Emmett Kesel Retires—AGAIN!

As our chapter Treasurer for 19 years, Emmett Kesel has seen a lot of changes in our industry, our organization and his life! In many ways his career path has followed the video business in Orange County. It has been a fun ride for a guy who just loved making moving pictures and telling stories.

Emmett Kesel was born and raised in Santa Ana and as a teen was shooting16mm film of his friends at unlimited hydroplane races off Newport Beach and drag racing in the orange groves south of Sand Canyon, in Irvine. He also shot races at Pomona, Half Moon Bay and the old Lyons Drag Strip. Of course, the old Lyons and the NHRA drag strip off Sand Canyon are long gone along with the orange groves and agricultural fields. It has all been replaced by the Irvine Co. with modern office buildings and the Spectrum.

Despite a steady job working as an appliance service rep for the Southern California Gas Company, which he started in 1965, Emmett's love of film and video never waned. However, it wasn't until the early 80's that he was able to get into the video business--and then only part time. He was a member of the Orange County Sheriff's Technical Services Reserve Unit shooting and editing training and promotional videos. Realizing there was a money-making profession within his reach he enrolled at Santa Ana College taking every video and TV course they offered. There he met a number of people who would go on to grow the video industry in OC. One was Gary Stone, at that time a young instructor at SAC and a freelance videographer. Gary remembers Emmett as one of those rare students who wanted to eat, sleep and breathe video production. Kesel had a young family and a great job with the gas company but nevertheless had invested heavily in a cuts-only editing system.

In 1986, Emmett was one of the first drawn to the new Orange County chapter of ITVA, the forerunner of MCAI. It was being organized by, among others, Gary Stone who had been active in the LA Chapter since 1981. Emmett remembers going to the third meeting and both meeting old acquaintances like Gary and making new friends as well with guys like Bill O'Neill who currently serves on the Chapter's Board. He appreciated the networking--a tradition continued by MCAI. Mark Kirsch was the new chapter's first president and Emmett volunteered for everything. Only3 years later, under then-president Rich Jansen, Kesel was appointed the chapter's Treasurer and never looked back.

Emmett continued working part time as a shooter but primarily as an editor, bringing in extra income to supplement his gas company job and honing his video post-production skills. About 1970 He started filming desert races. In 1972 while filming the Barstow to Las Vegas run for the third time, his camera and the film was stolen from the motel room. That and his first marriage ended his filming career for six years before Emmett purchased his first video camera. He spent a number of years editing for the entrepreneurial Dr. Dave Cook in Los Alamitos. He and Cook formed Pulsar video Services in '89. It lasted until 1995. He also worked a few years with Jim Louden Productions. Jim, who now works for Post Modern Edit, became a lifelong friend.

Around 1991 Emmett got his dream job—working for the gas company as a member of their video department. He worked on training tapes, safety programs and PR videos, shooting and editing.

Through ITVA, Emmett met Grace McKay in 1994. They became very close--particularly after Grace pulled Emmett out of the waters of Puget Sound when he tipped over in his kayak during a group outing at a regional ITVA conference! Kesel started working with Electric Pictures as a video editor but, because of his background in film, soon took over the film transfers, working with the traditional film chain and then later on the advanced Phillips-Thompson Telecine machines. At the same time he picked up the duties of film archivist for the hundreds of 35mm feature films in the company’s library.

Finally, after 32 years at the gas company Emmett retired on disability in 1998. His bad back wouldn't allow him to do the same work he had done for SoCalGas but it didn't prevent him from continuing to edit and do film transfers at Electric pictures.

After suffering a stroke around 2002, Emmett retired again--at least for a while. But it wasn't long before he resumed his duties as chapter treasurer as well as his film and telecine duties at Electric Pictures. By now, it wasn't just film-to-tape but film to just about any digital file format. This time he picked up as a colorist, learning the state-of-the-art DaVinci post production color correction system

In 2008, Emmett Kesel was honored with a Shining Star statuette by the International Organization of MCAI for his many years of service. The presentation was made before a packed house at the 40th annual MCAI Media Festival held that year in Anaheim. As usual, Emmett didn't have much to say but a big grin told the whole story.

Now, finally retired for good (we think) due to another health episode in August of 2009, Emmett has relinquished the duties of Treasurer permanently.  Never one to sit idle, Emmett has pulled together old ITVA newsletters, photos and ephemera that he’s collected over the years and is bequeathing them to the chapter for preservation.  (If you're interested in helping to scan these historical items into digital files, contact president Bill Ennis.)

Meanwhile you can still see Emmett manning the door at every monthly MCAI meeting, ready to help. Be sure to say hello to our Treasurer Emeritus!

--John Coleman