Rodney Whittenberg, an award-winning filmmaker who works with Healthy NewsWorks on video projects, says he owes it all to his father.
“From the time I was a little kid, my dad was introducing me to the world,” Rodney says. His father, a salesman at Sears, was buying and rehabbing old homes long before doing so was an HGTV trend. “He’d say, ‘Hey Rod, want to come play build a house?’ I was handling a blowtorch at 4! All that stuff was so cool for me as a kid.”
But Rodney wasn’t just exposed to hands-on, technical work—his father encouraged Rodney’s creativity, too.
“We went to the movies frequently as a family,” Rodney says. “I saw Oliver 20 or 30 times in the theaters.” While other teens were hanging out, Rodney was going to the Art Museum, and to the TLA to see art films.
Those early exposures, Rodney says, ignited “four passions that I’ve turned into a life: music, film and TV, technology, and education. Those are my jams!”
Those passions translate directly to Rodney’s work with Healthy NewsWorks, which began in Spring 2020. He’s impressed with the opportunities given to kids who participate in the program. “If you don’t put limitations on them, they won’t put limitations on themselves,” he says of Healthy NewsWorks student journalists. “To be part of that is an honor.”
Over the years, he’s been able to increase his contributions to the program.
“Marian [Ulhman, Healthy NewsWorks’ executive director] will say, ‘Do you have an idea?’ I’ve got 20!”
For Healthy NewsWorks’ 2023 Spring Celebration, Rodney suggested using a morning news show format. “The only thing we didn’t do was the weather,” he jokes.
Going forward, Rodney is dreaming big. “I would love to get the kids doing podcasts along with the film. I would love to put cameras in their hands.”
Rodney is the owner of MelodyVision in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. He has taught at Lincoln University, University of the Arts, Philadelphia Community College, Drexel University, Rosemont College, and Philadelphia University. He currently is working on a feature-length documentary.
Photo: Rodney Whittenberg speaks at Healthy NewsWorks’ 2023 Spring Celebration at Community College of Philadelphia.