Behind-the-Scenes with Rob Diaz de Villegas


LOCAL ROUTES producer, Rob Diaz de Villegas joined program host Suzanne Smith for a chat about his work on LOCAL ROUTES. She asked him about how he became interested in ecology, his favorite stories, and about finding bands to appear on the show.


How did you get interested in doing ecology stories?

ROB: I’d done a few stories for our DIMENSIONS program, but what really pushed me over the edge as far as wanting to do ecology almost as full time as possible was a few years ago, we had a couple of marine biologists out of the FSU Marine Lab who wanted to collaborate with us and after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, I was assigned to cover what they were doing and we were afraid their study sites were going to be covered with oil. I was down there a lot on the coast in the St. Joe Bay and Alligator Harbor and I kind of fell in love with being outdoors and wanted to explore more of it. When the opportunity presented itself, we did more EcoAdventures in other locations. Rivers, lakes and forests.


What goes into researching and creating a story for LOCAL ROUTES? Is it something that you do in one day or does it take several weeks? How long is the process?

ROB: Since I have the ecology beat, it is an ongoing process. Last spring we were kayaking on the Aucilla River and we were passing archeological sites and one of the people we were with was a historian and he said, “You know they’re going to be doing a dig in about a month,” and do you want to check that out? And that’s how we did that. I’d been hearing about the archeological sites all along that area for quite a while. I think every story introduces you to new things and as I research one story, you know, it’s all part of one ongoing, continuous story.


What has been your favorite story for LOCAL ROUTES so far?

ROB: I’ve liked all of them a lot. I think for obvious reasons – for personal reasons – the one I liked the best was RiverTrek with my son, Max. I’ve done RiverTrek twice on DIMENSIONS as EcoAdventures. This is the first time I got to bring my four-year old son, Max. Not only did he kayak with me for two days and camp with me for two days, he came in and did the voice over with me. Ever since then, every package I’ve done, it’s felt weird to sign off by myself without Max.


You’ve also headed up our efforts to find local music for this program. What is that process like on finding music? Including music for our theme song?

ROB: For the first few acts, these are people I’ve known or seen live and so it was fairly easy.

Belle and the Band, who came in to do our theme song… We wanted them to come in live, but their schedule hasn’t allowed them to come in yet – but they will be on, hopefully soon. A couple of those musicians have been on OUTLOUD, a music show I produced years ago for WFSU and some of the groups had affiliations with that as well. Now that we’ve gotten past that initial round of tapings that we’ve done for LOCAL ROUTES musicians, we’re finding that people are contacting us and we’re getting back into how it was when we were doing OUTLOUD. You know, where people see a musician on our program and are “I’d like to be on TV!” and they start calling and writing and sending us a sample – which is great!


What is it that they need to do when they contact us? When they send something to , that’s the email, what do you want them to include in there? Is it just “Hey, we’re a band!” or is it more than that?

ROB: The more they can include, the better. Mostly, we want to see and hear them. Hear them especially, but if there’s video… So many people shoot YouTube videos, which is great and we see how they look when they perform.


So a YouTube link or another kind of video?

ROB: Usually, people’s websites or FaceBook pates have some sort of embedded video that we can watch. For a lot of groups who don’t go to a studio to pay money to record a song – sometimes YouTube links is all they have and that’s great. And that’s all we need to see and hear. The more they introduce themselves, the better. We’re trying to get a good sense of everybody in our local area, so it’s about the people who are playing the music as well.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas is a senior producer for television at WFSU Public Media, covering outdoors and ecology. After years of producing the music program OutLoud, Rob found himself in a salt marsh with a camera, and found a new professional calling as well. That project, the National Science Foundation funded "In the Grass, On the Reef," spawned the award-winning WFSU Ecology Blog. Now in its tenth year, the Ecology Blog recently wrapped its most ambitious endeavor, the EcoCitizen Project.

Rob is married with two young sons, who make a pretty fantastic adventure squad.