On September 26, 2010, a celebration of the life and work of Loni Ding was organized by the Ethnic Studies Department and Asian American Studies Program at UC Berkeley, with the participation of the Center for Asian American Media.Memories of Loni and Open Studio by Daniel Del Solar
April 9, 2010
Loni Ding was part of the Open Studio production team at KQED-TV in 1974 when I applied to be the outreach and fund-raising person at Open Studio. The principal idea of Open Studio was right on the original Public Broadcasting mission, of giving voices and faces of the not-represented on TV people, cultures, arts, and issues. Open Studio staff, originally gathered together and trained to operate an entire TV station (Channel 32, a frequency given to KQED, Inc., license holder of Channel 9 and FM 88.5 in San Francisco), had been denied the promised KQED support to operate the station. Open Studio, a weekday program, was given instead, with minimal financial support.
KQED, Inc., later lost the license for lying to the FCC regarding the reason for not actually using the frequency.
I gradually became part of the production team at Open Studio, producing several shows on Community Murals, Quilapayun, and others, in addition to my outreach and fundraising work. I was the host of a program produced and directed by Loni with Stephen Dimitroff and Lucienne Bloch titled “Fresco Murals” and in my role learned the intricacies of production pre-planning necessary due to our extremely limited “camera time.” Production slot for a complicated, multi-set production was 90 minutes, start to finish. This allowed for one or two “tape stops” of the big, unwieldy 2″ videotape machines. It took several minutes to restart after a tape stop.
And amidst the high-pressure schedule, each of the three Open Studio producers, Loni Ding, Irene del Rosario Buck, and Valentine Herz, had to shoot two half-hour programs each week, be in preparation with two programs in the coming week, and in early pre-production for two more programs two weeks further in the future. Always it was working with individuals and groups that had only a minimal understanding of the elements of a 30 minute TV program so considerable “ground work” was necessary for each production. Whatever the limitations, financial and technical, Open Studio programs won local Emmy awards and it was a well-regarded program offering of KQED-TV.
Into this high-pressure production group, Loni began to do work required to produce a TV program on the Chinese Archeological Exhibition, an early attempt by China to become less isolated from the world. The exhibition had taken place in Paris and in Washington, D.C., and through the efforts of many had finally been scheduled to be at the de Young Museum. Loni worked at top speed, without any money, without any grants, and finally, through her relentless and effective outreach, had a production crew ready to go to the exhibit overnight, starting at 10 pm and going till 7 am, for four nights to do the principal photography of the exhibition that became part of the 90 minute PBS special titled, “600 Millennia: China’s History Unearthed.”
After the last night of shooting, Loni needed a lift back to her home near Chinatown and I gave her a ride. On the way home Loni suggested that we go get some dim sum, at the time, a food unknown to me. At the small restaurant in Chinatown, Loni suggested that I might like to try chicken feet. I agreed, and a plate of chicken feet, well-cooked and delicious, arrived at our table and I ate them with great pleasure. Then Loni suggested that I try duck feet, which were also quite good, but not as good as the chicken feet, in my opinion. I was hooked.
I always seek out chicken feet when I get to a new Chinese restaurant. It is an addiction which I greatfully attribute to my on-going collegial friendship I’ve had with Loni. She leaves a great legacy in terms of the many that she has trained, taught, and worked with.
Loni Ding, PRESENTE!