No Longer “Here”…

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It’s been nearly a year ago since I was laid off from Here TV. It’s true– about 4 months after I started this blog, I was told that I would have to be “let go.” At the time I was pretty devastated– it sucks pretty hard to be laid off in THIS economy! It turned out to be okay– I was able to find a job a little over 3 months later. It was STILL an incredibly disappointing moment, though. I had such plans and high-hopes for a decent future at Here TV. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t in the cards. And I wasn’t the only one.

Many people were laid off, not only from Here TV itself, but from the entire Here Media organization. And if people weren’t laid off, they quit. In DROVES. For me, this all started when the man that hired me at Here in the first place, the General Manager of the company, quit after my first 5 months there. After that, it was about every 2-3 weeks or so that someone else would quit. Then came the lay offs. It was a VERY strange time within that organization.

I was mostly disappointed because of the squandered potential of what is now the ONLY channel on television catering exclusively to gay-themed content. Ironically, that was there biggest problem: content. As in they had none. Well, they HAVE some…but not a lot, and nothing worth watching repeatedly, and ultimately nothing worth paying a premium price for.

Don’t get me wrong– the shows aren’t horrible. I was given the reins to put out 6 episodes of a show called The Deal. It was a magazine-style show with two hosts (one of which being porn star Kayden Kross). There was also a political show called “For & Against”, hosted by Jim Morrison, and there was a variety show called “She’s Living for This,” featuring Sherry Vine. Three shows– well, two shows because “The Deal” got cancelled a few months before I was laid off. Decent shows…but not worth the $4.99-$9.99 subscription cost for the channel– depending on what market you were in.

Paul Colichman is the CEO of Here Media, and Here TV is his baby. I remember he once came into the offices, bought us brekky treats and coffee and orange juice, and told us how much Here TV meant to him (a staff/crew made up of 11 people), and how he had great plans for us. He went on and on about how “content is king”– how important it was for him to get the best content he could for the show, and how he counted on us to make that happen. Unfortunately, Paul has the worse taste of anyone I’ve seen in his position.

The movies he funds, the content he wanted, is frankly stuff that no one wants to see! He even mentioned the fact that he has to make “shitty” movies in order to pay the bills. I don’t know why assumed the movies had to be shitty…but he did. He desperately wanted content to put on Here TV, but he didn’t want to pay for it. Here Media has a rather unfortunate reputation for NOT paying people. Now, I was on staff so I DID get paid (poorly, but I got paid). When it came to freelancers, however– from on-camera talent, to photographers and writers (for other Here properties Out and The Advocate)…there seemed to be many issues with getting people their money. Then there’s the legal matter involving a $90 million dollar lawsuit involving Here’s production company Regent Group of Entertainment:

Merrill Lynch and Bank of America claim they were scammed for $90 million by a director of the Regent Group of Entertainment Companies, who used bogus movie license and distribution agreements to get loans.

This lawsuit has put a freeze on nearly 70% of Here TV’s content– which is why IF you were to ever watch the channel, you could see all of that remaining content in about 2-3 full days. ALL of their content. And that is what they rerun…EVERY DAY. The channel is hemorrhaging subscribers, who constantly send in negative emails about how they are sick of watching the same shows OVER AND OVER again! I don’t blame ’em!

I had heard Paul’s request for “content”, and I went about creating the most compelling, and least expensive, content that I could. I pitch two television series, and animated series, and two movies– all of which were met with very positive feedback from the head of production. The only issues, according to him, was getting Paul to spend the money. Turns out that not only did he not want to spend the money, but he wouldn’t entertain anything scripted unless if was written by a WGA writer. That was a bit odd to me because 1) if he produced a script by a non-guild writer…that writer COULD EVENTUALLY get into the guild! And 2) he DID NOT WANT TO SPEND THE MONEY. He wanted “free content”, basically. In studio, we had all the equipment we needed to shoot shows! But unless it was some sort of interview thing, or something else that didn’t really require a budget or paying on-screen talent, or paying for writers…they were not interest.

I don’t want to sound like a disgruntled former employee– I really did enjoy my time at Here TV, as well as the people I worked with! The problem wasn’t the people…the problem was the leadership and the vision. And that lays completely at Paul’s feet. Not to disparage the guy– he’s a very affable, amiable dude! He’s just got shitty taste, and an odd ethic for creating good television/movies.

To be honest, I haven’t really stayed up-to-date on the going’s on at Here TV. I know they were gearing up to produce more episodes of “For & Against” and “She’s Living for This”– both are GREAT shows, and I highly recommend them both. But to be honest, I don’t know how that channel can survive on a subscriber model for two shows that run about 6-8 episodes per season. I know they were trying out iTunes and Hulu at the time I was laid off…but hey, it’s not my problem anymore.

