Name: Bianca Kaprielian
Where she sits: Traveler’s desk, ground floor
What she does for a living: Co-owner of Fruit World Co., a produce sales company that represents small and mid-size family farmers
When Bianca Kaprielian was growing up, in a deep-rooted Central Valley family, her father, a farmer, urged her not to follow in his footsteps. Kaprielian did her best to oblige.
After attending college in New England, she settled in New York and embarked on a career as a documentary cinematographer.
But farming was often at the forefront of her mind.
“As a filmmaker, the subjects I kept gravitating toward seemed to involve farming or food,” she says.
Since returning to California in 2007, Kaprielian has immersed herself full-time in agriculture—not as a farmer but as the founder of a sales entity for a handful of small and mid-size farms, bringing the best of the state’s seasonal bounty to local stores and stands.
With citrus season in full swing, Temescal Works caught up with Kaprielian to ask about the evolution of her career, the year-round rhythms of her work, and if she would please clarify this question—what’s the difference between a mandarin and a tangerine?
TW: How far back does your family go in California?
BK: My great-grandfather came over from Armenia during the Armenian genocide and eventually landed in the Fresno area and started farming. I’m fourth-generation, and my family still farms out of our home base in Reedley.
TW: What crops does your family grow?
BK: Originally it was stone fruit— peaches, plums, nectarines, as well as table and raisin grapes. But around 20 years ago, my dad saw the writing on the wall. He saw that the stone fruit market was starting to falter and consumer demand was starting to drop. So he traveled all around—to Spain, South Africa, Israel and beyond—and when he came back he started a mandarin breeding program. He has nursery, which is one of the places I worked when I was growing up. At this point, that’s what my family grows—-mandarins, a little bit of oranges, a little bit of lemons.
TW: Did you consider becoming a farmer yourself?
BK: Though I grew up farming, I was always told, ‘don’t be a farmer. It’s too hard.’ I think my dad didn’t want to be farmer but it’s what he and his siblings wound up doing, and he’s good at it. He bought his first ranch when he was 17. He probably should have been an engineer because that’s what he’s passionate about, but he’s a great farmer so that’s what he’s done. But I think his view was always, ‘I’ve done well, but I don’t want my kids to have to do this.’ He wanted us to explore. He had a rule that we had to go to college at three hours driving distance from home. He was like, ‘Go do something else. Follow your dreams.’
BK: So where did your dreams take you?
TW: I went to Smith College, in Massachusetts, and then moved to New York and started working as a cinematographer. But as a filmmaker, the subjects I kept gravitating toward involved farming and food. When I moved back to the Bay Area, it was hard to make as good of a living in documentary film, and I also realized that I wanted to get back into agriculture. So I became a produce buyer. I started out working for Veritable Vegetable, then Whole Foods.
TW: And from there you hung out your own shingle?
BK: We started Fruit World Co. about two years ago. I had been thinking about how I could be a part of my family’s farming business and continue our agricultural heritage into future generations. One day I received a call from my dad saying that the large marketing company that was selling/marketing the family’s fruit had decided to pull out of the California citrus deal. It was a great opportunity – a big opportunity – so I started up my own sales/marketing company with the help of my friend and brother-from-another-mother C.J. (who has a similar family farming background). It’s been so important because we’ve had each other to lean on. I can’t emphasize that enough. If you’re starting a business, find someone to start it with. At some point, you’re going to want to go on vacation.
TW: It doesn’t seem like there’s every much downtime in agriculture. What’s your average day like?
BK: I wish I had an average day. It would allow me to plan better. But I’ll give you an average week. We work with my family farms, my business partner’s farms and a handful of other growers. Primarily, we’re in the San Joaquin Valley, but we also represent a grower in Ventura County. So in any given week, I’m usually in the Central Valley for one night and then I can fly to Venture County for a day if needed. The morning is reserved for sales. I start calling customers around 5am to sell fruit, then communicate with the harvest crew, packing houses and trucking companies to get all the logistics worked out. It can be pretty time consuming. In produce we still use telephones and faxes. By 10 a.m. or 11 a.m., I can usually wrap that up and start with all the other stuff that comes with running a business. Working with our packaging designer to create a new mandarin bag, walking the mandarin blocks to determine what block we’ll pick next, showing/sampling our fruit at the cold storage to prospective buyers, signing checks to get the bills paid.
TW: Speaking of mandarins, when we were kids, weren’t they tangerines? What’s the difference?
