Don Schechter was born in Queens, NY, on April 18, 1979. In the fourth grade his parents signed him up to learn the flute – a skill he’d continue to work on for much of his early life. He spent four years commuting to Manhattan’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School and spent weekends as All-City’s first flutist and enjoyed a memorable day at Lincoln Center as an Honorary Member of the Goldman Memorial Band. Throughout much of high school he worked at H/K Communications on Madison Avenue learning about the Public Relations industry while working on a variety of campaigns including Deadtime Stories with spokesman Grandpa Munster (Al Lewis) of The Munsters.
Don attended Tufts University and double majored in Media Arts and Technology (a Plan of Study), and Music. During that time he was a Production Assistant for Walnut Park Productions, an intern at Dateline NBC for the “day-of-air” staff, the President of TUTV, a member of Doug Liman‘s (Director of The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow) “think-tank” at Nibblebox, the co-creator of Viscosity (a web-based music video application) for Nibblebox, and worked on many film projects in various roles including “Bad Boy Made Good; The Revival of George Antheil’s 1924 Ballet Mécanique” and The Music of Brussels Sprouts. In college, Don discovered a passion for both composition and conducting – two interests that took over his musical life after a neurological injury to his arms. He graduated magna cum laude with high thesis honors in 2001.
Following his undergraduate work, Don stayed at Tufts and received a Masters Degree in Music Composition and Theory, primarily studying under composer John McDonald. His thesis composition was “Storm”- a five movement choral symphony- and his works In the Forest and Yurodivy would make an impact many years later when his interest in film scoring took hold. He worked as the Technical Assistant to the Multimedia Arts Program where he taught editing skills and as a Multimedia Consultant to Tufts’ Academic Technologies and produced an online “Interactive Lecture Demonstration” video for the university-wide group that provided instructional technology support. Throughout graduate school, Don also maintained his interests in film and television, having the opportunity to be a camera operator behind the scenes on Michael Apted documentary on The Rolling Stones as well as on an NSF funded project “Nerd Girls.” He was a nominee for the Outstanding Contribution to Undergraduate Education award and shared the The Etta & Harry Winokur Award for Outstanding Achievement in Artistic or Scholarly Work.
After graduation with his Masters Degree, Don taught computer and music skills as a part-time teacher at the Conservatory Lab Charter School (CLCS), instructed a group at the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, and was an assistant conductor of the Metrowest Youth Symphony Orchestra. During his two years of teaching at CLCS, he continued working as a freelance camera operator and producer, which included production assistance for the Filmmakers Collaborative and A&E’s series “God or the Girl,” along with the production of various corporate and non-profit video projects. In 2003, he also began leading workshops in film production for Tufts’ Tisch School of Citizenship and Public Service course “Producing Films for Social Change.” This consultancy would continue for five years, and included the class “TV News: On Air and Behind the Scenes” in 2004. (This relationship would later develop into a Visiting Lecturer and Professor of the Practice position.) As a former classmate was in the process of creating an opera about the infamous Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan real-life drama (and garnering worldwide attention), Don produced the documentary A Good Whack: ‘The Making of Tonya and Nancy: The Opera‘ which chronicled the production of the opera and it’s transformation to a touring Rock Opera that was attended by Tonya Harding herself in Portland. MSNBC broadcast footage from the documentary during Keith Olbermann’s review.
In 2003, Charles River Media Group, LLC (CRMG) was conceived by Don as an organization that would foster the independent film and video community of Boston and bring top-level talent together in order to attract more work to the area and increase the overall quality of production inside the community. CRMG’s first multi-year project was the creation of hundreds of short informational videos for About.com on topics ranging from computer software to cooking. These videos have garnered millions of worldwide views. It was this early contract that allowed CRMG to quickly grow during the development of online video and the early stages of the “digital revolution.” CRMG’s offices were first located in Revere, MA and later Brookline, MA. A studio was built within an old boxing gym in Newton Center where CRMG currently maintains an office, editor and colorist workstations, along with the black-box production studio. Quality of production significantly improved when the Red family of cameras was adopted by the organization. Over time, the CRMG collaborative would mature to include producers, directors of photography, editors, colorists, audio engineers, makeup artists, animators, photographers, and voice artists.
