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News

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Gregory Helfrich

Santa Clara Sheriff’s detectives have arrested a Los Altos Hills man they suspect repeatedly molested a child decades ago.

Detectives arrested Gregory Helfrich, 54, on a warrant at his Old Page Mill Road home April 27 and...

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Schools

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students


Courtesy of Jessica Harell
Blach Intermediate School seventh-grader Paris Harrell, who loves science and animals, recently received a scholarship from the local branch of the AAUW to attend Tech Trek camp.

It’s not every day that a junior hig...

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Community

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner


Federici

Longtime Los Altos resident Mario Federici, who turned 98 Feb. 24, is a man of many languages. He shared his knowledge with thousands of students during his long career as a teacher.

Federici was born and raised in Italy, where he stud...

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Comment

Attend an event, get involved, have fun: Editorial

You don’t have to run for city council to get involved in the community. Sometimes it can be as simple as attending a Los Altos event. You’ll have plenty of opportunities, as the May and June calendars are bustling with activity.

The Dow...

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Special Sections

Racing around Monterey

Racing around Monterey


Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
The easy handling of the VW Golf R, above, makes for an ideal ride along the Big Sur coast.

 

When automotive journalists are asked to list their favorite places in the world to drive, Monterey alway...

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Business

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations


Courtesy of Eureka
Eureka, a new restaurant in downtown Mountain View, highlights local craft beer and whiskeys on a menu of food spanning from sea to farm.

Craft beer and fancy whiskeys headline the menu at Eureka, the new restaurant that opene...

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People

Stepping Out

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'


Courtesy of Palo Alto Players
The Baker’s Wife, left, and Cinderella’s erstwhile Prince stand out in the Palo Alto Players production of “Into the Woods.”

Little Red Riding Hood sets forth at the outset of “Into the...

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Spiritual Life

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International


Courtesy of Los ALtos United Methodist Church
Hidden Villa will bring some of its farm animals to Los Altos United Methodist Church Sunday to support the nonprofit Heifer International.

Los Altos United Methodist Church is scheduled to salute th...

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Entrepreneur melds Silicon Valley, Hollywood and faith

We will soon see what happens when the Silicon Valley startup culture and biblical principles are brought together in the entertainment industry. Ben Chelf, Silicon Valley technologist and entrepreneur, recently co-founded The Story Locker, a company designed to produce high-quality films with entertaining stories.

Personal and faith background

Chelf was born in Terre Haute, Ind. Raised in a Christian home, he read the Bible as a youth but said he “simply adopted the faith of my parents.” In his late teens, his faith waned.

“It didn’t seem relevant at the time,” Chelf said.

But at the age of 20, he re-engaged with church and his faith was reinvigorated. He says he even considered attending seminary but instead chose to pursue a career in computer science.

First startup

Chelf came to the Bay Area to attend Stanford University in 1996, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science. While studying to earn his doctorate, he and some colleagues invented a fundamentally different way to test complex software to speed up the software development process and to create higher-quality software. They left Stanford to start Coverity to commercialize their research. It caught on.

Coverity grew from two to 150 employees during Chelf’s tenure at the company from 2003 to 2009. During that period, Chelf worked first as the company’s chief operating officer, then as chief technology officer.

In the process of working at his first company, Chelf learned an important lesson about himself. He had always believed that his value and strengths were in software development and engineering. But as he also had responsibilities in sales, marketing and leading teams, he came to realize that he possessed skills in business leadership.

“I found that I enjoy and am good at casting vision, inspiring action, building teams and executing a plan to accomplish more than anyone thought possible,” he said.

The Story Locker

Chelf said his new vision is “to bring a Silicon Valley approach to the Hollywood storytelling business.”

As a youth, Chelf loved reading science fiction. He believes that science fiction is “one of our best platforms for philosophical discourse and can have a major impact on culture.” One book he read particularly stands out – “The Rise of Endymion” (Bantam, 1997) by Dan Simmons.

“I soaked in every last minute with these characters, practically feeling like I was living with them as their story came to a close,” Chelf said. “Already having inclinations toward the power in the art of storytelling, this experience made me truly realize the influence that stories can have over our emotions and thoughts. In hindsight, it was one of the experiences that led me to start my current venture, The Story Locker.”

Chelf said he believes that Silicon Valley and Hollywood are on a crash course and he wants to be in the middle of it. He recognizes that streaming technology is changing the way people consume entertainment, which has significant ramifications for the business models that have sustained the entertainment industry for decades. He intends The Story Locker to be at the forefront of content development as the industry changes.

The concept behind The Story Locker is unique. Chelf is working to bring talented writers and artists together in an incubator setting to collectively create high-quality stories. He noted that the highest-quality films all start with a great story and generally attract substantially larger audiences and make more money. Chelf plans to have The Story Locker change the existing paradigm through its story development process, drawing from principles of the top visual storytellers from the past century.

Building on biblical principles

Chelf and his business partner, Ben Patterson, a fellow committed follower of Christ, are building The Story Locker on biblical principles.

“As Christians, we’re supposed to treat people well,” Chelf said. “We are supposed to love everybody. We are supposed to invest in people. And we are supposed to make the lives of people better. We try to do that at The Story Locker.”

In contrast to the traditional model for story development in Hollywood, The Story Locker has full-time creative employees and gives them an equity interest in the content created as well as in the company itself. This practice seems obvious in Silicon Valley but is atypical in the entertainment industry. Chelf believes that is not only the right thing to do, but also good business practice.

The Story Locker creates stories that Chelf describes as “approachable by most families” but not faith-based. Currently, the company’s stories would have ratings from G to PG-13.

The Story Locker has been operating since January 2012, and Chelf plans to launch the company in the press in 2014.

Skip Vaccarello is a longtime Los Altos resident. For more information, visit findinggodinsiliconvalley.com. Vaccarello plans to publish interviews from the site in an upcoming book.

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