BK: I would say that now the umbrella term is just mandarin. People don’t really use the term tangerine. Sometimes people say clementine, but clementines are just one mandarin variety.
TW: When did the term ‘tangerine’ go out of fashion?
BK: Tangerines are a type of mandarin, originating from Tangier, Morocco. I don’t know that the term tangerine went out of fashion, but most mandarins you see on the market now are clementine and satsuma varieties. The mandarins that people know as Cuties are clementine varieties. You don’t really see tangerines grown much anymore because on the mandarin spectrum, they are less sweet and harder to peel.
TW: You mentioned Cuties. It seemed like one day, we woke up and they were everywhere. Do you and your family have any fun names for fruit that you’ve been able to been able to carve out a place for in the marketplace?
BK: We are about to launch a brand called Winks that has a cute winking mandarin as the mascot.
TW: I remember reading a book on oranges by John McPhee and I was surprised to learn that oranges turn green at night, and that a green orange is not necessarily bad to eat?
BK: That’s true. But consumers will not buy an orange that’s not orange. We’ve had customers reject truckloads of products because it’s not orange enough. That green has no bearing on the flavor. But it doesn’t sell. So at the start of the season (October – November) when the nights have not been cold enough to bring on the orange color, citrus gets de-greened. It’s like the banana-ripening process. They’ll put the citrus in a room with high humidity, stable temperatures in the 70s and ethylene gas, the same gas that’s used to ripen bananas. It gets the oranges to color in four to five days. As the season progresses, usually by early December, fruit doesn’t have to be de-greened.
TW: That’s interesting. Any other citrus fun-facts you can share?
BK: Lots. Hmmm. Here’s something else. Rain and a lot of water will wash out the acid in fruit, so we don’t ever pick in the first few days after a rain because the sugars will be there but there will be no acid, so the flavors aren’t balanced.
TW: Is that what has happened to the grapefruit of my youth? They used to be tart. Now there’s so sweet.
BK: To be honest, I’m not much of a grapefruit person myself. But I definitely notice that with grapes. A lot of grapes today are like sugar water. The generic black, red and green grapes now taste like flat sugar. This is due to breeding. We are breeding new varieties that are super sweet.
TW: Do you have a favorite fruit?
BK: My absolutely favorite is a mandarin we grow called a Clemenules. My grandparents home ranch is on one of the few foothills of the San Joaquin Valley. We named it Sky Ranch for the beautiful views. There is less than two feet of top soil and then granite beneath. And the granite provides high mineral content in the soil. The mandarin we grow there is perfectly balanced. It’s really sweet but has a nice of amount of acid so it tastes bright, not flat and sugary. It’s my favorite fruit in the whole world.
We’re all in this together. But not all of us are acquainted yet. In the interest of making casual introductions among those of us working under the same roof, we at Temescal Works will be posting periodic snapshot profiles of our members. Read below for our first get-to-know-your-neighbor Q&A.
Name: Bradley Furnish
Where he sits: Mezzanine level, toward the back
What he does for a living: Film editor, specializing in animated shorts and feature films as well as animated virtual reality.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Furnish attended college at LSU and moved to the Bay Area in 2004, getting his start as a film editor, location scout and production assistant,—a freelance film and television jack-of-all-trades. In 2007, he landed a job at Pixar, the famed Emeryville animation studio, beginning his tenure, he says, “at the bottom rung and gradually working my way up.” He wound up earning credits on a range of well-known films, including Toy Story 3 and Brave. In 2017, Furnish lit out on his own as an independent film editor, but not before collaborating with this Pixar colleagues on “The Dam Keeper,” an animated short that was nominated for an Academy Award. We caught up with Furnish to ask about his work experiences, past and present, and to find out what projects have him most excited now.
Temescal Works: Were you one of those kids who started making films as soon as you were big enough to hold a camera?
Furnish: I pretty much got my start in college. At the time, LSU didn’t have a film program, so I majored in graphic design. I started making short films with some friends at school. They weren’t great films, but we were learning on the fly.
TW: What were some of your first projects?
Furnish: A trio of friends and I did a video for a New Orleans rapper. It was about him coming up in a tough neighborhood in New Orleans and having parents who were always fighting and eventually divorcing. It was an intense shoot. We were just walking around with him trying to get shots and he was telling us stories. “Oh, and here’s where I saw my first dead body when I was 8.”
TW: Did he become a well-known rapper?
Furnish: His name was Governor Reese. I don’t think he’s rapping anymore.
TW: Any other notable early works?
