DeFrancis Wins Award

Wheeling native Preston DeFrancis and his team at HBO have won one of the prestigious Richard D. Parsons Community Impact Awards presented by Time Warner, the parent company of HBO.

DeFrancis and his colleagues traveled from Los Angeles to receive the team award at a luncheon held at the Time Warner Center in New York City earlier this month.

Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner chairman and chief executive officer, presented Community Impact Awards this year to five individual recipients from across the company and the team from HBO. DeFrancis accepted the award on behalf of the team and spoke at the event. The award honors DeFrancis and his team for their work with the Young Storytellers Foundation. The HBO team won $10,000 to donate to the nonprofit organization of their choice.

“For the past five years, four HBO employees have worked with underserved youth in California through the Young Storytellers Foundation,” a Time Warner news release stated. “YSF helps students improve their literacy and writing skills and encourages them to discover the power of their own voices by writing unique stories that are then brought to life on stage.”

In a program distibuted at the luncheon, DeFrancis stated, “At HBO we have a passion for storytelling. So it’s natural that we would want to extend that passion to those who may not have a voice, giving them the opportunity to express their world view.”

Every spring and fall, DeFrancis, Kary Antholis, Jeannie Koenigsberg and Brad Saunders “recruit fellow HBO employees to mentor the students through the eight-week program, helping them develop and refine their five-page screenplays in preparation for ‘The Big Show,’ a showcase of the students’ work performed by professional actors. Since HBO began working with YSF, they’ve recruited 42 volunteers, logged 1,500 hours and mentored over 120 students,” Time Warner officials stated.

“The only rule is that they (the students) have to use their imaginations,” DeFrancis said, adding, “I don’t think I can express in words how they react when they see their work on stage … It really just blows their minds!” He explained, “For many of these kids, being asked what’s on their minds is so foreign, that it takes weeks for us to build a rapport and get them to express themselves. So it just goes to show how necessary this program is.”

DeFrancis also leads a pilot project called Young Movie Makers for the Young Storytellers Foundation.

An award-winning filmmaker, DeFrancis is a graduate of Wheeling Park High School, Case Western Reserve University and the University of Southern California’s film school. He is the son of Robert and Patricia DeFrancis of Wheeling.

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As part of the Fracking Facts series, a new investigative documentary film, “Triple Divide,” will be shown at the Ohio County Public Library, 52 16th St., Wheeling, at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 29. The event is free and open to the public.

The film, which explores fracking in the Marcellus Shale reserves in Pennsylvania, marks the feature debut of journalists Joshua Pribanic and Melissa Troutman, co-founders of an investigative news nonprofit organization called Public Herald.

Journalists and directors from Public Herald will participate in a discussion after the screening of “Triple Divide.”

Troutman, who is the managing editor and program director for and co-director of “Triple Divide,” related that their team is touring the United States in a Tesla Motors Model S, a long-range, all-electric sedan, and testing the company’s nationwide Supercharger system where the electric cars can be recharged quickly for free. She said they aim to travel 10,000 miles using no gasoline.

“Wheeling is also the location of Tesla Motor’s first Supercharger in West Virginia, where we’ll be recharging the car,” Troutman said.

The electric car maker opened its first supercharger station in West Virginia at The Highlands in May. The superchargers are located at the Hampton Inn & Suites, off Exit 10 of Interstate 70.

Incidentally, “Triple Divide” takes its name from the triple continental divide in Pennsylvania, “where three major rivers begin and flow to separate ends of the continent, providing drinking water for millions of people and hundreds of communities downstream,” Troutman said.

She said that Academy Award-nominated actor Mark Ruffalo co-narrated the documentary. Ruffalo’s nonprofit group, Water Defense, also investigates water testing and protection measures. He is a co-founder of The Solutions Project.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: