This Is Rutherford
This is Bill Einreinhofer
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Rutherford resident, Bill Einreinhofer, was born and raised in Rutherford and currently resides in his childhood home. Einreinhofer is a three-time Emmy Award winning nonfiction producer, director and writer, a member of the Director’s Guild of America, Chair of the Broadcast Journalism Department at the NY Film Academy, member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and former adjunct Professor at Felician University in Rutherford. He has worked on a number of different series that have delved into topics within the fields of science, health and technology, and cultural studies. Einreinhofer produced programming for both INNOVATION, PBS Newsroom, Good Morning America, Discovery Channel, 60 Minutes and HBO. He was also an Executive Producer at WNET in NY. Not only has Einreinhofer worked on programs throughout the world, he has also spent time working on a historical series specifically about his hometown, Rutherford. This is Rutherford had an opportunity to speak with Einreinhofer about his life in Rutherford and his amazing career.
TIR: You are proud to call Rutherford your hometown. How long have you lived in Rutherford?
Bill Einreinhofer: I grew up in Rutherford. I attended one day of Kindergarten at Pierrepont School, then the Board of Education transferred me to Sylvan School. I was there through first grade, but I was a discipline problem. I wouldn’t stop talking in class. They didn’t realize I was practicing for my future career in television (laughs). So my parents shipped me, and my younger brother Paul, off to Saint Mary’s Grammar School, as it was called then. They figured the nuns would straighten me out. The jury is still out on that one, although I was invited to be the commencement speaker this year at Saint Mary’s High School, as it is now known. That must mean I turned out alright.
TIR: After graduating from St. Mary’s High School, where did you attend college?
BE: I did my undergraduate work at Saint Peter’s College, as it was known then. You know you are old when the names of places keep changing (laughs). The Jesuits taught me the value of critical thinking, probably the most important lesson I ever learned. I was also on the college radio station, which pretty much set my career trajectory. I earned an MA at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. I was hired to teach the laboratory sections of the radio production classes. Fortunately, I had taken a few education classes at Saint Peter’s, which means SPC had also set me on the path to my second career, education. I left Rutherford after grad school, but I came back about eight years ago. I live in the house I grew up in, but I sleep in what was my brother's old bedroom. It's bigger than my old bedroom.
TIR: As a three time Emmy Award winning nonfiction producer, director, and writer, is there a particular Emmy you felt especially proud to win?
BE: I have been lucky to work with some fabulous people. Success in television and education is a team effort. You can't do this stuff by yourself. INNOVATION will always be near and dear to my heart. INNOVATION was a series that touched the lives of millions of people in tangible ways, given its focus on health, science and technology. We had a special mini-series called People in Motion, the first primetime series to deal with disability and disability issues in U.S. television history. INNOVATION was my first national, then international series. It started me on my global travels, which remarkably continue today. Initially I worked almost exclusively in Europe. The came a trip to Japan, then another and another. From there I began traveling to China to work for both U.S. and Chinese media companies. I tell my students I am famous in America for being famous in China, and I am famous in China for being famous in America (laughsI).
When it comes to awards, there is no figuring out what judges will respond to. Programs that you think are sure winners don't make the cut, while other times you are sitting in the audience on Emmy night and you're shocked to hear them call your name.
TIR: Tell us about your most recent Public TV documentary, “Shanghai 1937: Where WWII Began”. Where did your inspiration come from for this project?
BE: Shanghai 1937: Where World War II Began came about thanks to my numerous trips to China. Over the years, I have interviewed many, many people, both there and in the United States. They told me about their lives in Shanghai, and now while many of them are gone their memories live on through my documentaries. It's said you're not really dead if people remember you. I help keep their names, and stories, alive. I'm headed back to China in the Spring for a new documentary project, Unsettled History - America, China and the Doolittle Tokyo Raid. I am also the Executive Producer of an independent feature film called Invisible Love, that takes place in French Indochina in the 1930's. I even have a small role.
TIR: “Beyond Beijing” has been seen by viewers in 43 different countries. That is quite an accomplishment. How does it feel to know something you have worked on has reached so many viewers?
BE: In some ways, it doesn't matter if your work is seen by 250+ million people (like "Beyond Beijing") or 250 people. As long as somebody sees it. As far as I know, "Beyond Beijing" is the only series ever seen on both Israeli satellite TV and Al Jazeera.
TIR: Where will you be traveling to next?
BE: The first week of December I'll be in Kazakhstan along with a New York Film Academy colleague, teaching a journalism seminar for local broadcasters sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
TIR: In Rutherford, you have produced a series of local oral history videos entitled Rutherford Historic Narratives along with the Rutherford Civil Rights Commission. Why did you decide to work on this series?
BE: My Dad was on the Borough Council when the Rutherford Civil Rights Commission was formed. When he was Mayor, he appointed members to the Commission. Growing up, my Mom told my brother and me stories about "Old Rutherfordians." When the Commission approached me about producing the oral history series Rutherford Historic Narratives, I felt in many ways that I had the perfect background for the project. Those videos have been seen online by more than 30,000 people, in 25+ countries. I have no idea how they even found them, as I make no claims about my SEO skills, but somehow they did.
TIR: Now that you have completed so many oral history videos about Rutherford, are there any particular facts that stand out in your mind and/or surprised you about Rutherford?
BE: It's not so much the new things that I learned. Rather, I was reminded of things I learned about Rutherford long ago from my mother, memories I rediscovered while doing the interviews. For example, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in front of Dr. Willis’ house, as they were unhappy about all the Catholics moving to town. They would love how that building is now Congregation Beth El. The videos allow members of the community to share their stories of growing up in Rutherford and share the diversity of Rutherford. To view these videos, click here.