North Park couple produce ‘San Diego Historic Places’ on KPBS
By Margie M. Palmer
San Diego has a rich and vibrant history, but as the city continues to grow, the shrinking inventory of historic homes and public spaces has become increasingly important, which is why “San Diego Historic Places” executive producer Elsa Sevilla has chosen to share these tales of the past on KPBS.
The North Park resident and her husband, Guillermo Selva, are longtime veterans of the news industry. Elsa is a three-time Emmy-nominated, award-winning journalist; Guillermo is a multi-Emmy award-winning and National Press Photographer’s Association photographer.
Elsa said the pair met shortly after she graduated from college, when she took a job with Channel 10 News.
“A couple days later I was working on the assignment desk and Guillermo had to train me on how to edit video along with some other things. A year later we started dating and a few months after that we got engaged,” Sevilla said.
About five years after that, she decided to leave full-time network employment and jump into the realm of freelance — since Elsa had experience working as a reporter and producer and Guillermo was an award-winning photographer, marrying their professional backgrounds to form a video production company made sense.
If you were to take a quick look at their client list, it’s clear Sevilla Productions has become quite successful since its inception. To date, the company has worked with “ABC World News Tonight,” “America’s Most Wanted,” The History Channel, “Good Morning America” and a long list of others.
In 2008, they were hired by KPBS to produce “San Diego Historic Places.”
Sevilla said it all started as a result of the economic downturn; freelancing is a tough gig and reporters often find themselves needing to cold call editors and assignment desks to secure pick-up work.
“I chatted with a couple people at KPBS to ask if they needed a reporter or a producer. They said we don’t need that, but you can start your own show,” she said.
From there, the station asked what she liked and what her passions were.
“I told them that I love history and historic places; Victorian homes, anything old and the older the better,” Sevilla said. “When they asked what I’d like to do, I told them I’d like to visit historic sites and that’s how we came up with the idea for ‘San Diego Historic Places.’”
It was a great opportunity and a big challenge; during her time at Channel 10 she was responsible for producing two-minute pieces. This would be a 25-minute show with no commercials. Sevilla, however, adapted quickly.
“We cover anything that’s older than 1914 and we try to come up with stories that cover things that viewers will find interesting and that they might not know about,” she said. “A lot of times people can’t go into a place that TV crews have access to so we wanted to take advantage of that.”
Since its inception, the show has covered everything from the history of MCRD, the Old Town Mexican period and the Hotel Del Coronado. Her favorite season to-date though, is the one that ran in January of this year, which highlighted the 1915 Balboa Park Exposition.
“It was the first time we did a whole series on one topic and what I didn’t know is that there was so much information about what happened. There were photos I’d never seen before, black and white film from that period, it was so cool to see it and share it with San Diego viewers,” she said. “Our crew got to go into the archives and see where these historic items are stored, and heard stories that no one has ever heard before.”
In addition to the show, the longtime North Park resident said one of her other major focuses has been working with local nonprofit organizations by offering pro bono public relations, marketing and video production services to better profile local unique and special programs, which typically assist the underserved.
Going into business for yourself can be scary, she said, but being able to spend extra time with her children, her family, and working with clients that fit their mission has made it all worth it.
—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of news publications for the past 10 years. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.