Although I had an unfortunate end to my run at Here, I still had a great time. Here are some of my highlights from my tenure:

Fun stuff for me.

Thanks for reading!

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Macy Gray

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Remember Macy Gray? She had that hit song from years back– I think it was called “I Try”. She was big back in the day. I remember that she also showed up to sing a song in the first of the Sam Raimi Spiderman movies. After that, she’s pretty much been off of my radar. That is, until she was scheduled to make an appearance in our studio for our Face to Face interview and to perform a song for our Soundcheck series (both brought to you by Out magazine). That’s when I found out that she had a new album; fancy that. It’s an album of cover tunes called “Covered”.  Fair enough. Again, she’s been off of my radar, so I knew nothing about this album. But since she was coming into the studio this Wednesday, I’m sure I’d find out more about it. That’s “was”. As in past tense. As in, it ain’t happening.

Last week, her people sent us Macy’s rider. For those of you who don’t know, a rider is a list of requests made by the artist for an appearance. Basically, these are things that they expect to have at the ready upon arrival. Now, when we have people in studio for a Face to Face and Soundcheck, they are in and out in about an hour– worst case, 90 minutes…that usually depends on the amount of setup required for the performer. We have a small studio, and the sets are almost always acoustic, so setup is not typically a big production. In and out, no big deal. The rider was at least 17-25 pages of INSANITY.

We were told to only pay attention to the food requests (most of it was equipment requests). Even skimming past all that stuff, the things that were being asked for were pretty damn ridiculous. Now I’m not going to post the rider here, because I don’t wanna be a dick about it. And riders are a typical thing in this business, but I am just shocked at the things that we were being asked to provide for an hour OR LESS in the studio: Food for at least 3 people, including grilled chicken breasts, and specific types of salads and fruits. 15-20 bottles of some specific type of spring water, three different diet sodas– non-generics. Three different types of wine, four different types of beer. 20 white hand towels. The list goes on and on and ON.

This was the kind of thing that would be sent ahead of a performance at Madison Square Garden– NOT at a studio appearance! Not-for-nuthin’, but Macy Gray is not Lady Gaga. At the same time, we’re not NBC! We’re not asking her to do The Today Show– it’s an interview and performance that would appear on the Out Magazine website, and eventually on Here TV. The entire shoot would amount to 4-5 minutes of screen time for EACH segment. And look– I know it was her people that sent the rider to us, not her personally. I just think it’s odd that we were expected to make those kinds of accommodations for someone who, quite frankly, hasn’t had a hit album or single in a LONG TIME. But people love her, so what do I know?
I found this clip of one of the songs that appears on “Covered”. This is Macy Gray singing Radiohead’s “Creep”:

 

 

Not my thing. Granted, I wasn’t much of a fan of this song when it was first released, and came to adore Radiohead when The Bends came out (STILL one of the best albums I’ve ever heard). Gray’s version of this song is…well…I don’t like it. And no, this is not me being snarky– I honestly don’t care that much about the whole rider thing and whatnot. Ultimately, I think it was just some kind of misunderstanding. It would have been interesting to have met her and all that stuff. It wouldn’t have made me like things like this:

No, thank you.

Stay tuned….

In Studio: Adam Cohen

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I have to be honest– I had no idea who Adam Cohen was until I walked into the studio to help my colleague Keren Aronoff record his band’s performance for our Soundcheck series (brought to you by OUT Magazine). It doesn’t say much that I didn’t know him– I’m not as up on stuff and things as I was back in the day. But as I am a lover of music, I am always looking forward to introductions to the latest and greatest.

Since I’ve been with Here TV, I’ve been in on a few of these recording sessions. Some of them have been good, others have not (no, I will not name names…it’s not nice). If I could be critical of ourselves for a moment…the more I’ve been involved with these sessions, the more I’ve wanted to improve how we record them. They are almost entirely acoustic, with the exception of a few acts that use computers and soundboards and stuff. Frankly, we’re not really outfitted to record acoustic performances the way they would be done in a music studio. When Keren asked me to help out with this session, I thought it’d be a great opportunity to try out some new things.

I am a fan of music engineer pioneer Tommy Dowd. If you have no idea who I am talking about, check out the documentary about his life and career. It’s amazing– he was responsible for recording some of the biggest names in music, from Charles Mingus to Cream to Ray Charles. He damn-near invented the method of recording modern music:

Now, I’m no Tommy Dowd by ANY MEANS…but he was surely an inspiration in this case. One of the things I learned from Mr. Dowd is the importance of mic placement. The thing is that we didn’t really have the “right” mics. So I took what I knew from recording audio for film/tv, and I applied it to this session. We were to record two songs: one with 3 acoustic guitars, and one with 2 guitars and a cello. So, I figured if we used two shot-gun mics and a condenser, we’d be in good shape. If you look at the image above, you can see the two shot-guns in the frame. The condenser is out of frame on the left side, next to the lady.

