Uncommon Courage: Breakout At Chosin set to air on Memorial Day, May 31

Posted April 27, 2010 by kpitv
Categories: history, news

The Korean War may be considered “The Forgotten War,” but it brought us an unforgettable hero. During the war, Lieutenant Chew-Een Lee, the first commissioned U.S. Marine regular officer of Chinese descent, battled communism, injuries, hypothermia and racism to help 8,000 U.S. Marines stave off certain capture at the hands of the enemy. Lt. Lee’s remarkable story is told in a Smithsonian Channel original special, UNCOMMON COURAGE: BREAKOUT AT CHOSIN, premiering this Memorial Day, Monday, May 31 at 8pm ET/PT.

Prior to the Korean War, the idea of an Asian American leading a U.S. Marine platoon on the battlefield would have been unthinkable. Just a few years earlier in World War II, Japanese Americans had been placed in internment camps and racial segregation was still the rule in most of the United States. Lt. Lee, who would eventually rise to the rank of Major, ushered in a new era in American military history. His story is more than one of breaking barriers; it is a story of courage, grit and dogged determination. Through rare archival footage of the war and exclusive interviews with Lt. Lee and the men who served with him, Uncommon Courage recounts the extraordinary story of one of the key moments of the Korean War, the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir.

“The heroism of the Marines at the Chosin Reservoir is one of the legendary moments in U.S. military history,” said David Royle, Executive Vice President, Programming and Production, for Smithsonian Channel. “But the story of Major Lee is not only one of outstanding bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, it is also about his courage in overcoming racial discrimination. He is a true American hero from a largely forgotten war, a Chinese American whose significance transcends his military heroism and is even greater than he might realize.”

The one-hour special also looks at the Chinese experience in America, examining typical American attitudes toward Asians at the time, through the eyes of Lt. Lee and his men. Their stories all come together when they meet for the first time at Camp Pendleton, California, just two weeks before shipping out to Korea. Lt. Lee was the untested Marine officer and his green recruits had never spoken with a Chinese man, much less taken orders from one.
Joe Owen, one of the Marines who served under Lt. Lee, offered this tribute: “We started out a company full of untrained reservists and misfits and at the end… we considered ourselves to be the best God-damned rifle company in the Marine Corps. And we attribute it to the example, the ideals, set by Chew-Een Lee.”

After the Korean War, Lt. Lee would rise to the rank of Major and draw on his experiences to train a new generation of Marine Corps officers.


KPI, DreamWorks and Steven Spielberg to work together on new Science Channel series “Rebuilding Ground Zero.”

Posted January 20, 2010 by kpitv
Categories: news, pre-production, science, series

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Science Channel announced today that Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg will join forces with the network, DreamWorks Television and KPI Productions to create the definitive documentary series about the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site in New York City.  Under the agreement, Spielberg will serve as executive producer and creative advisor on REBUILDING GROUND ZERO (wt), a six-part television event set to premiere on Science Channel in 2011.

The brainchild of professional architect Danny Forster (host and producer of Science Channel’s BUILD IT BIGGER) and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Jonathan Hock, REBUILDING GROUND ZERO (wt) will chronicle the uplifting, innovative reengineering of the World Trade Center site through the eyes of the people – architects, engineers, construction workers and city planners – charged with making One World Trade Center and its surrounding area a reality.  Their amazing story is one of inventive architectural design and brand new science powered by an emotional determination to help heal their wounds, their city and their country.

What makes an earthquake “swarm”?

Posted November 4, 2009 by kpitv
Categories: science, shoots

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Reno, Nevada may be known as a popular gambling destination, but it is also the site of thousands of earthquakes that rocked the city last year. Scientists call the mysterious quakes a “swarm,” but what causes them is unclear – and the term itself is a bit ambiguous. In fact, my first question upon assignment to the project was, “What exactly is a swarm?”

There is no precedent for the growing frequency and intensity of the earthquakes in Reno last year. Unlike a typical mainshock-aftershock earthquake sequence, the Reno earthquakes struck with increasing magnitude hundreds, even thousands of times over a period of less than one year. Over the course of ten days, our crew questioned seismologists, geodesists and emergency responders for answers as to why this phenomenon occurred. Their insight into potential causes of the earthquakes astonished me. But I still couldn’t conceptualize just what a swarm is–-what hundreds of small earthquakes hitting every day must have felt like.

Fortunately, my confusion cleared up on the last day of our shoot. And ironically, it wasn’t a scientist who provided the answer. While sitting on a dusty slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I asked our Production Assistant, a student at the University of Nevada in Reno, “How would you define the swarm?” Her explanation was a real eye-opener: “It was like someone playing a drum nonstop. You couldn’t hear the beats, but you could feel the vibrations.”

Katherine de Gaullier des Bordes, Associate Producer

Naked Science: Reno Earthquake Swarm

Naked Science: Earthquake Swarm airs Thursday, November 5th at 10PM/9C on National Geographic Channel


Posted October 22, 2009 by kpitv
Categories: series, shoots

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So the “Clash of the Gods” series is now in the books. All ten episodes have aired. Tweets and comments from the blogosphere have been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Seems the series won over some hard-core fans, which is extremely gratifying to all of us who worked on it.

