Dialogue Media Group brings together the talent behind over 100 critically acclaimed and award-winning Socratic Dialogue programs on PBS, as well as hundreds of Dialogues for corporate, governmental and institutional clients, produced primarily under the auspices of our predecessor organization, the Fred Friendly Seminars.
We are masters of the Socratic Dialogue format, using extensive research to craft hypothetical scenarios with choices that participants must work through together. The result is spontaneous role-play around tough, real-world choices. The audience is drawn into the experience, emotionally and intellectually, as the story creates a link between abstract issues and concrete, dramatic experiences.
In addition to producing Dialogues, we help sponsors and clients to transform these events into effective and compelling vehicles for learning and public engagement.
Joan I. Greco
Joan Greco brings an attorney's understanding of nuance - garnered from work at the United States Supreme Court - and a playwright's sense of drama to the hypothetical scenarios that are the backbone of a Socratic Dialogue. There at the inception of the format, Greco was an editor of the Harvard Law Review and a research assistant to Professor Arthur Miller when he asked her if she'd like to work on a series of television shows on the Constitution. The daughter of a postal worker, surviving on scholarships and student loans, she was eager for the work. The programs turned out to be the 13-part seminal Fred Friendly series, THE CONSTITUTION: That Delicate Balance. Greco worked on the first program in the series, The Sovereign Self, which won an Emmy. She was hooked.
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Greco clerked for Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Court of Appeals and for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the United States Supreme Court, which she describes as "the two best jobs in the law one could imagine." After a few years at a law firm, however, Greco found that the impact she could have on the American conversation through Socratic Dialogues was a potent lure. She brought her subtle intellect back to the Fred Friendly Seminars where she was a mainstay of the production team, contributing as the writer or writer/producer to over 35 of the PBS programs, as well as to many dozens of dialogue programs for clients. Now she brings over twenty years of experience in the Socratic Dialogue format to Dialogue Media Group.
"A Socratic Dialogue is a fantastic combination of journalism, drama and logic," says Greco. "To shape hypothetical scenarios that work, one must understand the truth of a situation at the minute-to-minute, concrete level. To make decisions in the story compelling, we have to find that point where a choice turns on one's values, the point where you cannot use other factors to wriggle out of the situation, and must take a stand. When it works, it's riveting and revealing like nothing else."
An award-winning documentary filmmaker and television executive, Richard Kilberg served as president of Fred Friendly Seminars, Inc. from 1997 through 2012. During that period, Fred Friendly Seminars produced dozens of hours of programming for PBS as well as over 50 custom seminars for institutions, international organizations, government agencies and corporations in a wide range of industries.
Under his leadership, Fred Friendly Seminars was at the forefront in examining ethical, legal, economic and political challenges confronting our nation and the world over the last 15 years. From advances in technology to the threat of epidemics, the impact on journalism of new media paradigms and the changing nature of war, these and other urgent contemporary issues carry with them profound consequences for personal liberty, social justice, and democratic process.
"The tendency of television is to simplify, simplify, simplify, which results in poor understanding, bad decision-making, demonization of those with whom you disagree and a general retreat from involvement in the big, public issues of the day," says Kilberg, who found genius in the ability of the Socratic Dialogue format to open people's hearts and minds rather than making them more rigid or obdurate in the face of contentious issues. Sometimes even the program panelists are shocked to discover their capacity for empathy and consensus. When Congressman Barney Frank participated in a Seminar on the ethics of end-of-life medical care decisions, a panelist from an evangelical Christian organization exclaimed, "Why, I just can't believe that I agree with Barney Frank!" Kilberg recalls. Later in the series, it was Congressman Frank's turn to remark, "I can't believe how much I agree with Justice Scalia! That was a delicious moment, and why I find these programs so satisfying to produce," Kilberg says.
Prior to his work with Fred Friendly, Kilberg produced, directed and/or executive produced a variety of distinguished television programs. He has been twice nominated for an Academy Award for documentaries and is the recipient of the DuPont-Columbia Award, an Ohio State Journalism award, a Christopher Medal, "Best of Festivals" awards, and many other honors. His documentary work includes The Negro Ensemble Company, Adam Clayton Powell, Huey Long, and The Brooklyn Bridge. Kilberg has also been a programming and production executive at PBS, HBO and in the independent television production world.
From San Francisco to South America, award-winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Margolis explored social issues and public policies for 20 years before she began her association with Fred Friendly Seminars. She served as program producer of specials and supervising producer on several major series in the 1990's and then joined the Fred Friendly Seminars organization full time as executive director in 1997. In addition to producing, her responsibilities included fund raising, project management, and development and oversight of the civic engagement initiatives that became a key component of the Seminars projects.
For Margolis, it has never been just about the broadcast. "In Chile back in the 70's, we would hang up a sheet between two trees, hook into the electricity in the street to run the projector, and show films outdoors at night," said Margolis. "There was nothing more powerful than film to help people understand social issues and start a dialogue about how they might make their lives better."
She continues to value the power of media as an educational tool, and under her direction the Seminars developed extraordinary social media initiatives, learning tools, viewer guides, and project web sites. Margolis also established relationships with dozens of national and regional trade associations, government agencies, professional organizations and citizen groups.
Ms. Margolis, who was previously development director of the Independent Feature Project, is the author of In Focus: A Guide to Using Films, a primer on using video in the community. She has also produced and directed many distinguished films, among them the feature documentary Are We Winning, Mommy? America and the Cold War, the Oscar-nominated Adam Clayton Powell, and the three-part series for PBS, Declarations: Essays on American Ideals.