Successful producers help talent compensate. They make a deal with their talent: “I’ll help you maneuver the everyday travails of living life, and you will go out there every night and try to give the performance of your life.”
In many ways, Orlando Bagwell’s work announced his arrival as a notable creative talent years ago, when he and a handful of mostly inexperienced, young producers collaborated with Henry Hampton on Eyes on the Prize, the civil rights series that made television history in 1987. The opportunity to work as a member of Hampton’s team “changed my whole life,” Bagwell recalled. A young father who made his living primarily as a cameraman for public broadcasting stations and producers, Bagwell had come to believe that path would take him through life — until Hampton offered him the chance to produce and direct his own films on the civil rights movement. Now, less than a decade after Eyes premiered, the 43-year-old producer’s credits include some of the most important films dealing with African-American history and culture that have aired on public television — most recently, “Frederick Douglass — When the Lion Wrote History” and “Malcolm X — Make It Plain.”
Bagwell finds himself at another crossroads, seeking and embracing new challenges so that he will continue to find gratification in his work. Having learned his craft in historical documentaries, Bagwell is stepping into performing arts programs, a form he explored as a producer/director for WNET’s Dancing miniseries.