Furnish: The first short feature was also in college. A dark thriller called Beautiful. It was about a serial killer stalking someone on campus, shot at night at LSU. It was one of those first-attempt college films, and we made tons of mistakes. More importantly, it was the first project where we took on many different roles, and I discovered a love of editing.
TW: What kind of problems do you notice when you watch some of your more youthful work?
Furnish: A lot of new editors are drawn to noticeable, highly stylized editing when they first start out. It’s much harder to cut a narrative scene that flows so naturally that you don’t even notice the editing. When I look at my past work, I see a lot of mistimed edits, depending too much on music to the save the cut, and lumpy pacing. It’s hard not to watch it and want to recut all of it.
TW: After college, San Francisco. Was it hard to get a start out here?
Furnish: I did pretty much anything and everything I was offered. Location scout. Production assistant. I worked on some bad reality TV shows.
TW: Anything we might have seen?
Furnish: One of them was a dating show. The conceit was that were four women who were perma-single and in their late 20s and ready to get into relationships, and they’d bring love coaches to help them through these dates. It had two working titles—Single Minded and How to Get the Guy. I don’t remember what it got released under.
TW: For someone interested in animation, Pixar seems like it would be a dream job. Was it?
Furnish: It was a great experience. I came in pretty much at the bottom rung and worked my way up. A lot of what I did early on involved going to the recording sessions and making sure we were getting the audio we needed. I remember sitting in on some sessions with Tom Hanks. I was thinking, this is a big deal because, you know, he is. But then he gets in the session and he’s reading the script cold and he delivers a line three ways and says, ‘No. That’s not good.’ And he’d do it again. Here’s a guy who is a megastar and could have just been complacent and said, ‘What I did was fine.’ But he continued to push himself. It was an eye-opening experience. Not so much about editing, but about how things get made.
TW: Of all your time at Pixar, was there any one project that left the deepest impression on you?
Furnish: The one that I’m most proud of is an animated short called The Dam Keeper. It came out of a program called “the co-op.” Pixar provides the resources and employees get to create projects on the side. It was gratifying because it was a smaller, more encapsulated project with a lot of people doing roles for the first time. It was very collaborative, so whenever there was a problem, it was all hands on deck. And at the end, there was a lot of sense of ownership. When it was done, we produced it not thinking anything was going to happen. But we had a great indie festival run, and it eventually secured an Oscar nomination.
TW: So you got to go to the ceremony in Hollywood?
Furnish: Yes. We were in the animated short film ghetto. No lights. They don’t put the cameras on you. But it was still thrilling and surreal. As much as the Oscar nomination was a bright point, the impact of the film was bigger. It’s a film that deals with school bullying through anthropomorphized characters. We showed it at tons of festivals and to see the reactions from audiences was amazing.
TW: As a filmmaker, when you’ve got a coveted gig at a place like Pixar—-well, was it hard to leave?
Furnish: It’s definitely the apex of animated filmmaking. But after being there for around 11 years, and doing some of these smaller projects, I wanted to keeping working on some of those—smaller projects, independent filmmakers. At the same time, there were two or three studios cropping up around the Bay Area, and I thought, you know, it’s possible to work on smaller projects and make a go of it.
TW: We pretty much all know what it’s like to watch a film. Not all of us know what it’s like to edit one. What’s one of the common misconceptions the general public tends to have about the work?
Furnish: With animation in particular, people don’t often realize that the process works a little in reverse, meaning: we’re editing the film way before it’s actually been animated. We’re editing off storyboards. We still have dialog and music and other things that make a film, but not the animation. The artists create the storyboards, and then we go in and string them together and time things out and make sure it’s all playing like a film.
TW: Any projects you’re especially excited about at the moment?
Furnish: There’s a VR piece called Crow: the Legend. It’s based on the Native American legend of the crow and how the crow got its raspy voice and its black feathers. The studio I’m working with is doing traditional animation, but in virtual reality. You put on goggles to watch it. It’s like being immersed inside of a Pixar film.
Like all of you, we have lives outside of Temescal Works. We also had lives before Temescal Works. Take Ellen Kim, one of our team members. You probably recognize her. Warm smile. Sharp fashion sense. In her pre-co-working incarnation, Ellen was a floral designer who ran her own company, Gingerleaf Floral.
Then there’s Danny Fernandez, another lynchpin in our operation. Odds are you’ve met him, too. Dark hair. Outgoing. Endlessly amiable and energetic. In a prior life, Danny was a landscape architect. As we were busy getting Temescal Works off the ground, Ellen and Danny’s skills were invaluable, and their touch is evident throughout the building.
