The Crew of the Merlin:
The logistics of putting together a traveling show like this requires an experienced team of people who can work cohesively. We believe, after four years of development, that we have put together just such a team. With an accomplished group of directors, producers, artists, and technical staff, plus the latest high-end equipment and software, Around The Bend Productions offers the latest and greatest approach to bringing ideas to life through television. We blend the unique creative talents of seasoned veterans with the energy and technical skills of new media mavericks. The entire staff includes writers, producers, editors, animators and creative thinkers, with a combined experience of over 250 years. This team develops programming together, providing guidance through the creative, pre-production, production and post- production processes with the highest of attention to detail. Our videography teams are comprised of Emmy award winning field producers, directors, and videographers each with extensive experience in outdoor field production techniques. Our videographers have worked on a wide variety of programs like The Amazing Race (CBS), 20/20 (ABC), and CSPAN programming with each possessing international shooting experience for World Harvest in Sudan, Indonesia, and India. Our production team executes creative strategies to provide a successful shoot, and then passes footage on to our award winning post-production crew. We are truly a cross-generational group of filmmakers and educators who are committed to passing on our knowledge to the next generation and beyond.
Charles Joseph Patrick Chervenka is President of Around the Bend Productions LLC and will serve as Executive Producer to the Voyages of the Merlin project. He has experience in corporate America in numerous fields: Radio, television production, acting, traffic management, customer service, industrial sales and marketing, small business ownership, management and strategic analysis and planning. He has an inherent talent for bringing together diverse groups of individuals to develop this project to its current level.
Lynn M. Shackelford is Merlin's Producer and Education Team Coordinator. In addition to working with the education staff, Lynn will be working with casting and coordinating research efforts for the project. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University and an M.Ed from Aquinas College and is certified by the state of Michigan to teach history, government, and English at the secondary level (6-12). She is a member at large of Kappa Delta Pi, an international honor society of educators, and specializes in curriculum development and project-based learning.
Ron Hill is Voyage of the Merlin’s Producer. Ron has a M.Ed. in Educational Media & Technology from Kent State University. He has been the Director of Educational Services for WNEO/WEAO-TV Public Television stations in Kent, Ohio. Ron recently sold his business, C.E. Verifier, a company specializing in the development of professional training programs for continuing education, to Kent State University.
Dale J. Gaydos is Managing Director. Currently he is President of Visualization, Ltd. He has a B.A. in Speech Communications and an M.A. in Communications and Mass Media from the University of Akron. He has over 40 years experience in television production, digital multi-media presentations, rallies, and annual meetings. Dale is also the recipient of an EMMY for directing from the National Association of Television Arts & Sciences, was named to the Top 100 Multi-Media Producers in the world and has received an ADDY Award of Excellence for Producing.
Gordon "Joe" Murray has been chosen to serve as Director for The Voyages of the Merlin. He has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from Kent State University, He has worked as a producer, director, graphic designer, creative director and writer for a variety of public television and commercial television stations. Joe's specials and documentaries, produced in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, have earned him many awards including an Obie and Producer of the Year Awards along with three EMMY Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Kevin O'Meara will be the navigator and boat captain. Kevin earned a Bachelor's of Science in Anthropology from Grand Valley State University. A member of the Macatawa Bay Yacht Club, Kevin has been sailing and racing boats in the Great Lakes for over 50 years and has taught river ecology at Grass River Natural Area for over a decade.
