UTPA production company brings home second Lone Star Emmy
Posted: 11/02/2009
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The University of Texas-Pan American's Reel to Red Productions has received a Lone Star EMMY for its documentary "The Heart of Experience." The student internship program has already won a Lone Star EMMY in 2007 and this marks the second EMMY win in its five-year history.

Pictured from left to right are Reel 2 Red students Hilda Del Rio and Alexis Carranza; Chelse Benham, executive director of R2R; and students Alina Ortega and Victor Ituarte.

The results were announced at the 7th Annual Lone Star EMMY Awards ceremony in Dallas on Saturday, Oct.17.

"It's always an honor to be nominated. It validates our work because other professionals recognize the quality and theme of the program," said Chelse Benham, director of Reel to Red Productions, an extension of the Office of University Relations.

Dr. Ken Buckman, coordinating producer and director of the UTPA Honors Program, said the nomination underscores the tangible reality of the depth of talent that exists at UTPA and in the Rio Grande Valley.

"It puts the rest of the state on notice that the Valley is ready to take its place on a much, much larger stage," said Buckman, who was recently named a 2009 Piper Professor by the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation.

"The Heart of Experience" follows 38 UTPA students as they journeyed into eastern Europe in 2008. The project was initiated by Buckman, who wanted to feature the impact and transformative experience that studying abroad has on students.

"This effort started innocently and naively enough a couple of years ago as a way to heighten the profile of the University Honors Program," Buckman said. "I asked Chelse if I could borrow a camera to film the Honors Study Abroad experience after which we started collaborating to make this a professional effort."

Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Paul Sale and Sandra Quintanilla, director of the Office of University Relations, provided financial support. "The University has a strong commitment to the globalization of the curriculum including study abroad," Sale said. "It was important for us to be able to document how student lives are changed based on UTPA's commitment and the dedication of faculty to help students experience international learning milieus." It is the first study abroad documentary of its complexity done by a university, according to research conducted by the Reel to Red team.

"I believe Dr. Buckman and Dr. Sale had great vision and understanding about the impact studying abroad has on students," Benham said. "They believed this was a great story and they were right."

Benham noted it is difficult to show transformative experience because of its abstract nature. Ultimately, the transformation was expressed through thought-provoking student reflections in the field and post-interviews.

Reel to Red worked in collaboration with the UTPA Honors Study Abroad Program, the Office of the Provost, the International Women's Board, and the Office of University Relations.

Reel to Red Productions is a multi-award-winning, student-operated production internship program in the Office of University Relations at UTPA.

Reel to Red received a Lone Star EMMY for its dramatic film "Dead Letter." "Going Nowhere," nominated for a Lone Star EMMY in 2005, garnered a national Telly Award for the group in 2005. "The UTPA Today Show," which spotlights points of excellence at UTPA, was also nominated for a Lone Star EMMY in 2007.

Altogether, Reel to Red has earned 13 regional and national awards and its works have been shown in film festivals as far as Germany.

More information about the documentary is available at