Jay Heard (center)
and Don O'Sullivan
(right) shooting in Teheran, Iran for BBC / 1979.
When Jay Heard and Don Sullivan
were kids, chasing each other around summers on the
Cape some 40 years ago, they had no idea that "stringers"
would define another word besides the place where
you hang the fish you caught. With Jay off at Suffolk
University studying political science and Don at Northeastern
majoring in journalism, the two did not meet again
until many years later when Jay answered an ad for
a roommate, placed by Don. The result of the reunion
would become Multivision, a premier post-production
facility recently acclaimed among the top in the country
for video streamed over the Internet, the others being
MTV and CNBC.
Two very cool looking guys
in their early 50's, Don and Jay are relaxed in the
conference room of their huge facility in Cambridge.
Clearly respectful of each other, they don't interrupt
or finish each other's sentences, a sign of a deep
and lasting friendship. Both now settled and married,
one would never guess at their history, one that bespeaks
a none-too-small addiction to danger and adventure.
The two started out as "stringers,"
after college. They bought a 16mm film camera and
"chased fires," for $25 a story. It wasn't until the
early '70's, as Boston's busing crisis erupted, and
with their services in full demand, since the stations
couldn't cover all the action with their own crews,
that Don and Jay began to take their careers seriously.
In 1975 they bought a video-based news cam, traveled
all over the world for BBC and ABC, and set up a production
facility in Needham. They were hired to cover presidential
elections, NBA playoffs, and made documentaries.
"We were assigned to cover
the Pope's trip to Mexico by ITNA when the Ayatollah
defied the Shah of Iran and returned home," said Don.
"We were told to get on a plane to Teheran and because
we were able to edit in camera and satellite it back,
we became quite valuable. Sure it was dangerous. We
alternated being cameraman and sound person because
the action was so fascinating that it became perilous
to just keep filming."
Don O'Sullivan shooting
CNN in Nicaragua / 1980.
Once safely back in the States,
their addiction to danger switched to a passion for
all the new technology that was coming out. They were
among the first to create films for corporations and
Don designed a process to transfer _" to 1" and offer
a better quality product.
"Digital Equipment was our
first corporate client," said Jay. "Followed by United
Brands Fruit and the Sheraton Hotel chain."
He described the documentaries
they made for United Brands, educating their in-house
staff about how bananas are grown in Honduras and
Costa Rica. For Sheraton, they traveled all over the
world, producing, directing, casting, and animating
sales tapes. Digital Equipment's need was for a sales
tape that Multivision created in a news format.
"I guess you could say that
we became a crossroads of services, offering graphics,
duplication, audio and studio facilities," nodded
In addition to their corporate
work, Multivision also serves as a facility and technical
advisors to independent filmmakers, offering a full-range
of services from shooting, offline/online editing,
distribution and internet streaming among many others.
"What we are most proud of
is our 30 years of expertise accumulated by an unparalleled
staff of two dozen people who work together as one
creative entity," Jay chimed in.
Jay Heard (right) / 2001.
Among the independent filmmakers
who Multivision has worked with are David Sutherland
who produced the 7-hour miniseries for PBS, THE FARMER'S
WIFE. They also worked with Linda Harrar on SIX BILLION
AND BEYOND. Other names on their client list for post-production
are Blackside, Thomas Ott, Charlie Stuart, Alice Bouvrie,
Joshua Seftel, Gail Ferraro, and Joel Olliker.
"One of our favorite projects
was working with Juanita Anderson of Legacy Productions
in a joint venture with the Smithsonian," said Don.
"In honoring Robert Pinsky, the poet laureate of the
United States, we filmed Americans from all walks
of life reading their favorite poems and explaining
why it had special meaning to them. People like a
construction worker from South Boston, for example.
It was very touching."
The only major setback to
they suffered was when their landlord in Needham decided,
after 18 years, to ask them to vacate in 90 days.
It was a facility that the two had built piece by
piece and it took 180 days to dismantle and relocate
to their present premises, which took 6 months to
find. While it distracted them from their core business
at the time, in retrospect, both are aware that their
present site is far superior to the one in Needham.
"This place is an engineer's
dream come true," said Don. "It was designed from
the ground up, state of the art, with input from all
our professional people. I guess getting it up and
running would be our greatest triumph. To be able
to offer all these services under one roof, to offer
one point of accountability is unique."
A throwback to their early
days as daredevil stringers, the two maintain an attitude
of "Make It Happen" in their approach to their business
and it is a mantra recited by their staff as well.
Any hour of the day, whatever it takes. Their plans
for the future include increased emphasis on Internet
streaming, production of small feature films and documentaries
and continuing to grow their sales video business.
They also see growth potential in educational publishing
and distance learning.
"This is a broad business,"
said Jay, in conclusion. " But it is still all about
story telling and communicating. And we are here to
make it happen."
Kermis Blotnick is a fee-lance writer and former executive
director of Women In Film and Video, New England.
She attends the Museum School fulltime.