April 19, 2012 at 6:33am
GRAB A CUP OF COFFEE AND A NOTEPAD >>>
Tacoma has a bustling art/culture scene. Most "in the know" Tacomans know this, as do some of us deserters. Dozens of art galleries and workshops. A secret society of cartoonists. Talented videographers. Wonderful restaurants. A rocking indie music scene. Way cool. It's so awesome to live in Tacoma, right? I mean, I know exactly what's cool all of the time because there's a centralized way to experience Tacoma. Wait a second. There isn't? You mean, I have to actually know the right people or scour Facebook groups and local rags and attend tons of conflicting events to really experience "art city?" Well, my friends, you've come to the right place, because I'm going to present Tacoma (and you) with an opportunity it doesn't even know it needs. What's more, this could potentially be one of the most engaging and fun opportunities available to any Tacoma enthusiast. This could become your life. This could become your job. Here it is, 253's blueprint for an Internet television show.
Yes, the Internet. Al Gore's gift to the multiverse. Why the Internet? Because it's everywhere and can be accessed by everyone. Why is an Internet television show valuable to Tacoma's cultural identity? Because with so much excellence and innovation going on it Tacoma, it's hard to keep track and focus in. Where would comedy be without SNL making the faces of today's biggest comedians? Where would our understanding of politics be without Stewart and Colbert? Where would America's music lexicon be without American Bandstand? OK ... bad example.
Outside of actually experiencing something (which, with so much to see, is hard to do), video is the most comprehensive medium there is (outside of smell-o-vision of course). Yes, there are a bunch of excellent magazines/newspapers/blogs out there like the Weekly Volcano, Exit133 and The Melon that highlight what's up, but to really experience it you need to see it. You need to hear it. In our world of chaotic day-to-days, sometimes making it out to a show isn't possible. With video you can reach people on their own clock. People who are afraid to leave their homes or are just too damn tired from all that living.
Imagine a monthly (or ideally weekly) online show that anyone could tune in to. A show that features local bands, interviews local politicians, presents local artists and filmmakers. A show that visits restaurants like Infinite Soups or gets a haircut at Supernova. A show that samples the local brew at The Red Hot, or sees a new show at the Tacoma Little Theatre. Hello, McFly! The possibilities are endless. Every week there's something new. Every week people would rely on the show to highlight something amazing about art city. It would be a beacon. The flag that perpetuates art/culture/life in the city to better itself. Tacoma has usually been smart about not trying to be or live up to any other city's expectations. This is an opportunity to unite everything that makes Tacoma special.
So how can you (yes, you! who else is going to do it?) make this happen?
This is the hardest part. To make this happen you need the most creative, hyper-energetic go-getters you can find. They don't need to be the smartest people in the world, but they need to be hard workers and most of all they need to be reliable. Reliability is a key to success here. You'll run into a lot of people who say they're interested in the idea, but end up not answering emails or texts or sexts. Starting any project needs people who do what they say and say what they do. These are the people you need:
Producer: You or your head honcho of creativity. Your Lorne Michaels. Someone who can direct this production and will be the little engine that can, will and does.
Staff: Your talent scouts and bookers. Your staffers and organizers. Your dedicated folks you can rely on type something up, to email someone and get things done.
Host: The face. The talent. The Johnny Carson. The Dave Letterman. Someone respected in Tacoma, or charismatic enough that people will want to see him or her week after week. Needs to be a talented interviewer and speaker. Funny is a must.
Reporting Crew: Additional host-like folks who can host features.
Promoter: Your Facebooker. Your inviter. Your gossiper. Your marketer.
Business Manager: This will come in later. This person will keep books, come up with your budget and do other businessy things. Surprise, you're giving birth to a business.
Every person on your team will be wearing multiple hats and will have multiple responsibilities at first. But that's what it takes.
Come up with a name. Something that speaks to Tacoma and what you're trying to do. (I've always been fond of Tacoma Circus.) Find someone who can build a basic website. Set up your YouTube or Vimeo channel. Here's a good and incredibly relevant example.
Figure out what a show is going to look like. I'd recommend something like this.
Act 1 - Intro
Act 2 - Video feature with an artist or restaurant or dancing parrot or whatever - something that screams Tacoma.
Act 3 - Band performance (one song)
Act 4 - Interview with guest
Act 5 - Band performance (one more song, same band)
Act 6 - Goodnight, folks
The theme can and should change from show to show. Maintaining the same general format, however, builds familiarity.
