Replacing fear with understanding – Beverly Penninger, 2016 ASC Honors,

Categories: ASC, ASC Awards, Blog

Why this matters: ASC recognizes that creative individuals and teachers enrich the cultural lives of everyone in our region and beyond through their work.

Beverly Penninger, a Charlotte native who began her career as a production assistant at WBTV before moving on to create documentaries of regional and national prominence, is honored with the 2016 ASC Honors award for lifetime achievement in film. Photo by Nancy Pierce.
Beverly Penninger, a Charlotte native who began her career as a production assistant at WBTV before moving on to create documentaries of regional and national prominence, is honored with the 2016 ASC Honors award for lifetime achievement in film. Photo by Nancy Pierce.

By Michael Solender

Telling others’ stories is a privilege documentary filmmaker Beverley Penninger undertakes with the utmost respect and sense of responsibility.

“I never start a project with any preconceived ideas,” said Penninger. “My goal is to honor the subject and share the journey of discovery with the viewer.”

Subjects featured in Penninger’s assemblage of films over her decades’ long career include luminaries like NASCAR legend Richard Petty, NBA star Muggsy Bogues and musical giants of the Newport Folk Festival. She’s collaborated with such industry notables as Walter Cronkite, Stockard Channing, Charles Kuralt and Loonis McGlohon.

Yet it is often the voices of those on the periphery, our community’s underdogs, where her platform for their stories has the greatest impact on others.

One of the first features Penninger produced for WBTV in the early ‘80s featured the amazing back stories of developmentally disabled residents at Charlotte’s Nevins Center.

“Initially I was very uncomfortable, fearful actually, of what it might be like to be around the residents,” recalled Penninger. “When I first walked into the room, it was like the world stopped. They all waved, smiled and laughed and immediately I knew there was nothing to be afraid of.”

This experience cemented a core value in all her work. “There is nothing to fear from people who are different. That applies to everything, race, religion, orientation. This is at the essence of what I do, take away the fear and create in its place understanding.”

“Any Day Now,” a film she co-produced for local PBS affiliate WTVI, is a deep source of pride for Penninger. The film told the heart wrenching stories of 16 Charlotte wom­en, each domestic abuse survivors.

The compelling documentary won two national awards, including recognition by the American Women in Radio and Television. The production team raised the funds for the women featured to travel to the New York City awards ceremony where they were recognized for their courage.

Penninger established her own production company, Naka Productions, in 1993 after many years perfecting her craft. The breadth and depth of her work has earned her accolades and recognition, including Emmy, Telly, Gracie, IABC Gold Quill & Gold Crown and Cine Golden Eagle Film and Video awards.

In 2010 Penninger was chosen as one of only 25 producers for the PBS Producers Academy.

In the closing line of award winning film, “The Spirit of Sacajawea,” Penninger strategically ended the film with the narrator stating, “She made history simply by being herself.”

Just like one of her heroines, Beverly Penninger does great things by simply being herself.

 

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