Charles River Media Group has worked in all aspects of production, post-production, and distribution. (Click here for CRMG’s “who we are” video.) Clients have ranged from large corporate entities such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Adobe, New Balance, and Pearson to non-profits like ACP Decisions to smaller start-up businesses who require the production and nationwide distribution of television commercials with CRMG and it’s partner – National Media Spots. CRMG has worked with agencies such as Weber Shandwick, Mullen & Co., Dixon Davis Media, and CTP Boston, as well as for political campaigns and governmental organizations including Menino for Mayor, Khazei for Senate, Congressman Delahunt’s Office, The Massachusetts School Building Authority, and Congressman Barney Frank. CRMG’s work has been seen on many television programs including those on ESPN, NBC, and The Oprah Winfrey Network. A more extensive list is available here.
CRMG had the good fortune to be able to provide the 2nd Unit Director (Don Schechter) and the 2nd Unit Crew for the documentary Transcendent Man. Produced by Ptolemaic and Therapy, Director Barry Ptolemy’s film about inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil went on to premiere at Tribeca Film Festival before it’s release. CRMG also took the photo that was used for the movie poster and DVD. Click here to see Stephen Colbert holding up the DVD.
CRMG has an ongoing relationship with ACP Decisions, a non-profit foundation assisting families and patients with video support tools. CRMG has filmed videos in dozens of languages and twice travelled to Hawaii to film with ACP Decisions. Coverage from the Associated Press can be found here.
Harvard’s Hasty Pudding is one of CRMG’s favorite yearly projects. Since 2009, Charles River Media Group has worked with Hasty Pudding to film the roasts of the Man of the Year and the Woman of the Year (along with the Hasty Pudding Theatrical Performance). Celebrities have included Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Helen Mirren, Chris Pratt, Kerry Washington, Neil Patrick Harris, Marion Cotilard, and Amy Poehler.
Don’s consultancy at Tufts led to his co-teaching the class Making Movies through the Experimental College. He later became the sole lecturer of that class as well as taught various other classes including Producing Films for Social Change and The History of Documentary: From Nanook the Real World. In 2015, Tufts’ Film and Media Studies program took root and Making Movies morphed into a two semester sequence – Filmmaking I and II. In 2016, Don became a Professor of the Practice.
In 2009, Don decided he wanted to use his film resources to pursue a creative endeavor related to one of his passions – science fiction. While brainstorming ideas for a 24-hour film festival he had a short scene flash through his head – a scene that took years to develop in a full-fledged story. That story became a two hour feature script for a series called The Ascendants. Don originally intended to self-produce the film but as the script developed into a pilot for a series it was clear that major resources would be needed to tackle such an expensive and expansive saga. In order to begin garnering interest in the series – and to further help develop the show – Don decided to produce a series of short films that would take place during key moments of the Ascendants mythology. These stories came to be known as the Ascendants Anthology with actor Johnny Lee Davenport serving as “The Guide” between each episode in homage to The Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling. The first short premiered (and was a “finalist”) at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood as part of the Hollyshorts festival. To date, episodes of The Ascendants Anthology have also screened at The Independent Television and Film Festival, The Boston International Film Festival (Winner, Best Sci-Fi), Hot Springs International Film Festival, The Philip K. Dick Film Festival, The Tri-Cities Film Festival, the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival (Honorable Mention), and Boston Comic Con. The fourth and final produced short was awarded the economic development production grant from the town of Dover, VT. Press coverage of the anthology includes this article in the Boston Globe.
Don created Pizza Baby Films, Inc. as a way to separate film endeavors – both the creative aspects and financial burdens – with the more corporate facing CRMG. The original initiative to create Pizza Baby Films was when Don was approached to provide support of a feature-length comedy that was scheduled to shoot in Boston (with directors and producers based in Los Angeles.) When production had to push both it’s deadline to winter and it’s location to a warmer location down South, the relationship did not come to fruition. However, the goal of Pizza Baby Films to be a resource aiding in the production, financing, and distribution of independent short and feature films throughout New England continues. Pizza Baby Films has supported local Boston projects including the short Rot, the independent feature Marranos which was also scored by Don, as well as Ascendants.
Don is currently developing another science fiction series titled The Station, while completing an Ascendants novel and screening the Ascendants Anthology episode “Horizon,” and is touring the first three episodes of the Anthology at festivals. In his free time he continues to work on composing for indie films including the Ascendants soundtracks and the recent trailer for Life Without Basketball.