Making Schools Work with Hederick Smith about the program



Hedrick Smith Productions team

The Hedrick Smith Productions team sets up for the Eric Smith interview.

Hedrick Smith Productions is an independent television production company specializing in creating TV documentaries and programs for PBS. It was founded in 1990 by Hedrick Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent, editor and Washington Bureau Chief for the New York Times . Over the past decade, Hedrick Smith and his production teams have created fourteen prime-time PBS mini-series and broadcast specials, as well other free-standing programs, winning several of television's most prestigious awards.

HSP produces shows on such varied current topics as campaign finance reform, the power of the media and lobbies in Washington, grass roots civic action on teen violence and hate crime, Russia's rocky road to freedom and a market economy, how the U.S. middle class copes with global economic competition, models of effective education to prepare American mid-kids for the 21st century economy, the quality of health care for average Americans and the ordinary heroes making American democracy work at the local level. HSP has also created interactive web sites, symposiums for webcast and both written and video outreach materials that are widely used by American universities, colleges, high schools, businesses, civic groups and other organizations.

Since 1990, Hedrick Smith Productions has established its trademark for high quality programs that not only provide insightful analysis of current issues and problems but solid case studies that show people solving these problems. Hedrick Smith Productions is known for television that strikes a contrast with typical news and public affairs programs, both by a commitment to showing solutions and success stories as well as examining broad social issues and their roots, and also by giving voice to ordinary people and engaging them in dialogues about critical issues confronting American society.

With a staff of about 10 to 12 producers, field producers, researchers and support personnel, Hedrick Smith Productions has filmed in Germany, Holland, China, Japan, Canada, Mexico and all over the U.S., including inner city Washington, D.C. Our staff represents more than 80 years of combined experience in news and public affairs journalism, including more than 35 years for the major commercial TV networks.

Hedrick Smith Productions has developed expertise not only in long-form documentary production but also in arranging, staging and filming town halls and community dialogues. During a production, the company hires free-lance camera crews, editors and mobile film units. Hedrick Smith Productions has the technical capability of editing broadcast quality documentaries, however, we sub-contract for complex graphics and post-production.

Among the award-winning PBS documentaries and mini-series created by Hedrick Smith Productions are Challenge to America, Across the River, The People and the Power Game, Surviving the Bottom Line, Seeking Solutions, Critical Condition and Juggling Work and Family . Programs produced for Frontline on PBS include Dr. Solomon's Dilemma, Inside the Terror Network , Bigger Than Enron , Tax Me If You Can, The Wall Street Fix, and Is Wal-mart Good for America?

Prior to forming his own company, Hedrick Smith was also the creator, correspondent and host for two other major PBS series, The Power Game: How Washington Works in 1989 and Inside Gorbachev's USSR, which won both the 1991 George Polk Award for television and the duPont-Columbia Gold Baton for the most outstanding public affairs production on U.S. television in any medium. Mr. Smith, former Moscow Bureau Chief for The New York Times and author of two books about Russia, including the world-wide bestseller, The Russians, also hosted several other documentaries in 1991-92 including Soviets: Guns, Tanks And Gorbachev, Baltic Requiem and After Gorbachev's USSR.

Hedrick Smith Production's first major production, Challenge to America, was a five-part documentary and discussion series that explored the economic challenge posed to America by such countries as Germany and Japan. It examined the economic cultures of America and its two main global rivals, and showed successful strategies of U.S. businesses and high schools. After multiple broadcasts by PBS in 1994, Challenge To America is now being used by hundreds of businesses and educational institutions for education and training programs, along with Hedrick Smith Production's related materials View from the Top, a set of ten interviews with internationally renowned CEOs; and Pathways to Success, a special film showing successful high school programs. This series won the international RIAS television competition in Berlin.

Across the River , a two-hour program combining a documentary and a community dialogue, portrayed positive community development and educational programs in several troubled neighborhoods of Washington , D.C. The documentary, premiered by PBS in October 1995 and winner of the national Sidney Hillman Award for the most outstanding TV production of the year, exploded stereotypes about inner-city neighborhoods to show concrete examples of successful efforts to combat crime, school dropouts, health problems, middle class flight and urban decay. The community dialogue brought together downtown civic and business leaders with neighborhood activists.

