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John Nakashima honored for his body of work by West Virginia Filmmakers Festival

John Nakashima
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

John Nakashima, a long-time producer for West Virginia Public Broadcasting has been honored for his body of work as the West Virginia Filmmaker of the Year at this past weekend’s West Virginia Filmmakers Festival (WVFF) in Sutton.

Now in its 14th year, the WVFF annually honors a West Virginia filmmaker whose most recent work or lifetime work has had the utmost impact on the West Virginia film industry. The WVFF is a competitive festival with many categories, including narrative, documentary, shorts, features, animation, horror, festival choice, and best film.

“This marks the second time a producer from West Virginia Public Broadcasting has been honored as Filmmaker of the Year,” said Scott Finn, executive director of West Virginia Public Broadcasting. “In addition, John and many of our other producers have captured ‘best of’ awards throughout the festival’s history.” (Russ Barbour, also a senior producer/editor, was Filmmaker of the Year in 2009.)

Nakashima began working for West Virginia Public Broadcasting in 1975 and is currently a senior producer/director. He has produced, directed, shot, and edited documentaries for the organization since 1977. His work explores West Virginia culture in the widest sense –- including visual and performing arts as well as traditional and modern culture. In addition, he has edited five documentaries that have won regional Emmy Awards for Best Documentary or Historical Documentary. 

“Making documentaries is being a jack –of-all-trades,” said Nakashima. “It’s dependent on research, it’s telling a story, it’s journalistic, it’s interpersonal, it’s highly technical, it’s the craft of filmmaking and for me it must be entertaining. I’m lucky to have a job that requires me to be creative.  If I’m not creative, I’m not doing my job.  And the purpose is make something that does the most good – not make the most money – but does the most good”. 

Nakashima's Different Drummer documentaries, Your Public Servant (1989), Dreams Of Gesundheit (1990) (Patch Adams), and The Final Accounting (1991) were distributed nationally and in Europe. Mountaineer (1995) explored the hillbilly stereotype and “what it really means” to be a West Virginian. A Few Green Leaves (1999) explored the diversity of thought among Morgantown 17-18 year-olds. He also led the post-production work for the animated short, The Griffin And The Minor Canon (2002).

Nakashima collaborated extensively with the late Irene McKinney, poet laureate of West Virginia, producing dozens of radio essays with her. He produced and was lead editor for a series of nationally distributed Mountain Stage television programs and West Virginia Music Hall of Fame programs. He has also restored several WV Public Broadcasting television programs from analog to digital format.

Recent documentaries produced include Cifftop, Vandalia, Blind Alfred Reed, and as editor for Frank Kearns: American Correspondent and West Virginia: Road To Statehood, and several of the spots in the WV@150 series.

Nakashima is currently working on a television documentary focusing on children in poverty in West Virginia and a boxed CD set of Irene McKinney recordings.

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