The emBARK! Story
A story repeated too many times in cities across America, someone abandoned a pit bull puppy on the rough streets of a crime-ridden DC neighborhood. Chances of survival were slim for the homeless, injured puppy.
Cold, hungry, and barely hanging on, a good Samaritan found the timid pup and took him home for a few days; providing a safe, warm place to recover. After a friend offered to take him in, the demands of bringing him back to health were too great, and Humane Rescue of DC was called to pick him up.
Living in the shelter, cared for by skilled volunteers, the young pup started the slow path to a healthy recovery. His photo and story were posted on their pet adoption website, but the impact of homeless wandering left him less than photogenic. The odds of living a normal life with a loving home, were poor at best.
It would take a true pet lover and advocate to give him any shot at a normal life.
While searching online for a special puppy to adopt for her growing family, Giovanna was taken aback by the photo of that timid pit bull rescue puppy. Appearing anxious… the sad eyes… his feeble and humble look tugged on Giovanna’s heart strings. Having the appearance of a pig and cow trapped in a dog with squirrel paws, he captured her attention. Calling the Rescue to learn more about this pit bull puppy in need, Giovanna discovered he was a well behaved, dependable and appreciative puppy.
After stopping by to visit a few times, Giovanna made the choice to adopt. With his pig-like looks and grunting sounds, the name Willie stuck. Knowing his history, being rescued from the streets of South East Washington DC, and his passion for bacon, his full name became Willie H. Bacon, after the famed architect of the Lincoln memorial.
With a loving home and abundant TLC, the once abandoned and homeless pup left to die on the streets, regained confidence and strength, growing into one of the most affectionate, gentle pets anyone could hope for. As a pup pampered in luxury, Willie now enjoys memory foam beds, wearing bow-ties, endless treats, trips to the pet store… and generally being adorable, running in circles, trying yoga, making new friends at doggie daycare, and pretending to be a lap-dog.
After a failed but fun run for Mayor of Annandale Virginia, hoping to change its name to “Annantail” in support of a dog friendly community. Applying his warm personality to the small screen, Willie started an entertainment career starring in a local Toyota commercial.
Understanding the unfavorable stereotype applied to pit bulls and knowing the truth most are adorable and loving companions, Giovanna and Willie became partners to promote animal rescue and pit bull advocacy, embarking on a journey to produce a pet positive television show.
Giovanna Di BiccariShow Host & Executive Producer
From a young age, Giovanna knew she loved every kind of animal. At the age of fifteen while in Italy visiting her grandmother, she found a young bird who couldn’t fly yet. She took the bird home, fed it, and kept throwing it in the air further and further every day until she could take it by the hills of the countryside and let it go. While living in South Carolina she started volunteering at Pets, Inc., a no-kill, non-government sponsored shelter that relied on the community’s donations. She soon joined their board to help in creative ideas for fundraising, emceeing events such as their “Barktoberfest” and taking portraits of the dogs and cats for use in adoption and social media posts. Each week she would take home a new dog to foster. She also advocated for the punishment of a local police officer who tasered a twenty-five-pound dog, via interviews with the local news station. In fact, many people would call Giovanna when they would find a lost dog or had questions about their own animals. When Hurricane Katrina hit in August of 2005, many news stations interviewed the animal caretakers who were rescuing abandoned animals. She called LSU’s Parker Coliseum to make sure they had enough volunteers after their cry for help on the national news. She quickly booked a flight to Louisiana, took a taxi to the coliseum, and went straight to work from dawn until nightfall. She slept on the floor with her sleeping bag along with other volunteers that answered the cry for pets in need. Today, Giovanna is still very active in her community. Often visiting Lost Dog and Rescue Foundation’s kennels to take home a “playdate” for the weekend for her dog Willie. Being a member for the National Organization of Italian American Women, Giovanna finally has a place welcoming her big ideas. She helps the Development Committee with fundraising ideas whether it’s a large cocktail party or a quaint mom brunch party.
Willie H. BaconShow Co-Host
Willie’s Pit Bull Rescue story is one from “wags” to riches. A kind man took Willie into his home for a break from homelessness after finding him wandering the streets of Southeast Washington D.C. After a few days, that kind man gave him to friend, who kept him in his garage for a day before calling animal control. Humane Rescue (formerly Washington D.C. Humane Society) picked him up and put him on their website for adoption. Luckily Giovanna was looking for a dog when she saw Willie, truly a dog in need. Appearing as a mutant from a John Carpenter movie, he looked part pig, part cow, with squirrel looking toes. After visiting Humane Rescue a few times, just to make sure, Giovanna adopted Willie, giving him a lasting home to start his road to recovery. Underweight with mange, he was cared for and spoiled with all the finer things in life. Pampered with a memory foam bed, treats of all types, pet shopping trips, regular walks around the neighborhood, and his own extensive wardrobe, Willie has easily adapted to the superstar lifestyle. Even his personality has adapted while earning his keep. Working in a Toyota commercial and running for mayor of Annandale, VA have been a few of his previous adventures. When not busy “working” on the set of emBARK! you can find Willie at dog daycare hanging with his friends, taking lots of naps, going on jogs with Giovanna, or looking at pictures of cats on the internet.
Jay UdavcakExecutive Producer
Thirty-three years of broadcast, cable, and executive experience, working with multi-million-dollar budgets, Fortune 100 corporate CEO’s, and Washington D.C. power-brokers. Earning 27 Telly awards, he’s led Big Picture Inc. through 18 successful and stable years.
Anthony KnossProducer, Editor & Graphics
40 years of production experience, earning 3 Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards, 3 SPJ First Place Awards, 7 Regional Emmys and 24 nominations. Since receiving his first camera at age 12, Anthony has created over 1,000 projects for local and national broadcast and cable television, commercial, government, industrial, corporate, direct to DVD, and web release.
Chris TollDirector of Cinematography, Field Producer & Editor
As Production Manager at Big Picture Inc. the past 15 years, he’s helped earn 27 Telly Awards for his work in cinematography, editing and graphic design. Over the past 20 years, his production credits include projects for CBS, BBC, TLC, Discovery, and HGTV.
The Production Company
Since 2001, Big Picture Inc. has specialized in creating engaging visual solutions for broadcast, corporate, and web productions. Working with private sector, government, and non-profit organizations, our staff has decades of award-winning experience and proven confidence to advance larger brand objectives or define new ones.
From professional, pre-production development, scripting, and producing; to in-house or location directing, shooting, cinematography; to post-production graphics, animation, and editing; Big Picture Inc. has done it all over the past 18 years.
Based in Fairfax, Virginia, our facility features three 4K edit suites, 4k cinema production cameras, a professional audio recording booth, broadcast quality microphones, lighting, even a 1,600 sq. ft. sound stage with 16-foot-wide keyable cyclorama, and full-sized loading bay.