By Judy Shields
Photos Courtesy of KCET
Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 8/28/2019 – “We are really proud of what we were able to shape with this initial one hour special and we are excited to share it and use it as a springboard for conversations and dialogue.” David Grabias, director, creator and producer of NIGHTSHIFT told The Hollywood Times in a recent phone conversation.
KCET, a producer of award-winning and diverse original content for public media, and Artifact Nonfiction, an award-winning documentary content studio, announced today a new hour-long documentary called NIGHTSHIFT that follows five Los Angeles residents in their routines as night shift workers. The filmmakers take viewers on an intimate and atmospheric journey to the world of people who work while the city sleeps to explain why jobs like these are growing. Set to premiere just after Labor Day, the co-production NIGHTSHIFT premieres Tues., Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. PT on KCET in Southern California and Wed., Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on Link TV nationwide (DirecTV channel 375 and DISH Network channel 9410).
Following the broadcast, each episode will stream at kcet.org/nightshift and on the free KCET app (available on Roku and Apple TV), the PBS Video app (available on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, the App Store and Google Play), as well as on YouTube.
While most of us are sleeping, nearly 15 million Americans are heading off to work. NIGHTSHIFT immerses viewers in the diverse experiences of five of those workers over the course of a single night and a day, showing what each of them does to keep the 24-hour economy running. Along the way, they share their feelings about their own lives, and make observations about issues that impact us all. The documentary also explores the reasoning behind their choice to clock in as the sun sets, each explaining their role in their communities, the necessity of their occupations and why the usual nine-to-five workday is not an option for them.
Subjects featured in the documentary:
Harriet Hayes is a baker with Bub and Grandma’s, a wholesale artisanal bread bakery in Silver Lake. Harriet and her husband moved to Los Angeles 10 years ago and has two kids. Harriet left a career in marketing and found her calling in bread. Working nights helps her to balance career and family — in particular, it allows her to be around during the day for her son who requires special needs.
Vincent Marsala, a marine veteran, works as a night shift superintendent at LA Stadium, the new home of the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers, being built by Rams Owner/Chairman E. Stanley Kroenke in Inglewood, CA. During the daytime, he participates in a mentoring program that aims to inspire high school students to consider the construction field as a career. Vincent proudly sees his work on the stadium, opening summer 2020, as part of history, with his fingerprints embedded on a soon-to-be iconic structure in the Los Angeles landscape.
Veronica Lagunas works as a nighttime janitor at an office building in downtown Los Angeles. When Veronica isn’t on the job or taking care of her family, she can be found volunteering as a workers’ rights activist and as an instructor in a self-defense class geared towards female custodians, who face high rates of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Carlos Franco is the owner/operator of a family-run, wholesale produce stall at the downtown 7th Street Market. Carlos has been a part of the market his whole life, having worked there as a young boy before eventually taking over the business from his parents. He lives in East LA and has watched as the neighborhood where he lives — and now the one where he works — have been impacted by gentrification.
Katheryn Cabanillas is a divorced single mom with four kids who has worked with UPS for 16 years. When she started, her only focus was getting medical benefits for herself and her children. Today she manages overnight shipments from everywhere between Alaska and California. The night shift allows her to be available for her kids — taking them to school, picking them up and helping them with homework.
Join the conversation on social media using #nightshift
This film is truly one that should be watched together with your family. To be able to talk about these people that have to work nights and give up any type of normal daytime job. Each one of these five hardworking folks take you into their private life before sharing their work life and it will make those of us proud to be able to work during the day. The stories behind their jobs and why they work at night make them heroes to their kids. Just imagine how many people it takes to get jobs done while most of us sleep. I sure look forward to this one hour special becoming a series of other Nightshift workers across California and the United States.
The film sure touches your heart and is an emotional one at that. David Grabias and his team did an amazing job capturing the lives of the five NightShift workers. Share with your family and friends about this upcoming one hour special premiering on KCET Tuesday, September 3 at 8 p.m. PT.
The Hollywood Times had the opportunity to speak with be filmmaker David Grabias from Artifact NonFiction
The Hollywood Times (THT): Let’s talk about your many hats as Director, Producer and Writer on this new project.
David Grabias: ”Let’s talk about where the idea came from first. I was inspired initially by my experience 20 years ago starting in Los Angeles in the film business and a lighting assistant. I worked on low budget movies, videos and commercials. A lot of those jobs where super low paying night shoots, where they would call you at noon and say can you work tonight from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m. and I would find myself driving to these empty lots downtown and before the arts district existed or somewhere out at the edge of the valley, like Sun Valley. Every job at night I was struck by how many people were awake. It would be busy downtown say at 2 a.m. Not only were people working but there was this infrastructure that grew up to support them, like food trucks, the corner stores, all that kind of stuff. That really struck me, the idea that Los Angeles, even then was this 24-hour city. No matter what time of night people were working doing stuff. If you drive around LA in the middle of night, at 2 o’clock in the morning, there is just this incredible tone, this incredible mood, this lightening and those orange sodium vapor lights, the sound and hum of the city is different. There is wildlife and coyotes running across the road, there is just this incredible wavelength, this real set of colors and sounds that were kind of unique. It always stuck with me and I had the opportunity to talk with KCET about some projects. We started talking about the nightshift and they shared my enthusiasm for trying to capture that part of the cities culture and obviously it’s labor force to try and understand who was up and what are they doing and why they are doing it. That is really where it came from. I worked with them and the team here at our company Artifact Nonfiction to develop the stories and find, develop and produce them. There was a producer here in-house that helped me arrange the stories to produce them and then I went out with the crew, a very small crew of three or four, who were crazy enough to stay up all night after being up all day to film and document the stories that we found.”
