By Myra Saturen
April 03, 2012
From their base in Easton, Pennsylvania, Lou Reda and his family have produced more than 500 programs, for the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, A & E and many other national and international networks. More than ten percent of all shows on the History Channel and
A & E are their creations. What's more, the Redas were the first company to do a miniseries on any network. The Blue and the Gray, starring Gregory Peck and produced in 1982 for CBS, began a genre viewers have enjoyed ever since. The Redas' archives number 15,000 hours and 115 million feet of footage and their Rolodex--the old-fashioned metal and cardboard kind-records countless numbers of contacts.
How did the 3-generation company achieve such success? On April 3, Lou Reda, chairman of Lou Reda Productions and his grandson Adam Reda, director of archives, came to Northampton Community College and showed how they built and expanded a thriving, family-owned film production business.
Through trailers and segments of Vietnam in HD and The Mob Experience, the Redas showed how they blend interviews with first-hand participants with portrayals by Hollywood actors to convey a dynamic, well-articulated rendering of historical and current events. In Vietnam in HD, footage filmed by professional videographers and the veterans themselves showed the chaos, violence, death, and injury of that war. The Mob Experience depicted a Las Vegas museum specializing in artifacts from gangsters, including the gun used to kill the notorious hitman "Bugsby" Siegel, in 1947.
The Redas described the many steps required to produce films such as these, from making and keeping contacts to research, finding the right network, pitching, arranging for usage rights, financing, digitizing, and then marketing the finished show. Marketing, in particular, calls for imagination and skill. A film can be translated into many languages and reborn as books and even games. "You have to put things together that never get old," said Lou Reda.
Forging reciprocal relationships gives the Redas rare access to materials. In exchange for digitizing and copying their archival films, for instance, the U.S. Department of Defense allows the Redas free usage rights.
Lately, the Redas have become involved in reality shows as well as documentaries. And, just as they have retained a home base in Easton-in addition to a New York office-they keep many connections local. They are working on a film with Easton-born boxing champion Larry Holmes and made The Christmas City, a documentary about Bethlehem regularly shown at SteelStacks. For a documentary about the 1918 flu epidemic, the Redas erected a hospital backdrop on Second Street in Bethlehem, furnishing the set with beds from an old Southside hotel and mattresses from Easton Hospital. For a film about the Spanish-American War, they used a junkyard in Stockertown as the background.
As shown by the Redas' career, said moderator and NCC Associate Professor of Journalism Rob Hays, "You don't have to leave the Lehigh Valley to be successful."
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