OCTV’s ‘My Life’ wins Philo Award: Program shares local folks’ stories, preserves past for future generations

OCTV Host John Oetjens (right) interviews retired Oxford Leader Publisher James A. Sherman, Sr., a World War II veteran, for "My Life" in 2014. This is one of the 135 episodes that have aired since October 2013. File photo by C.J. Carnacchio.
OCTV Host John Oetjens (right) interviews retired Oxford Leader Publisher James A. Sherman, Sr., a World War II veteran, for “My Life” in 2014. This is one of the 135 episodes that have aired since October 2013. File photo by C.J. Carnacchio.

Oxford Community Television is on a roll.

For the third consecutive year, the station will be recognized with an award at the Philo Festival of Media Arts, to be held at the Orion Neighborhood Television studio in Orion Township on Friday, Oct. 20.

An episode of the OCTV original program “My Life” was named winner of the “military” category. The two-part episode is a compilation of interviews with local veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

John Oetjens, host and producer of “My Life,” said he’s “extremely pleased” to receive this recognition.

“I’m just tickled todeath,” he said.”It’s a personal achievement,” said Russel Currier, cameraman and editor for”My Life.”

OCTV cameraman and editor Russel Currier, who's originally from Leonard, has been working for the station since 2013. He got the job because of an ad in The Oxford Leader.
OCTV cameraman and editor Russel Currier, who’s originally from Leonard, has been working for the station since 2013. He got the job because of an ad in The Oxford Leader.

“It really shows my skills can be appreciated by other people. That’s what I take from this. I am proud of myself and John for doing so much on the show. He does more than I do.”

The veterans compilation episode was edited by Ashley Pointe, who’s worked for OCTV since August 2016.

Both Oetjens and Currier view this Philo Award as not just an honor for them, but for the station as a whole.

“To win another Philo Award, the third year in a row, it’s amazing to me,” added Currier, who grew up in Leonard, attended Oxford High School and now lives in Oakland Township.

The Philo Festival is for professional, volunteer and youth producers and filmmakers in or around the central states region, which includes Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. The festival is named after Philo T. Farnsworth, the father of modern television.

“My Life” debuted in October 2013 and since then, 135 episodes have aired. It can be seen at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and again, at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

The show features riveting, in-depth interviews with people, primarily senior citizens living in the Oxford area. Locals such as long-time Oxford booster Helen Smith, who passed away in 2015, and retired Oxford Leader Publisher James A. Sherman, Sr. are among those who have been profiled.

“The purpose of the show is to get local people . . . to talk about their lives in detail,”said Oetjens, who’s worked for OCTV since September 2013 and now lives in National City, Michigan, near Tawas.

Oetjens asks them all sorts of questions about their childhood experiences, their families, their education, their jobs or careers, their involvement in the community, their military service, their achievements, their hobbies and what they’re up to these days.

“This really is what community television is all about,” he said. “You’re not going to find this stuff anywhere else. You’re not going to find this on channels 2, 4 or 7, or any of the cable stations.”

A typical episode lasts 30 minutes, but that’s not always enough.

“A lot of times we find ourselves in a situation where it’s such a great story, it requires more time,” Oetjens said. “We keep recording and put some of it into a second or even a third episode.”

His interview with Holocaust survivor Erna Blitzer Gorman, a Jew of Polish and Ukrainian descent, was that way.

“My goodness, we could have gone into four episodes,” Oetjens said. “It was just unbelievable. What a story.”

Oetjens has thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities he’s had to interview World War II veterans.

“It’s really been neat to sit down and talk to these guys about their lives,” he said. “I was appalled (by) what they had to go through during those times, but I was appreciative of what they went through on our behalf as a country.

“They’re great figures in the history of our country . . . I admire them to no end andI am grateful that they were there.”

Oetjens “can’t stress enough” the valuable role OCTV Station Manager Bill Service,a U.S. Air Force veteran, plays in recruiting veterans for “My Life” and other programs.

“Without him, we wouldn’t have nearly (the level of) veteran participation that we’ve had,” he said.

In addition to being educational, community-oriented programming, “My Life” is also a way for Oetjens to make up for somethinghe never took the time to do.

“In my own life, I regret that I didn’t think to ask my grandparents the important questions when they were still alive. I was too young,” he said.

“I feel the same way,” noted Currier, who’s worked for OCTV since August 2013. “I never got to know one of my grandparents and I would have loved to have talked to him about his time in Korea.”

Oetjens hopes interviewing others and recording their personal histories “will be of some value to folks in the future,” whether it’s family members, historians, genealogists or community members.

Currier believes the show is also a good way for younger people to receive some valuable “life lessons” from the experiences of older folks and the challenges they faced.

“People can learn a lot from these stories,” he said.

OCTV’s previous Philo Awards were for “Connie’s Kitchen,” a cooking program filmed at Treetop Lodge that won in the instructional category last year, and “Our Community Access,” a feature program for which Production Manager Teri Stiles received an Excellence in Directing award in 2015.

OCTV can be viewed by Charter cable subscribers on Channel 191. AT&T U-verse subscribers can tune in to Channel 99. Programs can also be viewed at YouTube.com.

To learn more about the station, visit www.occtv.org.

 

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