Our Q&A with Telly Jury Council Member, Robert Y. Chang

Coordinating Producer, America Reframed

Robert Y. Chang is the Coordinating Producer of America ReFramed. He received his PhD in Cultural Anthropology at NYU for his research on the intersection of religion and media. Robert is also a documentary filmmaker whose work has screened worldwide at festivals and is distributed by Documentary Educational Resources (DER). He is a member of the Producers Guild of America.

What video/television piece inspired you lately?

The Metropolitan Opera’s At-Home Gala–when I watched the programming live, I was wowed that their producing team was able to pull it off. A live-streamed, four hour marathon performance of 40 singers–each performing remotely from their living rooms and kitchens around the world.

How have you been adapting your work to the current environment, where COVID has changed the ways we go about our daily lives?

For some parts of my workflow very little has changed — with collaborators around the country — phone calls, video chats, emails, and shared spreadsheets continue to reign. But on the production side it has been a rapid adjustment to incorporating remote interviews with filmmakers and panels to assemble some of our digitally distributed assets. For the independent filmmakers that we work with to bring to national broadcast, so much has changed — especially as many mid-production projects grind to a halt. Additionally, festivals, community groups, and affinity groups have all had to actively rethink what community means in the era of social distancing.

What is most exciting for you at the moment within your industry?

Straddling the documentary and broadcast worlds, I continue to be excited by how much broadcast audiences hunger for quality documentary programming that speaks to them and the issues they encounter in their everyday lives.  Also, it’s exciting to me that channels, networks, and on-demand content have proliferated and fragmented to such a degree that audiences are now interested in experiencing forms of simultaneity through the media that they consume!

What is one thing the Telly Awards Community should know about you?

Decades ago, my first college internship was at UNESCO. I coordinated international exchanges between scientists and industry in East Asia on the science of kimchi fermentation.

What is a piece of work you are most proud to have worked on?

I’m most proud of the work I’ve done to help produce the three most recent seasons of America ReFramed. Last week, in my living room as the season premiere broadcast, I had a verklempt moment.  As I sat back on the sofa and took stock, I was just profoundly glad that public television has the space for the timely, diverse, and distinctive documentaries that comprise the series.