Among the many examples of their influence are the splashes of greenery that dot both floors, an eye-pleasing array of succulents that range from agapanthus and craspedia to palm leaves and husks. Danny and Ellen can give you all the names. The two of them teamed up to procure, design and lay out these potted arrangements.
We think they make a pleasing natural compliment to our modern industrial space. We hope you think so, too. As our business continues to grow and evolve, our indoor plants will likely change as well, and Danny and Ellen will no doubt have a hand in that transformation. We’re also hoping that the rest of us might get a chance to show off some of our hidden talents. Sara, for example, who works the front desk—she plays a pretty mean kazoo.
As you may have noticed, Oakland has been making its presence felt in film.
What started early this year with a cameo in Black Panther swelled by summer into a major role for the city in back-to-back releases. First came Sorry to Bother You, a made-in-Oakland movie about a resourceful telemarketer, followed, just weeks later, by Blindspotting, a story of race and class in gentrifying Oakland, starring homegrown hero, Daveed Diggs.
Big news, all.
But Oakland’s 15-minutes aren’t over yet.
On October 24, another film with ties to Oakland will have its first public screening, though this one wasn’t bankrolled by Hollywood bucks.
Written, produced and directed by local filmmaker, Darryl Jones, All of This!!! is a short film that was made in bootstrapping fashion, relying on a wealth of volunteer efforts, including a pro bono production crew. The end result is an artful outgrowth of Jones’ passion, which gets to the subject of the film itself.
All of This !!! focuses on the lives of artists. Specifically, the lives of artists in Oakland over the course of a single day, illuminating their struggles as they cope with rejection and failure. To one extent or another, the characters are all lost in their own heads, until a natural disaster jolts them back into the moment.
Sounds interesting, right?
Oh, and we should mention: part of it was shot right here at Temescal Works.
Though we won’t spoil the ending, we will supply you with some of the backstory.
Jones, who is 33 and lives in the Temescal, got his first look at Temescal Works a few months back when he dropped by for one of our open houses. At the event, he wound up speaking with Temescal Works team member, Ellen Kim.
One thing led to another, which led to another, which led to the evening of Aug. 14, when Jones and his crew spent around five hours filming in our building. The scene they shot was set in the large conference room.
In the final cut of the movie, the Temescal Works scene runs some two-and-half minutes and centers on a confrontation between two main characters, minutes before their world is quite literally shaken.
As for the consequences, we’ll let you watch the film.
The screening is slated to begin at around 7 p.m. (the schedule is slightly fluid) as part of the RAW Artists Showcase, at 1015 Folsom St, in San Francisco. You can purchase tickets here. http://www.rawartists.org/darryljones.
It’s a great opportunity to support talented local artists like Jones, and others. And to get a glimpse of Temescal Works.
On last note: if you’d like to contribute to Jones’ crowdfunding campaign for the film, you can do so here https://www.seedandspark.com/fund/all-of-this
As you were winding down your work day a few Thursdays ago, you might have noticed a familiar face arriving. Yep. That was her. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, on an evening visit to Temescal Works. She’d dropped by for a conversation with members of the East Bay Animal PAC, a volunteer-run, nonprofit organization that does very much what its name suggests: it supports animal-friendly candidates and legislation while working to educate a range of public officials about issues related to animal welfare. One of our Temescal Works team members, Tim Anderson, is a co-founder of the group.
The Sept. 20 meeting was an opportunity for enlightening back-and-forth that focused on options for strengthening services and protections for Oakland’s vulnerable animal residents. PAC members submitted written questions. Mayor Schaaf responded. And the conversation progressed from there.
Among the notable bits of news to emerge is that the mayor is pushing to support the Oakland Animal shelter through a public-private partnership with a local non-profit. The goal is to beef up staffing while increasing a range of resources that the shelter relies on.
After the conversation with the mayor, PAC members stayed on to hold their 2018 endorsement meeting. Candidates in city council races from Berkeley, Oakland and Alameda gave presentations to the PAC, and the membership voted to endorse candidates based on those presentations.
You get the picture. It wasn’t just another night at Temescal Works. But it was indicative of our broader ambitions. In addition to being a neighborhood co-working space, we also want to be a community resource and gathering place for all kinds of events: book readings, wine tastings, corporate trainings, private parties and on. If you have an event you’d like to hold here, or thoughts on the kind of gatherings you’d like to see, please let us know. We’d love to hear your input.