Since the series premiered, probably its single-most talked about feature has been the special-effects make-up that brought the gods and monsters to such vivid life. Never before has cable TV (or really, even Hollywood) presented such a diverse, imaginative and unique cast of characters. Medusa. Grendel. Hades. The Cyclops. Each character was approached with a fresh eye for what would be most haunting and dramatic. Inspiration was taken from ancient renderings, but wasn’t slave to them. In the end, the make-up team made an enormous difference in the look of the series, and gave it the visual eye candy that really stands out from the TV pack.


Ill Willed Productions (www.illwilled.com) was the driving force behind the make-up and practical special FX. Tate Steinsiek, Matt Green and their teams worked tirelessly for months on this, and brought an energy and creativity to these characters that really pops on screen. We have our fingers crossed that they’ll get an Emmy nomination for make-up on this. But they really don’t even need one. We’re thrilled to report that IllWilled has just accepted a job on a major Hollywood film starring Al Pacino called, “Mary Mother of Christ”. And, they’ve just released a new monster-shoe line from Keds. So Ill Willed is well on its way, and KPI looks forward to saying “we knew them when.”

Christopher Cassel, Director/Writer
Clash of the Gods


Posted October 13, 2009 by kpitv
Categories: history, science, series, shoots

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Area 51 - sat photo

Tikaboo Peak rises several thousand feet above Area 51 in southern Nevada. Yes–“ground zero” for UFO theorists. We’re here at 5 AM for a purely recreational hike, of course. It would be about 2 hours with a daypack, but we’ve decided to take a 200-pound lens with us, along with the rest of our gear.
Very slow-going up the mtn. There’s no clear trail and it’s straight uphill on slippery rock and gravel. We hired 4 locals to help carry extra weight, but the lens can only be carried about 30 feet before they have to put it down to rest. We should have hired three more.
About a third of the way up, an F-16 zooms right past us. Holy sh*t. Our guides are excited that he’s this
close, but, hey, could be just a coincidence.
Then the jet circles back again and then a third time, doing crazy turns and maneuvers. Our guys are starting to wonder if the military knows we’re here.
Suddenly a helicopter appears from the other side of the mtn–starts circling overhead as the F-16 continues to buzz us.
Now our guides are sure: This show is all for us. Area 51 knows we’re out here, climbing up this mtn with a box that looks suspiciously like a missile.
Our guys speculate about how they knew we were coming. One is very concerned about getting arrested and contemplates bailing out. We’re concerned we’ll get down the mtn and the local cops will be waiting for us to confiscate our tapes and gear.
The air show goes on for about 30 minutes. Our DP sees thru the viewfinder a guy in the helicopter, perched on the edge, staring straight down on us.
We finally make it to the peak around noon… More than 6 hours after we started. It’s 95 degrees. Everyone is tired and dehydrated, but we get to work. Below us is the U.S. Air Force military base known as Area 51, aka Dreamland, Paradise Ranch, Extraterrestial Highway. We have a great view of the base, but we see no aliens tap dancing on the runway. Why would they in this heat?

Area 51 from Peak

MYSTERYQUEST: ALIEN COVER-UP airs Wednesday October 14, 10PM/9c on HISTORY.

Ice Scrapers vs. the Frost Giant

Posted October 11, 2009 by kpitv
Categories: history, science, series, shoots

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The final episode of season one of CLASH OF THE GODS is THOR.
Monday October 12, 10PM/9c on HISTORY.
Sweden runestone

Hundreds of runestones can be found scattered across the countryside in Scandinavia. Many are memorial stones erected after the death of a family member to honor them, but there are some that are clear depictions of the myths and stories that filled the lives of the Norse centuries ago.
In February I traveled to Sweden with my Director of Photography Bo Randulff, and set out on a cross-country treasure hunt trying to track down a few specific runestones that told the myth of Thor, the Norse God of Thunder. It seems that no one has ever drawn a runestone map of Scandinavia, and there is no handy iPhone app, so we were relying on some long distance research and a little luck to find them. It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack that was covered in snow!
As we arrived in a little clearing in the forest we were pretty sure that we had found the site of the large rock carving we were looking for, but it was nowhere to be seen. It suddenly occurred to us that it was most likely lying under a foot of snow. Armed with only our rental car’s ice and snow scrapers we started digging, much to the amusement of some local kids. Finally we found it, and it was worth the effort.
The evil Frost Giants of the Norse myths are certainly alive and kicking, and I would have loved a helping hand from the brave Thor and his magical hammer in defeating them. But this particular battle was between the Frost Giant’s snow and me, armed only with an ice scraper.
Thor runestone
–Sarah Hodgson
Associate producer, Clash of the Gods


Posted October 2, 2009 by kpitv
Categories: history, series

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