The recording session itself was a bit stressful, because Adam brought in a “sound man” to help them with their instruments (I guess), but then took it upon himself to start fiddling with the mics that I was setting up. Unfortunately, I had to take an alpha approach to get him to back off. It’s extremely annoying to have some outside person coming in and telling you what you’re going to be doing…in your own place! That is just not how things are done– not with me, anyway. It’s like me going into your house and I start moving your furniture around because “that’s not the way things should work– I know because I HAVE furniture!” So once he was out of the way, Keren and I could do our jobs. And the result:

http://player.theplatform.com/ps/player/pds/PvTSPbANg1&pid=qa0ynGU9_AqVN9GjN7X0TH4PP7uMBSQK

I think it turned out pretty well! Those mics picked up a great, well-rounded sound that gave Keren a lot to work with in the edit. And I’ll say that Adam Cohen and his band are definitely some of the best performers I’ve seen in our studio so far.  Not bad for the son of a legend…

You can see another performance and an interview from Adam at Out Magazine’s site.

In spite of the bumpiness during the session’s set-up, I really enjoyed being involved with this shoot, and I’m looking forward to others.

Stay tuned…!

She’s Living for This

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When I first got to Here TV, production was about to begin on their brand new show– the Sherry Vine variety show called She’s Living for This. I was familiar with Miss Vine’s work– aside from her You Tube videos, she’s had a major presence in the New York scene for a long time. So it was very exciting to have the chance to work with her, along with some of the heavy hitters in the NY drag queen scene– “gals” like Mx. Justin Vivian Bond, Peppermint, Joey Arias, Bianca Del Rio and Candis Cayne specifically.

She’s Living for This is the brainchild of Keith Levy (that’s Sherry’s real name), and Josh Rosenzweig, SVP of Development and Production at Here TV. They’ve known and worked with each other for over 20 years, and have always had a variety-type show in mind. Previously, Josh and Sherry– along with Jackie Beat– had shot a pilot for an MTV series called “Asphalt Beach”, which never got picked up. Even after Josh ended up at Here TV, he had no idea that he would eventually be in a position to get a show with Sherry on the air. When he was, he casually moved it into production…and the rest is herstory…

Fun stuff! We shot six episodes of the show, and it’s been renewed for a second season! I can’t wait to see what else these guys are planning for upcoming episodes.

As for my involvement with the show, I’ve appeared in a couple of the episodes, and I’ve operated Camera Three on 4 of the shows. When I first started out, however, I was shooting some behind-the-scenes footage. We really weren’t sure what we would be doing with this footage…at first I had the idea of doing small webisodes leading up to the premiere. But then I decided that I had enough footage to do a full-fledged 30 minute special about the making of the show. So I’ve done a few interviews with the principles, and will have Sherry in the studio next week, and by the end of this month, I will have the first cut of “Under The Dress: The Making of She’s Living For This”. The special will be airing in August, which is very exciting for me: it will be my directorial debut on Here TV!

Until then, be sure to check on the first few episodes up on Hulu!

Stay tuned…!

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The Deal

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The Deal header

The Deal is the first show that was handed to me at Here TV. Then GM Eric Feldman (who left a month ago for The Discovery Channel) gave me the keys to this show, and said to me “this is your baby”. To be fair, it was kinda my adopted child…or my babysitting charge…something like that. Anyway, he and Mike would should all the host wraps, then I would edit and produce segments to create 25+ minutes of pop culture entertainment.

Basically, The Deal is a magazine show– kind of in the same style of the 80’s style pop culture, human interest and entertainment half hour programs. It’s two hosts (my first episode was only one), with some light banter, then they introduce segments about the latest movies, music, trends, and whatever interviews or field segments we had. I did five regular episodes and one 40+ minute special Spring episode. Here’s a segment from the Spring special, which was basically a talking head show in the style of the “Remember the 80s” VH-1 shows:

I had less than 2 weeks to put this show together. All I was given were those interviews…nearly 2 hours worth. In addition to movies, there was travel, who’s who, music, events, and one or two others that I am blanking on right now. It was a monumentally ass-kicking assignment to get this show up and on the air in such a tight timeline, but…you have to get it done. So I did. Wish I had more time.

