By Kelsey Derby
Minnesota Experience (MNEX) is a consistent fan-favorite and is especially loved by TPT’s most loyal members. Here at TPT we’re so grateful to be able to tell the stories of these local histories in such an accessible and fun way. We are constantly striving to uncover new and intriguing tales of people and events over the course of Minnesota’s vast history. Over the years, we’ve covered origin stories of immigrants, a brief history of the Dakota, the story of the very first vote cast by a woman, and the beloved computer game, Oregon Trail, just to name a few. We find there is truly something for everybody.
Most recently, MNEX released two new installments including Return to Skid Row, a unique look at the history of downtown Minneapolis featuring footage from a 16mm camera that brings back to life Minneapolis’ Gateway district in its’ twilight years, and Armed with Language, chronicling a little-known military intelligence school during WWII that trained Japanese Americans to be translators.
We wanted to take a moment to share with you the hardworking history lovers who make this series happen. At the helm is acclaimed filmmaker Daniel Bergin, you can read about him here. His time at TPT speaks for itself. But unsurprisingly, he has a remarkable team behind him who checks every little detail to make these programs the most historically accurate and entertaining as they can be.
Let’s learn about the team:
Your involvement with MNEX: As a producer with the Minnesota Experience team I am part of the development and creation of the series.
How does your role help make the show happen: We’re a very small team so everyone is essential to what we do. Sometimes I’m assisting with visual research and production support, other times I’m doing interviews, crafting stories and connecting with community.
Favorite MNEX show: Jim Crow of the North has a special place in my heart. The collaboration with Mapping Prejudice was incredible and the power of the story, the way it continues to be a resource and a conversation starter is why I do what I do.
What you’re most excited for in 2021: We spend so much of our time doing long form content for TV, which I love, but it’s also fun to experiment with shorter form storytelling. I’m excited to dive into some fascinating Minnesota history on a smaller, but no less important, scale.
What do you wish members knew about the making of MNX: I hope it comes through in the work, but it’s how much we care. How much time we put into choosing every photo, and there are hundreds, in each documentary, every piece of music and interview. So much work, time and consideration goes into the hour you see on tv and that’s only possible because we have the resources and support from members like you. I can’t thank you enough for making our work possible.
Your involvement with MNEX: I am MNEX’s production manager, so I managed our budget, project timelines, crew schedules, packaging, distribution, etc.
How does your role help make the show happen: I describe myself as the logistical counterpart to our creative storytellers? I am constantly adjusting our budget to make sure we are telling stories in the most impactful way possible. Basically, I send a lot of emails saying “yes, we can afford that” or “no, we can’t afford a fog machine, what are you thinking???” (that actually hasn’t happened yet, but if it does, I’ll have my response ready).
Favorite MNEX show: Did you know MNEX produced a podcast?? It’s called Long Lost and it explores the 70-year-old cold case of the missing Klein brothers. It’s a fascinating, heartbreaking story, and I love that we were able to share it in an audio format. Listening to an audio story can be a much more intimate, personal experience than watching a show on tv, and I think it is the perfect medium for Long Lost. Listen to it wherever you listen to podcasts!
What you’re most excited for in 2021: I’m so excited about our new show Armed with Language. Our producer Katie O’Rourke has been working so hard to share a story about Japanese-language translators in Minnesota during WWII. It’s a WWII story told from an angle that we don’t often hear about.
What do you wish members knew about the making of MNX:It takes a lot of people to make a MNEX show! We have our producer crafting the story, a researcher to help with writing and accuracy, an incredibly talented videographer and field audio engineer, multiple production assistants combing through archival images, designers creating graphics, voice actors, editors and audio sweeteners to help pace the show and make it come to life, marketing and programming teams developing distribution plans….and many, many more.
Your involvement with MNEX: I generally work as a Production Assistant for MNEX but I was an Associate Producer for Armed With Language. I also talk about Minnesota history and share MNEX content on TikTok! Follow us @twincitiespbs!
How does your role help make the show happen: As a Production Assistant I wear many hats. I’m on-site during shoots, I comb through archives to find the images and archival material that you see when you watch our films, and I make sure everything is ready for distribution after the production is done.
Favorite MNEX show: It’s a tie between my first TPT film I worked on as a TPT intern, The Legendary St. Paul Winter Carnival, and Armed With Language. While they are very different stories, I learned so much about different parts of the production process while working on both films.
What you’re most excited for in 2021: I’m so excited to share Armed With Language with the world! I think it’s an incredible story and I’m so proud of the film.
What do you wish members knew about the making of MNX: We’re a small but mighty team!
Your involvement with MNEX: I was recently hired as the new Production Assistant for the MNEX team!
How does your role help make the show happen: I work with the Producers on the shows and help with everything from fact checking and research to arranging shoot days, making social media videos to cataloging archival materials. Essentially a helping hand wherever I’m needed in production!
Favorite MNEX show: I am definitely biased to the first two productions I got to work on, Return to Skid Row and Armed with Language. They are so different, and each shows a unique side of MN history. Skid Row was so fun to work on as a lover of old film and found footage. I was also incredibly lucky to work with the Armed with Language team to tell the nuanced and overdue story of Japanese American soldiers during WWII, and their history right here in MN.
What you’re most excited for in 2021: I am so excited to get back in the field again. We have some great interviews coming up for future projects and I cannot wait to be out with the crew (when it’s safe)!
What do you wish members knew about the making of MNX: It is a labor of love! Broadcast deadlines of course can be stressful, but everyone on the team is invested in the work and doing justice to MN history. As the newbie, I am honored to have been brought on board with the MNEX team. I have lived in MN my whole life, and so TPT has been with me since I was a little kid. It’s been an amazing first few months here and I can’t wait to dive into more MN history!
Your involvement with MNEX: Coordinating MNEX after post-production.
How does your role help make the show happen: I communicate with different departments on timelines.
Favorite MNEX show: Jim Crow! I’m a fan of watching content that makes you reflect and think deeply on issues that have plagued this country for so long.
What you’re most excited for in 2021: I’m excited for the weather to get warm and to get into the field!
What do you wish members knew about the making of MNX: It takes a lot of moving pieces, and is all done for our audience. Thank you for watching Minnesota Experience!
We hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about the MNEX team and continue to enjoy the series. Check out the newest installments online here, or download the PBS Video App on your favorite streaming device, mobile device or Samsung smart TV and start streaming now!
We’d also like to extend a special thank you to our members. Members make it happen! If you’re not a member yet, become one today. Learn more.
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