Matthew Vale is the president of Clean World Fuels and the creator of Merlin's hydrogen infusion device. Matthew will also be sharing captain duties with Mr. O'Meara. Matthew bought his first sail boat in 1984 and has owned and operated, J-35, J-120, Thomas-35, Tartan-4100, and Cruisers Inc.-2300. He has raced 13 Port Huron to Mackinac Races (259 miles), 2 Chicago to Mackinac Races (338 miles), Tortola BVI (1998), Key West Florida (2004), and Aruba (2005), as well as crossing the Panama Canal in 2010. Matthew continues to race sail boats at the North Star Sail Club in Harrison Township, Michigan
Roger Rapoport has been chosen as a scriptwriter for The Voyages of the Merlin series. Roger and his partner, Richard Harris, have just adapted Steven Faulkner's Waterwalk, a retracing of the Joliet/Marquette discovery route of the Mississippi, for a film shot shot primarily in West Michigan. Roger graduated with a Bachelor's of Arts in Journalism from the University of Michigan where he was editor of The Michigan Daily. As a newspaper and magazine writer Roger has written in all 50 states, 6 Canadian provinces, and 30 foreign countries. A lifelong sailor and enthusiastic kayaker, he has traveled extensively throughout the Great Lakes, along the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Atlantic Coast.
Susan Link Hoffman is the Assistant to the Executive Producer. Susan has a B.F.A. with dual majors in Advertising Design and Illustration from the Columbus College of Art & Design and has pursued graduate studies in the Department of the History of Art at The Ohio State University. For the last 23 years she has operated Susan Link Design, an award-winning graphic design studio.
Joseph Novitsky is our Science and Technology Director and creator of Merlin's solar powered water purifier.
Ron Snead is our Director of Business Development. He graduated from Ferris State University with a BS in Biology and currently serves as Chairman of the Ferris State Board of Trustees. Ron has worked in the automotive manufacturing market acting as the Corporate Director of Business Development for Tier one automotive suppliers to BMW, Nissan, Honda, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. He has also served as Vice President of the State Conference of N.A.A.C.P. chapters from 1983 to 1993. As a member of the Board of Directors for the Girl Scout Board for West Michigan, Ron was on their Capital Campaign Committee helping them meet their goal of $2.5 million. Ron is currently on the Capital Campaign for Mel Trotter's Ministries, a local shelter for the homeless, and has been nominated to serve on their Board of Directors.
Andrew Shackelford is our Director of Marketing and will be overseeing Merlin’s marketing and branding strategy. With over 24 years of experience in advertising, sales, and marketing (17 of those as Owner of Shackelford Marketing), Andrew is a proven business development and marketing leader. He has a Bachelor’s degree in graphic design and industrial design from Michigan State University.
Joseph R. Gillard III is to serve as legal counselor for Around the Bend Productions. Mr. Gillard will assure that the legal structure of the organization is properly in place. Additionally, he will develop the employee policies, review production contracts, employment contracts, and vendor relations policies
Roger Sidoti is Director of Education. Roger Sidoti retired as a high school educator after forty years, the last thirty serving as a high school principal in a variety of settings. He holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in secondary education and an Education Specialist degree in educational leadership. He has been instrumental in the expansion and use of technology in schools, and the development and implementation of many high school curriculum programs that interface with the environment. His school was awarded $50,000 as a finalist in Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest where high school students mentored elementary students in utilizing hands-on technology to monitor and assess water quality in the Cuyahoga River. His school was also recognized by the U.S. News & World Report as one of the best in Ohio, and by the Ohio State Department of Education as a “School of Character”. He was the co-host of over sixty episodes of the television show Principles: Turning Our Schools Around and has been a guest speaker in a variety of educational shows and settings.
Scott Mellema is our Arts and Culture Guide in front of the camera and a curriculum developer behind the scenes. For a full bio, please check out our Cast Page
Cinnamon Mellema is our Historical Researcher and Curriculum Developer. An educator for over 16 years, Cinnamon earned her Bachelor’s degree in Education from Western Michigan University, and a M.Ed. in Special Education (Learning Disabilities) from Grand Valley State University. Additionally, Ms. Mellema holds a Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University and is certified by the state of Michigan in history (6-12), EI all subjects (K-12) and Elementary all subjects (K-5)
Alice Outwater is our Environmental Science Researcher. She has a Master of Science degree in civil engineering (technology and policy) from MIT, and managed biosolids for the Boston Harbor clean-up. She lectures on water across the US and writes books about the environment, which are sold in over 15 languages. Alice lives on a farm in Durango, Colorado, where she is a member of the Durango Water Commission and works on local environmental issues.