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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ind. Courts - "Mary Beth Bonaventura to talk about MTV series filmed in her courtroom"

Ruthann Robinson reports today in the NWI Times:

Lake County Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura has hit the big time.

Bonaventura is scheduled to be interviewed today on NBC's "Today" show by host Ann Curry about her participation in the MTV series "Juvies," shot entirely in the judge's Lake County courtroom.

The interview is set to run live during the show's 7 a.m. hour. After that, Bonaventura is scheduled to go to the Court TV studio of Catherine Crier to be interviewed at 4 p.m.

On the way to the airport Thursday, Bonaventura tried to calm the butterflies she was feeling.

"I've never been on national TV, and I'm not sure how I'll react to seeing people who are famous around me," Bonaventura said.

She wasn't too nervous to joke, however.

"I saw that today, Harry Connick Jr. was on, and I thought, 'Darn, why couldn't he be on Tuesday?' "

Pre-interview questions focused on her longevity on the bench and what made her agree to allow the filming in her court.

The series, produced by South Bend native Karen Grau's Calamari Productions, was filmed over several weeks last winter. Filmmakers tracked the progress of 17 local teens in trouble with the law.

Bonaventura said she wanted to be a part of the series because she thought it was a good idea for teens to see what really happens when they are accused of wrongdoing.

The Indiana Supreme Court gave Grau, who now lives in Indianapolis, unprecedented access to juvenile court proceedings in 1998.

The payback for the courts is the camera catches teachable moments. All footage Grau shoots is available for judge, lawyer and court volunteer training.

From the South Bend Tribune Sunday:
The documentary on MTV, which begins Thursday and runs for eight weeks, is the brainchild of executive producer Karen Grau, who grew up in a tidy mom-and-pop family in Mishawaka.

Since 1998, Grau has taken the camera into turf in Indiana that is legally forbidden to the media -- kids in foster care and/or detention -- and aired it nationally on NBC's "Dateline" and on MSNBC and PBS.

Her passion for TV work began at Mishawaka High School, where Grau, a 1980 graduate then known by her maiden name Furore, took a TV production class with teacher Bruce Chamberlin. Hooked, she became a TV reporter in Indianapolis, feeling constrained by doing stories in just "a minute 30 (seconds)."

She took time off when she was pregnant with her son in 1995. While helping her husband, a consultant, with a court research project, she sat in on court cases. Her first one was a hearing to terminate parental rights.

"I could not believe what I was hearing," she says. "From that moment, I thought about how I can produce a documentary. I let the idea fester for a couple years."

She petitioned the Indiana Supreme Court for a waiver to allow her into the courts that rule on abused, neglected and delinquent kids and their families. It was granted. She found judges willing to let her into their courts in Marion, Monroe and Lake counties.

Without a buyer for her film, Grau and her husband took out a huge loan on their house and went through a "financially excruciating" period to front the money for cameras and crews.

As the first piece aired, it gained a lot of responses from people who wanted to help the kids. That opened doors for her to do more, David Remondini says.

Grau has to petition the courts for access with each new project. The counsel to Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard of the Indiana Supreme Court, Remondini says Grau wins it because she takes a deep look. He recalls another request from an Indianapolis TV reporter to open the courts for an isolated case. It was denied.

Grau's Indianapolis-based Calamari Productions did "Washington Wives" for the A&E network, and other topics, but it's most known for filming kids and families in the system, which she calls "one of the biggest fishing holes" for stories.

"MTV Juvies" targets MTV's demographic, 12- to 34-year-olds, especially the teens. She wants kids to see "what juvie is and what happens to you when you have to spend time in detention." Adults will find it gripping, too. * * *

The judge who permitted "MTV Juvies" in her courtroom and detention center one year ago, Mary Beth Bonaventura, is proud of the project.

"I didn't want the show to trivialize or minimize what we do," Bonaventura says. A judge for 25 years, she loathes the trend to reality shows and admits she had jitters just before filming began, but she noticed the seriousness of the crew: "Things I do every day, they were back there crying."

Grau says she talks extensively with each kid and parent in her projects and gains their permission. And she's kept in touch with all of the kids she's filmed so far.

"That was my promise to the judges," she says. "I'm not here to expose these kids and their families. ... To me, (staying in touch) helps me to show how the system does or does not help kids. ... I relay all of that information back to the courts."

Carolina Proctor of the Gary Post-Tribune has this story, headlined "MTV Series Goes Behind The Walls of Lake County 'Juvie'".

For background, start with this ILB entry from Oct. 3, 2006,

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 30, 2007 07:01 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts