Emmai Alaquiva is nominated for an epsiode of CBS's weekly "Game Changers with Kevin Frazier."
By Adrian McCoy / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A TV segment directed by Pittsburgh-based multimedia producer Emmai Alaquiva is up for a Daytime Emmy Award, which will be announced tonight.
His nomination is in the “Outstanding Children‘s Series” category for an episode he directed for CBS’s weekly “Game Changers with Kevin Frazier.”
Mr. Alaquiva has directed 30 episodes of “Game Changers,” which has been renewed for a second season.
“Game Changers” producer Anneli Gericke was looking for some additional footage of LaMarr Woodley for a story when she found a YouTube video of the former Steelers linebacker that Mr. Alaquiva produced.
“He just seemed to be filming with such a sense of freedom and connectivity to the subject and the content that made it compelling to watch,” she said.
. The “Game Changers” team liked it so much that they asked Mr. Alaquiva to produce a segment for the show, which features stories of athletes who give back to the community and foster positive change.The segment centered on Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson when he was still with the Philadelphia Eagles. It‘s the story of how Mr. Jackson befriended a young Philadelphia boy who was being harassed by bullies. The boy’s mother wrote a letter to Mr. Jackson, asking that he send him a message of support. He did better than that: Mr. Jackson, who also was bullied as a kid, gave the boy advice on how to deal with it.
"Jackson spent some time with him to talk about the effects of bullying and how we can get through that adversity and allow it to build character in us,” Mr. Alaquiva said. “It was incredible to to be able to shoot with someone like DeSean Jackson, but also being able to crystallize an incredible story from a young person’s perspective for the rest of the nation to see.”
The Jackson segment “almost didn't happen,” Mr. Alaquiva said. The last-minute assignment coincided with a family celebration planned for his birthday that he didn’t want to miss. But he accepted and flew to Philadelphia for the shoot. “The episode I was trying to get away from happened to be the episode they turned in for the Daytime Emmys. It‘s mind-boggling how the universe and the stars aligned. Think about it. If I had passed on that opportunity, who knows what would have happened?”
Mr. Alaquiva is in Beverly Hills, Calif. for tonight’s awards ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Mr. Alaquiva has made his mark locally and nationally as a filmmaker, music producer and composer, youth mentor and voiceover artist. He juggles many projects in addition to “Game Changers,“ working with clients that include Snoop Dogg and Oprah Winfrey. But he remains firmly rooted here because of the work he does that connects young people to the arts.
The University of Pittsburgh graduate hosted a radio program at Pitt station WPTS-FM while he was in school, and worked at WAMO-FM after graduation.
In 2001, he launched Ya Momz House, a recording and production studio in East Liberty that does audio recording and mixing, music production and TV and radio commercials.
He is founder and executive director of Hip Hop on L.O.C.K., an arts education and mentoring program that uses hip hop to teach business and leadership skills to students. Participants create and produce a CD, taking the project from writing and recording the music to marketing the finished product. It started in 2007 with 16 youngsters, and has grown to serve more than 5,000 students. "Mentorship means a lot to me," Mr. Alaquiva said. "Sixteen students was a great start. To now be in 11 school districts speaks volumes to what we're able to do to ignite change.
"I get the question all the time: 'How come you don't move to New York or L.A.?' What I say is I'm passionate about my community. If you know the power and importance of relationships, you can make a change from anywhere you are in the world."
All of these achievements came the hard way, and that's part of this strong connection to the local community. Mr. Alaquiva grew up in a tough section of Wilkinsburg with a mother who worked two jobs.
"I pretty much had my bouts with the streets, so the arts really saved my life. They spoke to me in a way that nothing else did. I fell in love with hip-hop. I learned how to be a part of something bigger by being in a rap group."
When he was a teen, he met WQED host Chris Moore, who became a mentor to him. "If it wasn't for Chris Moore and his strong in-depth mentorship, I would not be where I am today. He was a father figure."
It was through working with Mr. Moore and with producer Olga George that he won a Mid-Atlantic Emmy Award in 2008 for music arrangement and composition for "Fly Boys: Western Pennsylvania's Tuskegee Airmen," which was hosted by Mr. Moore and produced by Ms. George.
He was homeless for a time, living in his East Liberty studio while he launched the business."I had to battle a lot to believe in myself and get myself back on my feet. If it weren't for music, who knows where I'd be -- probably in jail or somewhere dead.
"For the rest of my life, I'm going to change people's lives through the arts."
The Daytime Emmy Awards won't be televised. They'll stream live online at at 8 p.m. E.S.T. at daytimeemmys.net
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