NYC production company's a star in documentary scene | New York Daily News

NYC production company's a star in documentary scene | New York Daily News

By Jon Kalish | October 11, 2012

Even after four decades, this little Chinatown production house couldn’t be more plugged in.

Downtown Community Television Center, a pioneer in TV production, has spent years training aspiring high school filmmakers while quietly producing some of the most compelling real-life programming ever seen on the boob tube.

The center was founded 40 years ago Thursday by husband-and-wife team Jon Alpert and Keiko Tsuno.

“Keiko and I are good at putting a camera in front of people and letting them tell their story,” says Alpert, a black belt in karate who still plays ice hockey at the age of 63. “That’s what we teach here at DCTV.”

Based in an old firehouse — where the couple live — the group has won 15 Emmy Awards, including four for the 2006 HBO documentary “Baghdad E.R.,” which followed military doctors struggling to save lives in war-torn Iraq.

Other major broadcast partners have included PBS and NBC.

The latter network split acrimoniously with DCTV, after a 13-year relationship with the production house, over a hard-hitting report on civilian casualties during the Gulf War.

“When you call them the way you see them, every once and a while that gangplank gets run out on the side of the ship and you’re going overboard,” Alpert says.

The other side of its business — and possibly its most important, Alpert says — is how it trains high school and college students for jobs in the TV and film industry, offering hands-on experience.

The couple love to crow about their alumni, who have raked in coveted industry awards, including local Emmys and prizes at the Sundance Film Festival.

Its legions of alumni can be found working at major networks, at universities and as independent filmmakers.

One former student, Maryann DeLeo, won an Oscar in 2004 for “Chernobyl Heart,” her documentary about children born after the Russian nuclear disaster who have deadly heart conditions.

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