When Bernard and Jane Guyer first learned what their fellow Kol HaLev congregant Rich Polt had been up to in recent months, it seemed like beshert, or destiny. Approaching their 50th wedding anniversary, the Guyers were looking for a meaningful way to commemorate the milestone.
Polt, the founder and producer of Acknowledge Media, a family legacy preservation company, had the perfect vehicle: a film documenting and celebrating their story.
“Rich was very prepared, very professional, and he was fun to work with,” says Bernard Guyer.
For Polt, a veteran public relations professional and documentary producer, Acknowledge Media is the culmination of years of soul-searching. “I wasn’t one of those people who always knew what I wanted to do with my life,” says the Baltimore native and father of two.
But in retrospect, Polt, 44, says he realizes his new venture is a natural extension of his previous work and interests.
After working at various public relations firms, Polt in 2003 founded Louder Than Words, a Boston-based agency that worked mainly with nonprofits and foundations. Seven years later, he and his wife, Jennifer, moved back to Baltimore.
While working in public relations here, Polt created Talking Good, a weekly blog in which he interviewed individuals involved in social action and community service endeavors.
“I wanted to do something that spotlighted stories of people who were doing good,” he says. “As more people read the blog, they started to say, ‘You should interview him or her …’” Readers nominated people to be interviewed and videotaped on the blog. The initiative represented a pivotal shift in Polt’s career trajectory. “I was driven by [Talking Good’s] human narrative,” he says.
Last June, Polt launched Acknowledge Media, which has two other employees.
“There is something beautiful about people allowing themselves to be known,” Polt says. “Sometimes, they’ll say, ‘You made me see myself through others’ eyes.’ Helping people see how valuable they are is very gratifying. This is what I’m meant to do. This is the work I never want to retire from.”
Pikesville resident Miriam Gerstenblith agrees that Polt has found his calling. Her mother, Helen Lewis, 93, was one of his first legacy film subjects.
“I always wanted to do a memory scrapbook for my parents,” says Gerstenblith. She went as far as contacting Audrey Polt, Rich’s mother and owner of Creative Memories, a local scrapbooking business.
Gerstenblith found she was just too busy to compile everything required to create the scrapbook she envisioned. That’s when Audrey Polt told her about her son’s new business.
“I called Rich, and the first call was magical,” Gerstenblith says. “I knew he was going to fulfill my dream!”
But Lewis was initially resistant. “We don’t have to have this done professionally,” Gerstenblith recalls her mother saying. “But I said to my mother, ‘This isn’t about you. This is a gift I’m giving to myself.’ So she agreed.”
The process was simple, Gerstenblith says. “First, we had a preliminary interview,” she says. “Rich sat with my mother, asked her some key questions and created a timeline of her life. Then, he asked me to pull together about 15 photos that were significant to me. We fell in love with Rich. He was so endearing and such a gifted interviewer.”
That preliminary interview is what Polt calls Phase I. Afterward, he uses the information collected to compile a set of in-depth interview questions.
Phase II is when Polt meets with his subjects in their homes for a final interview and videotaping. In Phase III, the post-production phase, the interview is edited, and photos and music are added.
The entire project typically takes 10 to 14 weeks, and the cost varies from $5,000 to $20,000.
After receiving the finished product, Gerstenblith says she assembled her children and a niece for a family screening.
“There was laughter, tears. We were spellbound for three hours!” she says. “My mother’s reaction was, ‘How I would have loved to have something like this from my mother!’”
For information, call 617-699-9144 or visit acknowledgemedia.com.
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