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John Lavall of Devlo Media is attracting attention with his recent Emmy Awards and his latest documentary A Thousand Papercuts. In June 2006 Lavall won two Emmy’s at the 29th Annual New England Emmy Awards for his two 30 second commercials, Meet Pete and Meet Larry, produced for Roger Williams Medical Center. The commercials feature doctors from Roger Williams and stress a human connection to patient care. Lavall is also a past Telly winner for his PSA spot Healthy Rhode Island.
John Lavall is the center of his small company Devlo Media, a commercial and
documentary production company. As a native Rhode Islander, Lavall has always
been interested in film and has been in the production business for eight years.
He earned national attention in 2003 when he won three highly sought after
Tellys for his PSA, Healthy Rhode Island.
The Telly Awards features over 200 award categories and about 12,000 entries from all 50 states and 30 countries. The Telly statuette is made by the same firm that makes the Oscar and Emmy Awards. Winning a Telly often brings smaller production companies the recognition they need to succeed. Although Lavall hasn’t seen a significant change in his business since winning the awards, he does acknowledge the importance of the awards to smaller companies.
Lavall mainly works on local commercials and PSAs and admits it is difficult for him because he is working on a tight budget. However, the upside is that he has creative freedom and the rewarding experience to work with non-profit organizations. He makes some PSAs pro-bono just so that he can enter them into competitions and showcase his work.
Lavall recently made a PSA that is closely linked to controversial news and law-making in Rhode Island. Save the Bay is a PSA Lavall produced to argue for the offshore placement of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals rather than placement of the terminals close to shore in Providence, RI and Fall River, MA. Lavall stumbled on the topic at his son’s basketball practice months back. Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, who also had a child on the team, was at the practice and approached Lavall about making a PSA about LNG and its effects. At the time, Lavall had no knowledge about LNG and the controversy surrounding it, but he was intrigued. Lavall notes that "the average person has no idea," that the LNG issue exists.
When Lavall first decided to take on the PSA about LNG, he was working on a documentary about a 28-year old murder case in Rhode Island. Due to the graphic nature of the case, he was having a difficult time completing the project. "The subject matter was really dark," he says. "I could not get past it." For this reason, Lavall decided to abandon the murder documentary and focus on the LNG topic.
After making the Save the Bay PSA, Lavall is following up on the LNG issue with his documentary A Thousand Papercuts. This documentary will go into more detail about LNG and the possible dangers related to the terminals. LNG is the liquid form of natural gas which is used for heating homes and cooking. Weaver’s Cove Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) are in favor of the placement of the terminals in Fall River and Providence and advocate that the terminals are safe and will be protected. According to Weaver’s Cove Energy’s website "as a liquid, LNG cannot explode or burn because it contains no oxygen to react with the fuel, nor is it under pressure when it is transported or stored." Lavall acknowledges this fact, but adds that while it doesn’t explode under pressure, "if ignited, the fire would burn you in 30 seconds and burn wooden structures up to one mile away." He also adds that instead of referring to a LNG fire, Weaver’s Cove uses the term "thermal radiation," which downplays the danger and confuses the public.
In the post 9/11 world, terrorism is a major threat and the LNG terminals will need to be protected. Lavall stresses the difficultly of adequately protecting the LNG and adds that "There is a security zone that surrounds vessels that would impede the boating and use of the bay." Most state officials in Rhode Island are against the placement of these terminals in Providence and Fall River, MA. They think that it is a bad idea to build these terminals in such a densely populated area. However, the decision to build the terminals falls mainly to the national government. "It’s a David and Goliath story," says Lavall.
Patrick Lynch, the Attorney General of Rhode Island, is also opposed to the placement of the LNG terminals in Providence. Lynch has given John Lavall access to him and his staff which has made his documentary possible. Lynch allowed Lavall to "tag along," but he never censored Lavall and never paid Lavall. While Lavall funded the project completely on his own, he was able to see first hand what the Attorney General’s office is doing in regards to LNG. Their cooperation made it possible for Lavall to shoot A Thousand Papercuts.
The title of the documentary, A Thousand Papercuts, actually comes from a phrase that Patrick Lynch uses: "We might not have the one stab wound to kill the project, but we might be able to do it with one thousand papercuts." Lavall had hoped that the documentary would be ready to submit to this year’s Rhode Island Film Festival, but it is still in post-production. He does plan on submitting it to other festivals in the future.
John Lavall and Devlo Media are making waves with socially conscious commercials, PSAs, and documentary films. And it is clear from Lavall’s recent Emmy awards and Telly Awards that he is producing quality work enriched with creativity. He is a small company in a small state, but his work is getting noticed on the national level.