We invite you to join us as we sit down with filmmaker, musician, actor, and Evergreen alumnus, Miguel Pineda, to learn more about his story, journey at Evergreen, and BIPOC media company: Porcupine Media. Alumni Programs is denoted as AP and Miguel Pineda is denoted as MP in this interview.
AP: Tell us about yourself.
MP: I am the Co-Founder of Porcupine Media in Olympia, Washington, and my family has lived here for several generations. My mom just retired this year from Evergreen. She started in the bookstore, then the mailroom, and finally registration. My brother, Jose Luis Pineda also calls the sports games for Evergreen Athletics and both he and my father, Juan Jose Pineda, hosted radio shows on KAOS; my dad did for 35 years and my brother for 12 years. I have always had a very strong connection to Evergreen, it’s been a family affair! Even my uncles and other family members in the Los Guzmanes band would play at Evergreen in the 80s (and everyone would come out to see them!). I am also a third-generation musician and a professional actor. Over the years I have worked on voice overs, comedy sketches and improv, Television Commercials. In 2011 I started a music group in Olympia, Washington called The Brown Edition that signed with Spectra Label. This group was started with another Evergreen Alumni, Thomas Pell, owner of Pell Productions.
AP: What brought you to Evergreen?
MP: I came on a track and field scholarship; athletics made it possible for me to attend and I didn’t have to put the burden of the cost of education on my parents. Athletics was a huge part of my educational journey. The coach at the time came to my high school and was scouting a team. Some of the upperclassmen on my high school track and field team ended up going to Evergreen. I was obviously interested and wanted an interdisciplinary education after seeing so many friends go to Evergreen and have family members who also worked there. As a first-generation student receiving a scholarship and opportunity to pursue higher education, it was a big step for our family. The precedent had been set, and the door had finally been opened; it was a huge part of my family's journey. My parents always told me I would find opportunities through higher education.
AP: Were there any classes or faculty that inspired you while at Evergreen?
MP: Yes. Every single one of them. I can name everyone and every class. Walter Grodzik taught me a lot about viewpoints like the neo-futurist art movement and deconstruction of theater. Ariel Goldberger was an excellent performer and educator. I can’t forget Tony Zaragoza or Therese Saliba; we had great critical dialogues. Andrew Reece taught Greek and was my first faculty. Larry Mosqueda is an institution, he taught me a lot about privilege and how that shows up. He had the best stories! It was such a humanizing experience working with him, being a Chicano faculty member. I was very involved in MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) student club at Evergreen and worked hard on bringing our group to the national MEChA Conference back when I was a freshman student in the early 2000’s.
AP: How did Porcupine Media come to be?
MP: I moved to Spokane after graduating and had a young daughter, then moved around quite a bit during those first few years out of college working for banks and non-profits. In Spokane though, I had some formative years and therapeutic space to create music. I am a third-generation musician on my mom's side. Playing music, it's not if you are going to do it, but when. While at Evergreen I studied music and acting. They were pivotal in forming the direction I am going in now.
Then I moved back to Olympia and got connected with a young editor named Logan Shaw, who co-founded this company with me. We are both filmmakers and at Porcupine Media we do commercial film work, live streams, interactive web development, graphic design, podcasts, photography, and more! Just recently we partnered with the NFL for a watch event and live streamed to a huge audience of 44k+ people. Most of our work has been live streaming broadcasts and commercial film work, we also have done a lot of projects with non-profits, especially in the Greater Puget Sound
AP: What project has been the most impactful for you with Porcupine Media?
MP: Night Quill Sessions – featured on our YouTube Channel – started during the pandemic. My friends weren’t eating well because everything was shut down for musicians and performers, they couldn’t make money. So, we started this in our studio with friends and we would invite musicians to come down and play. We record, gather an audience, then stream live and pay these artists because when we started everything was shut down. How were artists supposed to survive? Three seasons later, the program is now sponsored by the Equity Whisperer and other organizations. It is 12 weeks of music and comedy performances streamed to Twitch and then uploaded to YouTube a couple weeks later.
AP: What advice do you have for others looking to pivot into media or further strengthen their skills?
MP: No matter what it is, how are you showing up? Emotional intelligence is a mature trait that you can learn at any age and it’s not just about media, it’s how you show up as a person. We are responsible to be a mirror to a story and to carry someone else's story. You must have love, trust, and be responsible. It is really important, and if you don’t know how you are showing up it can create unexpected challenges. My daily practice is gratitude and acknowledging my past and all that I am grateful for. I am safe, my family and children are happy, healthy, and safe. Recognize those moments. Anyone can learn skills in media, but are you a good person? I don’t hire people who are not good people, no matter how good your skills are. Our profession is a team sport, have a willingness to accept help and not try to do it all on your own, because you will get burned out quickly.
AP: What impact do you hope to make through media?
MP: What's unique about our production company is we speak 3 languages in our office and 90% people of color work for the company and that is very intentional. I think what we bring to our profession is a young team balanced by those with experience. Our motion graphics editor is in his 40s and I am in my mid 30s, but the rest of the crew is young. We need that, we need fresh, new ideas, and to have diverse perspectives to push us further. I hope our company provides a blueprint for employing BIPOC folks and giving opportunities to others who would most often be passed over for the role. I am definitely an Evergreen alum because I say, “show up as you are, be authentic to your true self.” Just by design we are different because we consider the whole human being and their experiences, it's not just someone doing work and getting paid. We are a familia. If someone says it can’t be done, we welcome the challenge.
AP: Who/what inspires you?
MP: One of the people who inspires my approach to art and life is Arun Chandra. Arun was a performing arts faculty and a composer, but he was doing experimental music. What I enjoyed most was his philosophy. He would play us some experimental electronic music and he would say, ‘I don’t know if people will like this, not that they won’t, but when will they?’ That was inspiring. It's weird, it's different, it's fun! I push forward and push through experimenting, because if it hits and it does work out, it pushes us all forward. Arun was also so understanding during my senior year when having my first child. He was so supportive of me and my family. He saw me as a person. I needed that support and encouragement to try something different. One of my heroes is my uncle Juan Barco, he gave me my first guitar amp. I have always tried to emulate the way he plays and sings, he is incredibly talented and has always been my role model and hero.