The People and the Power Game, broadcast by PBS in September 1996, examined the four critical power centers in American politics the Presidency, Congress, the Media and Lobbies after the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 and during Bill Clinton's scramble to save his presidency. This series built upon Hedrick Smith's best-selling book, The Power Game: How Washington Works (1989). As a special feature, the program drew voters into two forum discussions on how to overcome gridlock and how to respond to well-financed lobbies and tabloid-driven media.

Surviving the Bottom Line, first broadcast by PBS in January 1998 with reruns continuing through September, presented a compelling account of the forces, institutions and values driving the new American economy, their impact on people's lives, as well as programs for preparing young people for the 21st century economy and various corporate and social strategies for easing the burdens of downsizing, part-time work and the bottom-line. Already more than 2,000 sets of the video series have been obtained or purchased by leading corporations, universities, colleges and school systems for educational and training programs.

Seeking Solutions, a 2-hour special broadcast by PBS in 1999, focused on successful grassroots efforts to combat teen violence and hate crime through a mix of compelling documentary segments and public dialogues. Individual PBS stations across America created their own 30-minute programs on local anti-crime efforts as companion pieces to the national broadcast of Seeking Solutions. Following in the wake of the killings at Colombine High School in Littleton, Colorado, this program won a national public service award for U.S. television from Sigma Delta Chi, the journalism honor society.

Duke Ellington's Washington , broadcast on PBS in 2000, was Hedrick Smith Productions first historical documentary about young Duke Ellington and the remarkable African American community in Washington D.C. which nurtured the emergence of a surprising array of talented African-American lawyers, doctors, businessmen and cultural figures, epitomized by Ellington. The program combines the celebrated past of Washington's black community with its modern revival of that heritage along with another of Ellington's legacies, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, which is producing a new stream of talented D.C. musicians, actors, dancers and artists of all kinds.

In 2000, Hedrick Smith Productions produced two programs on health care. Dr. Solomon's Dilemma was a one-hour program for Frontline on PBS about the problems doctors face in trying to control health costs. Critical Condition, a three-hour PBS pre-election special, examined the problems of fatal medical errors, care for the chronically ill and the problems of Americans who lack health insurance. Critical Condition's probing analysis of health care in America was nominated for an Emmy.

With so many working parents, long hours, and ever-increasing demands of the 24/7 global economy blurring the line between work and home, people all over America are struggling with the conflicting demands of job and home. Juggling Work and Family, a two-hour program broadcast by PBS in 2002, explored these issues. The program shows personal stories of the growing stress between work and family and reports on progressive efforts by companies, unions and individuals to alleviate the pressure for working couples and single parents.

Rediscovering Dave Brubeck, about the legendary American jazz pianist, was a historical one-hour PBS special broadcast in 2002. For over fifty years Dave Brubeck has been a giant of American jazz, improvising in unique rhythms and time signatures and recording the first jazz album to go gold. Today, in his eighties, he is going strong performing, traveling, drawing sell-out crowds, creating new music and reaching new heights.

Since 2000, Hedrick Smith Productions has also produced programs for Frontline on PBS. Inside the Terror Network uncovered the personal histories of the terrorist leaders and traced their movements and plotting in the days, months and years leading up to September 11th. Bigger Than Enron examined how the corporate watchdogs the bankers, lawyers, regulators, politicians and above all, the accountants failed to prevent Enron and other scandals from occurring. Tax Me If You Can investigated the rampant abuse of tax shelters since the late 1990s by some of America's biggest and most-respected accounting firms, law firms and investment banks that were then aggressively marketed to big corporations and wealthy individuals. The Wall Street Fix investigated how Wall Street drove the telecom boom, pocketing enormous profits and then took millions of investors on a ride that eventually cost $2 trillion in losses on WorldCom and other telecom stocks. Is Wal-mart Good for America? explored the growing controversy over the Wal-Mart way of doing business and whether a single retail giant has changed the American economy.

Through a multi-media outreach effort, Hedrick Smith Productions' programs are designed for long shelf life, supported by educational materials and web pages, as well as PBS audiences in the millions.

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