Carroll couple win Emmy for electric car documentary

McDaniel College professor of cinema Jonathan Slade, along with his wife Novia Campbell, were awarded an Emmy from the National Capital Chapter June 27 for their work creating the film "Electric Road Trip." In filming the documentary, Slade said he was fulfilling a lifelong dream.

In 2012, Slade and Campbell purchased a Nissan Leaf, an electric car with a range of about 100 miles. Within a couple of months, Slade said, he had fallen in love with the car and wanted to test its limits.


"I proposed to Novia that instead of a summer vacation, we drive this thing across the state of Maryland," Slade said. "It was a way to test the car, and to get a look at the infrastructure that was out there."

Before becoming a full-time educator, Slade worked as a producer with Maryland Public Television for 11 years. He decided to turn this vacation idea into a documentary, going out and purchasing four GoPro cameras and beginning to plan the trip from Oakland to Ocean City.

"We made it out to Oakland and began shooting before I really found any funding for it and before MPT had committed to working with us," Slade said. "It was really just a passion project."

The trip got off to a tough start immediately, according to Campbell. Because the couple lives in Woodbine, they essentially needed to cross half the state before they were able to begin their trip in earnest. While traveling near Thurmont, they got caught in a horrible thunderstorm while heading up the hills.

"We were still learning the vehicle and we were climbing these giant hills and mountains and losing mileage," Campbell said. "There was this anxiety and fear that we were going to fail before we got started."

Once they began their journey, though, Slade said the trip went relatively smoothly. The biggest challenge was the lack of infrastructure on either end of the state.

"At the time, there was a much more primordial version of [Electric Vehicle] infrastructure," Slade said. "There weren't any charging stations west of Hagerstown and at the time there was only one set east of Kent Island. You hit those EV deserts and made it a little bit of a challenge."

In the past three years, Slade said additional charging stations have been appearing throughout the state, with a few out west and more out east, where previously there had been none. Mount Airy recently added a charging station downtown here in Carroll.

Driving an electric car has been a dream of Slade's since he was a child.

"I remember being a little kid, and my uncle had this remote control electric car," Slade said. "It was a toy, and had an electric battery. I remember thinking, why can't a real car be like this?"

The trip from border-to-coast eventually took the couple six days. Campbell said she appreciated the leisurely pace.

"It's kind of a love letter to the state," Campbell said. "It gave me time to appreciate more of the state I live in. It's said that Maryland is America in miniature. If you take the time to cross the state and not just fly across it, you realize it does have everything — mountains, lakes, oceans, plains."

Throughout the six days, footage was shot from the four GoPros with one mounted on the roof of the car, one pointing to the driver's side, one to the passenger's side and one handheld camera. Slade said this kind of documentary wouldn't have been possible just a few years ago, without these commercially available cameras.

"It allows you to tell totally different stories that are so much more spontaneous and intimate," Slade said. "They're so tiny and unobtrusive that people don't recognize them. Before shooting, I was talking to friends of mine working in public TV. They said to do this, we'd need a chase van with cameras, someone in the back seat to help shoot it. I told him it's not really a vacation then; it's a documentary production."


The documentary was eventually assembled from more than 50 hours of footage from the four cameras. Slade said the final product stylistically had more in common with reality television than with standard public television documentaries. Because of the stylistic differences, he said he was surprised when they won the Emmy from the National Capital Chesapeake Chapter for "Technology Program/Special." This is Slade's sixth Emmy, having won four for the Vid Kid series while working at MPT and another for his documentary "Eatin' Crabs in the Chesapeake."

For Campbell though, an perioperative nurse at Hanover, Pa., Hospital, this was her first chance to win an award.

"It's so exciting to be a part of it. I've gone to the ceremony several times in the past with Jonathan, but this is the first time I got to be awarded as well," Campbell said. "I ended up taking it into work to show everyone the Emmy."


Fellow McDaniel prof Bigwood wins audio Emmy

McDaniel College adjunct professor Jim Bigwood, who teaches audio production, was also awarded an Audio Emmy for his audio production on "D-Day at 70: A Salute to America's Greatest Generation." The production featured performances by the U.S. Air Force Band. Bigwood said his work on the concert program was a joy.

"We got to work alongside with the Air Force people," Bigwood said. "There were two of us from MPT mixing the sound and two of their guys mixing sound. I love working with those guys."

In order to ensure the concert sounded great when broadcast over the air, the four audio production engineers were responsible for mixing the levels taken in by 56 separate mics, using 60 faders.

This is Bigwood's fourth Emmy win in a row, having won previously for "The Morgan State University Choir: Lift Every Heart" and twice for "America's Veterans: A Musical Tribute."