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Stories In Motion
Ray Steups productions bringing stories to life
By Jim Mount
Fort Wayne Reader
Thinking of PBS, a lot of programs come to mind; Sesame Street, Brit-coms and a host of dramas not regularly seen on a typical network channel. But probably the programs that most come to mind are the documentaries. From Ken Burns to Nova to Frontline, PBS has been known for including educational documentaries in with their programming.
Here locally, it's no different. Ray Steup, a producer at PBS39, sits comfortably in his editing suite putting together stories he feels passionate about. More recently, he's been working on one about the work of special needs artists and another a story about Honor Flight NE Indiana on a recent rip to the World War Two Memorial in Washington D.C.
“I'm working on a couple of different projects right now.” Steup says. “Back in October, myself and Matt Kyle, Chief Engineer at PBS39 had the opportunity to go with the Honor Flight NE Indiana on a trip to Washington D.C. with a group of World War Two veterans. I'll be producing a thirty minute documentary about that, but I'm also working on one that's being underwritten by the Anthony Wayne Services Foundation and that's about special needs artists.”
“One of the segments from that documentary will be about the ‘Sculpture With Purpose’ Steup says. “It's kind of related to the ‘Sculpture With Purpose’ project that IPFW is doing where they are going to have bike stands all around the city of Fort Wayne and they are working in conjunction with Anthony Wayne Services Foundation who have a number of organizations that are creating these bike art projects that will actually be going on these bike stands. I've been doing a lot of filming at several different locations.”
Steup continues: “These bike art creations are going to be just one segment of the thirty minute documentary. I also have plans to do a segment on a young man who does photography and another on the Jesters, which is a group of special needs artists that is associated with the University of Saint Francis. Every year they produce a play or a musical that is presented in March at the University of Saint Francis. Also, we hope to include a segment on the Whitley County Dazzlers which is a group of young ladies who have Downs Syndrome and are a cheer leading squad. They will be performing May 10th at the Disabilities Expo at the Memorial Coliseum.”
In regards to Honor Flight NE Indiana Steup says that when they got back from their trip they were able to put some short videos together as well as obtain some funding.
“I just found out here recently that we have that funding now so we'll start working on a full thirty minute documentary on the Honor Flight NE Indiana,” Steup says. “It was a great privilege and a tremendous experience for Matt and I to travel with Honor Flight NE Indiana. They are a non-profit organization that has sent over 700 veterans to see the World War Two Memorial built in tribute to their sacrifice and I truly believe that those men and women are just as journalist Tom Brokaw describes — the ‘Greatest Generation’.”
Steup has always had the bug for videography and the urge to tell stories. Going back to his high school days, Steup recalls how things started coming together; “I was in the Audio/Visual club and me and my buddies I hung out with would make these little 8 millimeter movies. It was also where we produced a documentary about the Fort Wayne Fire Department since my dad was a firefighter in the FWFD. That documentary won a Farnsworth Award so I guess that's what really put the bug in me where I decided I wanted to go to college and learn a little bit more about how to do the whole video production thing.”
Steups professional career began in the late seventies with channel 55 as a Master Control Operator;
“I worked at channel 55 during the Blizzard of '78,” Steup recalls. “I worked with Kent Hormann and we did the Snow-A-Thon during the Blizzard of '78 when were snowed in for about four days. Since we weren't going anywhere the decision was made to stay on the air for 24 hours with programming and live breaks.”
Steup continued on from 55 to WANE 15 where he worked for several years as a news photographer. Speaking of his experience there, Steup felt this to be an important part of his becoming a producer and telling stories. “You really learn to think on your feet, which in doing documentary work, in my opinion, is not all that dissimilar from doing news in that you are trying to document things as they happen.” To Steup, as a photographer, still photography plays an important part in producing and shaping a story as well as enhancing his skill as a videographer; “I think that still and video photography have a lot in common and that being a still photographer helps me to be a better videographer and visual storyteller.”
After a number of years at WANE, Steup moved on to Lutheran Hospital where he worked as an Audio/Visual specialist producing staff and patient education videos. Working there in Information Technology for a number of years Steup felt the need to rejoin the creative field. Leaving Lutheran Hospital, Steup hired in at PBS39 as a production assistant where his career took hold; “I actually got out of video production for a number of years and worked in Information Technology, got burned out on that and decided I wanted top do the creative thing again. Got a job here (at PBS39) as a production assistant and I think I had this position for about six months before I was lucky enough that they got approved for another Producer/Director position that they offered to me.”
Since then, Steup has produced a number of documentaries and won a few awards along the way including The Changing Face of Disability, underwritten by Anthony Wayne Services and which won a bronze telly award. Green Renovation, a documentary about the renovation of the 150 year old administration building on the Fort Wayne Campus of Indiana Tech won a bronze Telly Award and A Watershed Mentality which was a documentary about the Maumee River watershed was nominated for a 2007 Videography Regional Award and won the 2008 Videographer Award of Distinction. But what really drives Steup is the opportunity to convey a story not necessarily by his own words but by allowing the subjects of his project, Special Needs Artists, to speak for themselves. “That's what gets me really excited is being able to tell a story and convey to the viewer the passion, the excitement, the emotion that people who are involved in these types of work convey and that's what I hope to do with this one that I'm working on now. To just use the words of the people who are living it, I mean, they can tell the story far more effectively than I could ever write in a script.”