Daniel Bergin: Weaving Media and Community Together

Daniel Bergin standing against a yellow wall with his arms crossed

Daniel Bergin (BA ‘90, interdepartmental) was once a student at CLA with too many differing interests in media, and an unclear path. Now, he’s a recipient of the Alumni of Notable Achievement award, and a luminary in filmmaking here in Minnesota. As a filmmaker and executive producer, Bergin brings stories to life, weaving narratives that resonate with audiences. His commitment to preserving and sharing history through the lens of public media marks him as a trailblazer in the industry, showcasing a rare blend of talent, vision, and dedication.

What do you do professionally?

I am a filmmaker and an executive producer and WEM Foundation Endowed Director of History with Twin Cities PBS where I work with the power of storytelling and restorative narrative to empower, educate, and entertain the community. 

How are you involved in the community?

I’m fortunate in that my work in public media has always been rooted in community. From youth media to civic journalism, to current affairs content done in collaboration with nonprofits and community stakeholders. A project like my film, “The Jim Crow of the North,” can only be created in close collaboration with others working in historical recovery and social justice like Mapping Prejudice. So, if I’m truly doing the work of PBS, it has to be in the community. But beyond that narrative change work, another way I try to be present is that I have served on the boards of a half dozen community media and arts organizations over the years and have always supported youth and media literacy efforts in the Twin Cities.

How did your time in CLA inspire you to pursue your path?

As a student interested in media and narrative decades ago, I didn’t have a clear, single path like just film production, or just mass communications. So I took advantage of the individually designed majors in CLA and weaved together my various interests to create a media degree that was more intersectional than most degrees at the time. Now it’s common to earn a degree that is more ‘multimedia’ but back then I had to figure it out myself through the individualized degree programs. I got a production assistant job at Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) shortly after graduation and now here I am, as a leader in this work. 

What is your favorite memory from your time as a student?

Someone once described watching movies with others in a darkened theater as ‘collective dreaming’. I loved film experiences on campus, the film society, screenings at Wiley Hall and Bell, and of course hours and hours of watching and discussing film with fellow cinema nerds in class. And I do mean film. 16mm prints projected in class!

What advice would you give to current CLA students?

If you’re from Minnesota, get involved on campus even when your familiar ‘hood calls. If you’re not from here, get involved off campus and learn about Twin Cities communities. Also, as a sort of historian, I’d like the CLA students and others to research, preserve, and protect the historic institutions (like Afro Studies).

How do you spend your free time? What "fills your cup"?

Family comes first. My wife (UofM alum) and I have two wonderful daughters. Outside: walks around the lakes and along the Minnehaha creek. Inside: Movies in historic cinemas like the Parkway, Riverview, and the Heights. I also drift through used book stores, art galleries, and museums. 

What was your reaction to receiving this award?

It’s always great to be acknowledged by people and an organization you think highly of. It feels like a nice completion of a circle. Also, I came to the U from Minneapolis College (transfer students represent!) and I am in their Hall of Fame so it’s nice to now get the shout out from the U. 

What's next? What are your personal/professional goals for the next five years?

My own personal goal is to continue to see my daughters become amazing young women. In my work, I hope to continue to change the narrative and expand the story of Minnesota and empower the next generation of diverse storytellers. If our work can move the needle on racial justice and other equity issues, maybe I’ll be able to slow down as I head into my 60s and audit some classes back at the UofM…or maybe teach some. 

This story was edited by an undergraduate student.

Edited by Jennifer Nguyen

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