“It was really amazing. Just really struck by the incredible people we encountered, who are working at night and how everyone in their own way, through their job and what they were doing was really wrestling and trying to come to terms with very human issues that all of us are impacted by. Being a single parent trying to raise kids, to having a kind of sexual harassment in the workplace. We found that this nightshift was an ideal pallet, not only to distill these human stories or explore these larger social issues that were pretty profound.”
THT: How did you go about choosing these folks featured in Nightshift?
David Grabias: “I think we tried really hard to find people who you wanted to spend time with. I think it was important to find compelling human stories. In a sense, these fives characters are all tour guides. Your guide into this world that you don’t know it exist or not aware of how big it is or how complicated it is and they kind of by getting to know them, they bring you into that world. The opening sequence of each of the stories, we tried to have a moment that you get to spend a little time with them before you go to work with them. For example, Katheryn is putting her makeup on and blowdrying her hair. Then having dinner with her kids before she heads out to work. Harriett goes out for a run before work at 3 o’clock in the morning. Here is this incredible person that you are going to enjoy spending time with that is compelling and charismatic and then they are going to take you into this world, literally and figuratively. We spent a lot of time finding and developing those stories and went through a lot of options before settling on those five stories.”
THT: How was it directing this documentary?
David Grabias: “It was great. It was really exciting for me to have the opportunity to aesthetically in terms of mood, tone and cinematography and sound design to really push things. We wanted to give viewers the experience of what it is like to be up at night. Everyone that we have talked to ourselves and we are up with these people and this strange kind of hybrid of being very still and quiet and moody. Then obviously the energy and the activity of the job that you are doing and so we tried to capture that through the very stylized approach to cinematography, really taking out time. In editorially being that the shots last a long time it’s not fast cut, it’s not super flashy, it’s really trying to be meditative and experiential for the audience. That was really great and an amazing opportunity as a director to work with the team to shape that vision and follow through and execute on it.”
THT: Will this be a series?
David Grabias: “The idea was in our initial talks with KCET that they loved the idea and concept. They were excited to partner with our company Artifact Nonfiction on this initial set of five stories and packing them as a one hour documentary as well as releasing them digitally as individual stories. The idea was always use this as a pilot sort of speak to see how great the idea might be. Hopefully turn it into a series. We feel there is a lot of opportunity there and just not in Los Angeles but nationwide to dive into this 24-hour economy and explore the future of labor through very human stories.”
“There are so many jobs where people have to be up at night because they are working with someone in China or someone in Europe because of the time zone they need to be up. All the call centers that gets calls about their computer not working. From back east to around the world. Always been this nightshift industry who work that shift and we have found that it is increasing in this on-demand with the gig economy, Uber and all that kind of stuff. People are working more different hours and they are on-call throughout the night and the weekends. As a country trying to figure out who this is impacting our culture and how does it shape the life of the people in our communities.”
David Grabias – Director
David is the founder of Artifact and an Emmy nominee whose documentaries have aired on PBS, HBO, A&E, National Geographic and Discovery, and been supported by the Sundance Institute, the California Council for the Humanities, the Hartley Foundation, the Humane Society, and the Center for Asian American Media, among others. With dozens of films to his credit, David has extensive experience creating content that engages communities and generates dialogue. David’s most recent documentary films OPERATION POPCORN and SENTENCED HOME were shown on PBS and explored the experience of Southeast Asian refugee communities in the U.S. Delving into the roots of fundamentalism, his HBO film KORAN BY HEART portrayed young Muslims competing in a Koran memorization contest in Dubai. David’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Sonoma Museum of Art and Small Green Door in Los Angeles.
On-air, online and in the community, KCET plays a vital role in the cultural and educational enrichment of Southern and Central California. KCET offers a wide range of award-winning local programming as well as the finest public television programs from around the world. Throughout its 54-year history, KCET has won hundreds of major awards for its local and regional news and public affairs programming, its national drama and documentary productions, its quality educational family and children’s programs, its outreach and community services and its website, kcet.org. KCET is a donor-supported community institution. For additional information about KCET productions, web-exclusive content, programming schedules and community events, please visit kcet.org. Select original programming from KCET is also available for streaming on Apple TV, YouTube, Amazon and Roku platforms. For more information please visit kcet.org/apps. KCET is a content channel of the Public Media Group of Southern California.
ABOUT ARTIFACT NONFICTION
Based in Los Angeles, Artifact Nonfiction is a documentary content studio that celebrates the diversity of the human spirit. Artifact’s filmmakers are among the most respected in the field, having garnered Academy Awards and nominations, Emmy Awards and nominations, Clios, Geminis, and numerous film festival prizes. Founded in 2001, Artifact Nonfiction has collaborated with institutions including ITVS, HBO, A&E, Discovery, The Sundance Institute, California Humanities, The Center for Asian American Media, and the Museum of Modern Art In New York. For more information please visit www.ArtifactNonfiction.com.