As for the show’s hosts, well…that’s a whole different story. There’s Norman Brannon, who’s been with the show for a while. He’s a good guy. He’s comfortable, fun and funny, and does well off script:

His latest co-host in these last 6 episodes is one Kayden Kross. What can you say about Kayden Kross. I didn’t know who she was at first– she’s clearly attractive (and I usually don’t find blondes that interesting…sorry!), and she has a nice voice…but she’s very inexperienced…in THIS line work. She’s more well known as a porn actress. Formerly, apparently. From what I understand (I’ve never had a chat with her personally about this), she is going legit. Fair enough. She was a bit of a handful, though– particularly when she was interviewing people. She was damn-near impossible to edit sometimes. In fact, the last interview I cut with her and Brad Oberhofer was such a disaster, that I had to do something a bit meta to save it:

http://player.theplatform.com/ps/player/pds/2qhe9J2MST&pid=l_5Z6qt_7BFf9HLgIrCY9S8PXHGw0zoV

Yeah, that’s me. I just set up a camera at my desk and just made shit up. I had no idea what I was going to say, or how I would play it out. I just did it, and hoped for the best. It got some laughs in the office, so that’s all I could hope for.

As of now, The Deal is on hiatus. Things are changing a bit here behind the scenes. We are under new management, and working to bring a bunch of new programming to the network. I won’t spill what we’re doing here, but needless to say that there will be a lot of new content coming soon. I think The Deal is a good show that needs some work. It needs a face lift, a new co-host (sorry Kayden), new writing– just NEW NEW NEW stuff.

Stay tuned…

I’m Here, At Here. I’m Used to it….

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Five months ago, I left the shitty world of advertising. I worked in print design, web design, and video and motion design. I was a production artist, a designer, and a multimedia director. I had worked for small boutique studios, and large international agencies. After 13 years, I had completely burned out.

My heart was never really in the ad world anyway. What I really wanted to do was make movies! On film, not video– we all HATED video! I went to film school right at the beginning of the indie revolution in the 90s. By the time I got to school in 1990, Do The Right Thing had been out for a year, Goodfellas was BRAND NEW, and three filmmakers were quickly becoming household names: Quentin Tarantino (Resevoir Dogs), Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi), and Kevin Smith (Clerks). We all wanted to be the next BIG THING. The problem was…film was EXPENSIVE. Even though people were shooting on 16mm, you had to get the film processed, and you HAD TO rent an editing suite, among many other costs. Even if you wanted to shoot on film and edit on video, you STILL had to rent a place to do all of that. It was definitely cheaper than 35mm…but you weren’t doing anything without at least $10,000. AT LEAST. How things have changed…!

Then came digital video and Final Cut Pro, and…well, that was it! Mind you, I was not in love with the idea of shooting video– it still had the stigma it had when I was in school. But with all the changes in the technology, and improvement in equipment…it was no longer an issue. You could now shoot and edit with little or NO money! AND you could finish the film in your home, on your computer! By this time, I had been working in advertising for a few years. This is when I started producing videos in-house for the agencies I worked for. Everything from commercials to sizzle reels to corporate docs– I did it all! But it wasn’t enough. I loved the video work…but I hated the ad industry. I hated dealing with Project Managers, and Account Execs, and Creative Directors that didn’t know an F-Stop from a bus stop, and STILL wanted to micromanage my work! They had no concept of video production, and had no patience to learn…which lead to many problems. Agency after agency, client after client, I was so frustrated, it was unbearable. So I wanted out.

The media landscape has changed so much so, that getting work into a theater is now irrelevant. TV and the internet have virtually become one and the same. You Tube, Hulu, Netflix– the distribution model for the work is pretty even at this point. It kinda doesn’t matter where it’s shown, as long as it’s getting seen! So…I decided to make the move to TV.

And “Here” I am! I now edit, shoot, and produce programming for the Here Media family, which consists of Out Magazine, The Advocate, and pay cable channel Here TV. For those of you who do not recognize those names, these are all LGBT properties (that means gay, you know…). And as the header of this blog indicates, I am straight.

I’m sure some people may be a bit confused by that. “You’re straight! How or why would or could you work for a gay media company?” The fact of the matter is…I don’t care! I have always had gay and lesbian people in my life. I have no hangups about sexuality in any way, shape or form. Yes, I love women. That doesn’t mean that I can’t get along with “the Gays!” And that doesn’t mean I can’t create TV for the gay community.

Look, at the end of the day, I’m a storyteller. Whether those stories are straight or gay is irrelevant. As long as you are honest and true with the subject matter, why the hell shouldn’t, or couldn’t, I tell gay stories? Steven Spielberg made The Color Purple, Jonathan Demme made Beloved…COUNTLESS gay men and women have written “straight” tv shows and movies (Sex and the City, for one of many)…and I work at Here TV. Period!

Here TV is basically the only gay television network in America. If you’re not familiar with the programming, we just launched a portal on Hulu. I recommend checking out Sherry Vine’s variety show called She’s Living for This, and for you politically-minded folk, you need to watch For & Against with Jim Morrison (no, not THAT one). These just some of the great shows that we produce here, and that’s just the beginning. There will be many great things happening in the next year, all of which will breathe new life into LGBT television. And I am PROUD to be a part of this team.

So as one of Here TV’s token straighties, I welcome you to this gay story, from a straight, and loving, perspective.

Stay tuned….!