Archive for April, 2006

Alternative channels

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

While working on getting the NOAA project together, one of the frustrations is with the existing channels and their various mechanisms for filtering. Originally we conceived extracting the elements of drama from the NOAA story, putting them in the hands of an award winning writer who has experience fictionalizing reality, and producing a dramatization that would fit the most widely seen stories in our society- prime time television. In spite of the recent success of science oriented dramatic presentations (CSI & Numb3rs for instance) we got no traction at the development offices of the big broadcasters. It was not a ‘procedure’ crime show like CSI, nor was it clear enough to development folks just “who dies this hour”. So at this stage we have taken up the more conventional approach and are pitching a documentary pilot. Even that has its frustrations as the mechanisms are not funnels attempting to gather all the ideas and filter for the most appropriate or marketable, or cost efficient to produce a net gain.
So the idea of alternative channels keeps popping up. Is IPTV going to be a breakthrough? I can’t say. But over the past weekend I saw one example of a creative inspiration applied to create a new alternative channel to the fine art audience.
“Ashes and Snow” is currently on display by the pier in Santa Monica, in what is a far more interesting an example of an artist developing an alternative channel than it is as either art or nature conservancy, which is the project’s stated purpose. The site of the project is more about experiencing the project than learning about it. Here is a better description of the artist and his background.
The most fascinating aspect I found was not the impressive photos of animals and people together, nor the very cool architecture ( shipping containers as walls, large paper columns supporting a fabric roof, plank floors and black river rocks for floors, the swag stor all out of large cardboard) but the fact that in a totally artist organized and defined place and space, people were going, at about $12 per average, to see this presentation. The artist not only concieved and created the conventional forms of photos and films that were the content, but the package, the marketing and every other aspect of delivery to the audience. Truly an alternative channel.

