owner, was kind enough to allow us to videotape in his club, which features jazz artists who are home grown as well as internationally known.  So we taped the performance in the club and the interview at another date at Ayako’s home.

For my last two shows, which I had to shoot outside the studio, I put together a non-BCAT [Media Center Certified Producer] crew; Louise on the main camera work, me, at times, on the second camera and a few other people, including my son, helping out with the camera, audio, or wherever else needed.  As usual, Louise reviewed and commented on my work at various stages throughout the process.  I have been fortunate in many endeavors, such as video, music, and other areas of my life, to find myself amongst some very talented people.   They help me look good!  And I do my best to make them look good as well.

When did you become a Certified Producer? How long have you been submitting programs to the BCAT TV Network? How long have you been creating video productions?

The first course I took at [Brooklyn Center for Media Education], in 2004, was for remote shoots.  I never did anything with it.   I went back maybe two years later for the studio course.  But it took me about a year after I took the course before I did anything with that one too.  Finally, after many years, as I explained before, I got the courage to try to do my own show.

I started out doing various personal video projects with my friend Louise, like films for and about my family, in 2003.   We entered two or three contests but the kind of films that got recognition were “artistic” things like a guy standing in front of a mirror brushing his teeth!  We did, though, win a third prize in the 2007 First Saturday Brooklyn Museum Visitor Video Contest for our piece called “Off the Wall”, for which I wrote the song that accompanies the video.  Nelson F. Ferrer, my first guest on “The Sound of Brooklyn,” performed the song. I also co-produced a half hour documentary performance video about an annual show I have helped organize for the past 17 years at the Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club.  It is held on the first Saturday of each New Year and features my band, “The Resstock Review”, as well as several other bands native to Brooklyn.

What do you like most about public access television?
For personal reasons, I think public television is great because it provides people such as me the facilities to do something they would never otherwise have the opportunity to do.  But more importantly, I think it is great because it helps give performers, such as Ayako and the other guests on shows such as mine, wide exposure they might not have gotten anywhere else. It is so hard to break into broadcast TV on the major networks  and the shows they broadcast are pretty much the same old stuff-very formulaic and not very conducive to anything overly creative.

Potpourri:  Tell us something that’s interesting about you or “The Sound of Brooklyn“….
I guess the most interesting thing about the Sound of Brooklyn is that it is now history.  I hung up my video career after the Ayako episode.  I hope the show might be an inspiration to some other producers.  At least I feel like I accomplished what I wanted to.  I remember when I first walked into BCAT [Media Center] there were plaques for outstanding programming lining the walls.  I said to myself that I would like to someday get one of those for myself.  I never thought that it would actually ever happen, but it did!

3 Responses

  1. […] show is put together every first Saturday after New Years by Sheepshead Bay native and BCAT producer Ralph Favilla. The concerts are a big hit with the community, hosting several bands including Favilla’s […]

  2. Ralph please let me know when you are playing again I would like to come and see you play.


    Diane Goldberg

  3. Please email me the dates and places your band is playing at.

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