Where can you set up a desk, some chairs and band? A local theater? A friendly bookstore? Start asking around. I bet you $20 you can find a place that will give you space one night a week for free (or $20) in return for free publicity.
OK, maybe this is the hard step. Maybe you have to find some investment or loan money to make this happen. Or maybe not. Maybe there's a production organization out there that's willing to invest some time and a few episodes into making something that will be incredibly successful and an incredible resource for the city of Tacoma. Maybe there's an organization that believes enough in its community to bring a level of professionalism to the table for free or significantly reduced cost.
Or maybe there are some individuals out there with the right equipment and the right know-how to shoot and edit.
Professionalism here is key, but the final product doesn't need to start out perfect. It just needs to be good, which means clear sound quality, high-quality video. You'll ideally need two HD cameras, tripods, three to four mics, and some long XLR cables.
Make it happen. Find your guests, record, interview, rock out, edit, export, upload, jam. It won't be perfect, you'll make mistakes and you'll learn a lot. Most of all, you and everyone else will be hungry for more.
(Note: I haven't even touched on the perks of merely being a part of this. Experiencing and discovering Tacoma first hand. You'll get courtesy meals, opportunities to see exciting new performances, chances to taste local wine and more. You're about to become one of the most important organizers in all of Tacoma.)
Use Facebook, twitter and other social media. Share, tweet, tumble, stumble, instagram, gink. Email all of your friends, family and colleagues. Have a world premiere event at a local coffee shop like the Amocat.
This will be like shooting fish in a barrel. If you've succeeded in previous steps (easier said than done) then every organization in Tacoma will be drooling to get their logo and brand on your website, or sponsoring your show. (This Episode of Tacoma Circus is presented by TAGRO. This Episode of Tacoma Circus is presented by Hell's Kitchen.) Sponsors shouldn't be promised the world, but the more organizations that support this, the bigger it becomes. There has to be a forward-thinking organization out there that understands the value of building out an investment to become a major tool in the future.
What does this mean for you and your show? Sustainability.
Once you've put an episode or two into the can, consider making the production of your show a live event. Yes, people want to experience things live. Especially when it's TV. Especially when they can pretend they're in the presence of real celebrities. Maybe it's a free show at first, but in time, you can sell tickets online.
This can be done. WhizARTbang in Seattle was this idea inside-out. It was a live arts event that was filmed and placed online. Though whizARTbang eventually went on hiatus (due to the increasingly busy lives of its producers), with the right focus and subject matter this concept had the potential to accomplish the same things that this blueprint presents.
Finally, here are those ever-so important keys to success.
1. Diversity - No one wants to see a show with the same bands, the same artists or the same meddling cartoonist over and over again. Seek out the interesting. Find the strange. Discover the undiscovered. Celebrate every facet of Tacoma. Even facets you don't find all that interesting. Someone will. Or maybe we can all learn to like something new. No one can argue that Tacoma lacks material.
2. Consistency - Consistency goes hand and hand with the reliability of your team. Commit. Commit to a show a month at first. When you're ready, commit to show every two weeks. If you are consistent a follower base will come in time. They'll recognize that this show is their link to their city and it will better their experience of living in Tacoma.
3. Quality - Be willing to put in the extra hours to do something right. Quality really shows here and I'm mostly talking about production. Things don't need to be perfect but if this isn't a show you want to watch then no one else will.
4. Sustainability - The only way something like this will last is sustainability. What do I mean by sustainability? I mean greens. Money. Money with a dollar sign. In our perfect world, we're all trading swords for bread and Chinese finger traps or whatever. That's not how reality works, Mr. Anderson. Running something like this is an hourglass where passion and enthusiasm slowly drain into monetary needs. Don't get me wrong: it's going to take a lot of passion to make this happen. It's going to start a labor of love, but it's going to end up a business. When passion runs low, money can sustain it. What could be better than running an exciting business that supports and celebrates Tacoma, while still being able to buy food?
But, yes, long-term success means sustainability means cash flow. What are your income streams? Sponsorship, advertising (no reason you can't insert commercials in your show), website banners, maybe even a Kickstarter campaign to kick off each season (if you play it right you can do one to launch this).
So what are you waiting for? You want a job? Create one for yourself. You want to support, grow and better your city? Then celebrate and unite it in a presentation that everyone can access. Start small, but don't be afraid to dream big.
Yes, Tacoma is on the brink of greatness. It's just that no one got the memo.
Off duty rules.
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