When Pacific Union College alumna Patricia Thio began work on two particular documentary episodes for a TV program, she knew the stories were powerful—but she didn’t know the national and international recognition they’d bring.
But lights, cameras, and congratulations rewarded Thio at this year’s Emmy Awards ceremony in San Diego, California. There, the Associate Director of PR Video Production at Loma Linda University won awards for two episodes she produced for the university’s documentary-style show, “Loma Linda 360º.” The episode “Armed for the Challenge” won in the documentary-cultural category, while “PossAbilities” was honored in the human-interest section.
Thio adds the “winged woman” to a collection of other honors for “Armed for the Challenge,” including Best of Show from the Public Relations Society of America, Inland chapter, and six international film festival awards. Under Thio’s direction, “Armed for the Challenge” tells the story of Willie Stewart, an athlete whose loss of an arm has not stopped his athletic ambitions: He is training for the physically challenged triathlon USA championships. In addition, he also directs the PossAbilities outreach program at Loma Linda University Medical Center East Campus. This program offers community and activities for individuals with permanent physical injuries. In Thio's episode about Willie, she explains, “we see him at home, at work… he told us his passions and the dirt on what it’s like having a disability. He’s an amazing person and became a wonderful friend of mine.”
“PossAbilities” gives voice to four PossAbilities program members as they discuss life before and after their injuries. Exploring ways to adapt, they find that that one thing has not changed: their commitment to achieve their goals, just in different ways. Thio says, “I remember laughing and crying with them, even staring at them in awe as I listened to how they have overcome. They are such an inspiration, and I feel so blessed to know each of them.”
What sets these two episodes apart from their competition? “I feel that the individuals featured in the films made these projects such a success,” Thio says. “I give them props for answering all my questions...some of which they have never been asked before. It’s never easy talking about the most traumatic experience in your life. No one wants to relive it. But in the end, they knew that these films could help someone else as well as bring awareness to disabilities.”
Emmy nominations and awards for these two episodes just verified their power and impact. The ceremony was also a significant event for Thio. “The night of the Emmys couldn’t have been more perfect,” she exclaims. Not only did her co-worker and friend, Maranatha Hay, also win an Emmy, but Thio fulfilled her wish for one of her best friends: Kent Allison, a co-director of “Armed for the Challenge." Allison was very sick when they flew to New York to film part of the episode, and Thio told herself, “I need to make this up to him somehow.” So later, Thio told Allison that she wanted them to win their first Emmys for the project. “When we actually did, it was the coolest feeling ever.”
Thio, who majored in history and journalism, hadn’t really considered working as a documentary filmmaker, even though she loved sharing in-depth stories. However, she discovered her love for the field after embarking on an mission trip to Albania with 16 LLU individuals—and a video camera.
Now, Thio has produced two seasons of “Loma Linda 360º” and is currently in production for a new show, “Life on the Line,” that will air in its place next year. Thio describes the upcoming show as highlighting “the essence of LLU by telling stories of hope and transformation through individuals whose lives are on the line.”
“My passion is to bring awareness to overlooked social issues,” says Thio. With the spotlight gleaming on her two golden awards, she, too, is accomplishing goals.