Paola Mardo - Long Distance
Paola Mardo is an audio producer and Host/Creator/Producer of Long Distance. She is a storyteller and journalist with an international upbringing and ties to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Having participated in many Asian American and Filipino American groups and organizations, Paola’s interest in Filipino American History and the diaspora grew and blossomed. She began an audio project about LA’s Historic Filipinotown in 2016, which evolved into Long Distance, “a collection of Filipino audio stories set a long way from home.” Long Distance is a beautifully produced podcast about the Filipino diaspora that touches on history, immigrant stories, love, loss, humor, untold stories. The Filipino American experience is a layered one, and Long Distance works to share our histories, tales, and identity through shared and learned experiences.
Long Distance and Visual Communications are holding an event: Long Distance Stories: Filipino American History and Storytelling on Thursday, October 25th at 6:30pm at Visual Communications, 120 Judge John Aiso St. Los Angeles. Please visit their site for more information.
Website: longdistanceradio.com / paolamardo.com
How did you create your career path? And what inspired you to create Long Distance?
I created my career path by trying different things, though as cliché as it sounds, I always knew I wanted to tell stories. When I was younger, I read a lot of Nancy Drew books, wrote a lot of short stories, and did theater. Musicals and Shakespeare included. As a college student at UC Santa Barbara, I studied film and Asian American studies, produced and directed Pilipino Cultural Night shows (PCN!), and interned at Visual Communications, a non-profit media arts organization that runs the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival.
After graduating, I wanted to be a writer but needed to pay the bills so I ended up working in the marketing side of the film industry at Sony Pictures and Annapurna Pictures. I learned a lot about the entertainment business but I knew I wanted to make my own things. So I started the podcast F This Weekly, began writing for blogs and other internet things, got into a graduate arts journalism program at USC Annenberg, then worked at the local NPR station KPCC. Now, I’m an independent audio producer and my radio and podcast stories have aired on KCRW’s Good Food, PRI’s The World, KPCC’s The Frame, Offshore podcast, and more. I also provide audio editing and podcast production services for clients including Hulu, Slate, Vox, Wondery, and Western Sound.
Long Distance stemmed from my own experiences as a child of the diaspora. I was born in LA but grew up in Manila, Kuala Lumpur, and the San Francisco Bay Area. When I moved back to LA after college, I learned about the city’s Historic Filipinotown and found out I was born there too. That kickstarted my interest in learning more about Filipino American history and the diaspora.
Are there any themes, ideas, subjects you especially want to include in your podcast?
Long Distance is a podcast about all kinds of stories – love, loss, history, humor. The stories just so happen to be about Filipino folks all over the world. I do want to try and tell stories that haven’t yet been told, or shine a light on underrepresented experiences. Finding home, wherever that may be, is definitely a theme in a lot of these stories.
How important is Fil Am identity and history to you?
Pretty important. It’s something that has taken me years to really figure out and understand. After launching this podcast, I learned this is something so many other people are grappling with too. Folks especially want to know more about Filipino American history.
Having lived in different parts of the world, I’ve always had a global perspective on things. I try to see the bigger picture. So even though I am Filipino American, I know I’m also part of the Filipino diaspora, which is this larger, more complex thing I’m still learning about.
What do you love about the work you are creating?
I love the stories I get to tell and the people I get to meet through this work. I love everything that has to do with audio storytelling – writing, editing, interviewing, research. There really is an endless amount of Long Distance stories out there. I want to help tell every single one of them.
Has the Fil Am community been open to your work?
Yes, I think so. I was pretty nervous about how the show would be received in the Filipino American community. People have opinions, you know? But so far, the reception has been incredible. I am proud of the work I’ve done and I am so glad that people are connecting to it.
Some people have even asked how they can support me so I can produce more than an episode a month. Right now, that’s all I can do because I produce and edit this all on my own time. I’ll let people know once I figure out the right avenues for support. For now, listening, subscribing, and sharing the show with friends and on social media is a great way to help. Follow the Instagram and join the Facebook group. And if you’ve listened to the first episode, you’d know I’m looking for sponsors. So if that’s you or someone you know, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Describe your biggest driving force.
The Philippines may be a small country but Filipinos form one of the largest diaspora populations in the world. There are so many layers to the Filipino experience in the diaspora but mainstream media rarely represents these experiences well. In the U.S., the few Filipino stories we see are usually about food or nursing, which is great, but we have other stories too.
Filipinos are so starved for content about the community, that even the bad articles get shared. I want to put an end to that. I want us to have well told and produced stories that reflect our true experiences. That’s probably my biggest driving force.
How did you decide to create an event (Long Distance Stories: A Night of Filipino American History and Storytelling) to coincide with Filipino American History Month and your podcast premier?
Podcasts are a great audio storytelling medium, but I think there’s value in making something people can engage with in real life. I reached out to Visual Communications about screening MANONG on October 25 which is Larry Itliong Day. Larry Itliong was part of the generation of “manongs,” or the first Filipinos who came to live and work in the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s. He was also one the leaders of the Filipino farm labor movement.
MANONG is a 1978 documentary film by Linda Mabalot, a filmmaker and former executive director of VC. It is also one of VC’s first films about the Filipino American experience. I thought screening the film would be a great way to start a conversation about Filipino American history and nonfiction storytelling, which we’re having with a great group of amazing Filipino American storytellers at the event. Plus, we’re playing a related excerpt form Long Distance, which should be fun because listening to something in a group is a really interesting experience. It might get awkward, but that’s totally cool!
Do you have any upcoming podcast subjects that you are excited about?
Yes. But you’ll have to tune in to find out!
Photos courtesy of Long Distance and Patrick Epino.