Air Play

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

Yesterday, I had a meeting with Mayor Marty Blum to go over some possible activities to develop creative commerce in her jurisdiction. She started the meeting by telling me that she had to be over at Soho to appear on the Al Franken Show today .
Last night my buddy from high school, Gary Ousley called to tell me that Franken was in my town and I “had to go”. “But I have a meeting with the Mayor in the morning” I protested. Gary insisted that Franken is today’s true patriot, being able to galvanize the audience that is the flagship of Air America. This week was his two year anniversary of being on the air. Certainly being humorous about all that is going on makes him much more listenable than the rantings that usually fill the air, regardless of ideaology.
Then having the Mayor tell me she was nervous about the appearance, and suggest that I should go over with her it just was too much to not go have a look, even though I had a teenager home on vacation, and stuff to do.
Drove by the parking lot for Soho. Packed with a line. Went by the next block- same thing. Turned a couple of corners and right there on a side street was someone pulling out. Easy fit. In I went.
From the outside, Soho looked closed. There was no noise to speak of. I had been listening to the show on the drive, and he was chatting with Harry Shearer, most known today as voice talent on The Simpsons. My favorite Shearer work is his Le Show, Sunday AM on KCRW – which you can download for free- unlike the Franken Show. (It’s only $1.95 for a day at the max)
They were coming to the end of the segment as I parked, and they closed the segment saying “From Santa Monica”. So seeing Soho looking closed made it all a bit confusing. But I went to the door, and as I pulled the handle, it opened, with a Franken staffer inside who gave me the once over, and waved me in while indicating I should be quiet. The place was pretty full, but there was room in the back with empty chairs. Franken was doing a dueling negative voice over guys bit with Shearer, who was in Santa Monica.
Watching radio. Remarkably entertaining.
The bit ended, a break started, and the Mayor went on stage. Marty was great. She projects modesty and folksy, but clearly is a woman committed and in action. She welcomed Al, and they discussed her having been part of the select group of Mayors who have been opposed to the war, signers of the Kyoto accords and more. “I keep looking for what I can do” she said in her wrap up.
Another break. On the radio, one imagines that something must be going on during the break, because there is always applause on the return from the live audience. There isn’t anything really. The Franken production doesn’t even cue the audience. They just seem to know. But this break there was something. Because the next segment was going to feature a member of the audience, they had to select somebody. In honor, I suppose, of Shearer’s appearance, they posed a Simpsons trivia question, with a political bent. Turns out, thanks to my children being total Simpson fans, and my having bought a Replay TV early in the PVR rollout ( I figured any company that the studios felt moved to sue deserved my support) they and I have seen the majority of the more than decade of the show. Homer and Marge have done a great deal of socializing my kids, I have to admit. So I knew the answer instantly and put my hand up.
Of the hundred and fifty or so people in the room, I only saw a couple of hands. Maybe because I was on the aisle, and right in front of Franken, even though I was in the back, he gave me first chance to answer (“your hand shot right up- you knew” he told me).
So I had that weird and wonderful experience of the totally unexpected. I certainly had’t gotten out of bed today thinking about being on national radio. Walking up, having a crowd look me over, getting up on the stage, and being told where to sit and what to do, and then killing a few minutes of the break, with telling them my name, giving out my business card, explaining what I do, and what Ceilings Unlimited is, and mentioning my having worked with an old collaborator of Franken’s on Andy Garcia’s “Lost City” last year, and talking about our similar family rituals of watching The Simpsons. It was all very warm and Franken is really available and human while being totally professional. I got comfortable before the countdown started. Was able to look around and see a neighbor in the audience so I could reference and connect with someone else, just in case I got lost with Franken.
The segment was a game, where they play clips, and you say whether you think it was the truth, a lie, or what Franken calls “a weasal”- something that is true, but meant to mislead. Since the first three were all conservative pundits or talk show hosts, it didn’t take much to say “lie”. Doing so with something extra was mostly beyond me, but I gave it a shot. The last one though was a pretty good set up. A GW Bush quote denying connecting Hussien with the 9/11 attacks as justification for the war. I called it a weasal, because ” I haven’t actually heard it out of his mouth” and the quote was that he didn’t ‘say’ it. Franken gave me the wrong buzzer and then changed it to a righ bell when he read that it was in the letter that Bush had sent to Congress that he had made the connection. Franken was generous enough to say that I had played the question better than he. The audience was cheering for me to get the answers right, although you get the same prize win or lose. It was still nice to have the crowd with the local rep, especially being the local rep.
I got a CD that is for sale, and I got him to autograph it. I learned a neat trick of how to open a CD jewel case when his engineer broke open the case at the hinge and totally skipped the annoying task of trying to remove the tape on the side that usually takes you forever to remove.
By the time I was off the stage my cell phone had rung about six times. I walked to the back and heard messages from people I know, who I had no idea would be listening. And my friend Gary who was totally geeked. That was when it hit that this had been live national radio.
It wasn’t really much. The show can’t really rely on a random person from the crowd doing much, so the role is very light. It was still good to get to have a few minutes with Franken, see the production up close ( they build their hardware out of local stuff wherever they go) and now I can hear what my voice sounds like at that level of production.
Franken stays after his performances and signs his books, or anything you might want him to sign. Takes pictures and just continues to be available. While watching him do this, I got approached by a reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press and got to tell her about Gary, the Mayor, The Alliance for Creative Commerce. The assigned photographer, as well as another asked for my card so they could send me pictures, as well as asked me to pose with my autographed CD. Lots of nice strangers said kind things, and gave pats on the back.
When released by the reporter, I went outside, put on my sunglasses ( the sun was shining for this bit of an otherwise rainy day) and I went back to the day’s tasks. Real life included asking for, and getting a keyboard, mouse and RAM from Mac Mechanic (Thanks Mike!) for a Youth Alliance G4 that City College donated so we can have kids edit at home on the group’s projects, folding laundry and continuing to sort out options about how to best build a series arc of episodes that tell the NOAA story. The meeting with the Mayor and Councilman Roger Horton was positive with next steps set out. My anarchy/unity/love teenager thought it was ‘cool’ that I was on the radio. That is probably the end of what Ed Moses, head of the SB County Office of Housing and Economic Development called “your second fifteen minutes of fame”.
Life can be remarkably surprising, and yet mundane.
Franken did a benefit locally last night for the local Legal Aid. I hope the weather clears and he gets to enjoy a good day in town, if he stays.
The paper put my picture with the CD in this morning’s edition. The reporter described me as “still beaming” after my appearance. I’d like to think that anybody getting that much recognition for so little effort would beam…..