A couple months ago, December to be exact, I entered a reality show. Very atypical of me cause I know that reality shows are not real. They are made up exercises to engage lazy audiences and create ad revenue for TV networks. Not my cup of tea. But this one was going to be different. It’s FOX’s ON THE LOT. A challenge show for filmmakers. A group of filmmakers come to LA and compete for the chance to work for Spielberg. I’ve been wanting to do film for a while so the show was a perfect catalyst. It forced me to start looking outside the lines, and make something happen.
I started working with a brilliant collaborator, Zach Flugum, and we made our first little movie on the budget of 35.00. I love the movie. A great cast, and good times. We uploaded the video on the site, and boom, like wild fire the video went through the roof. In less then a week the video had over 8,000 views and a very high rating. Now because I’m under a gag order, I can’t say much about the casting process, but I think I can say that our little movie-that-could got me pretty far in the casting. (One step away from the show). But the whole process sucked. Why? Because everything was so secret, they wouldn’t tell you anything at all. I think this was the first place where the show went wrong. I think they created a backlash from that. They were use to keeping things secret because of the other shows they’d cast. What they didn’t take into account is the internet. On the internet the show was blowing up, and it engaged people big time. If people where meant to feel like they were apart of the process, then they would have become ambassadors for the show. But being left out, and not told anything just disenfranchised folks.
So the show airs, and it’s ok, but it doesn’t live up to the promise. They don’t follow any of the contestants enough. You don’t get attached to anyone, you don’t love anyone, you don’t hate anyone. The judges, and excellent at what they do as directors, but no one is there, to throw a dash of reality into the mix. In essences, they learned nothing from American Idol. Idol follows are group of people, some make it some don’t but by the time you get into the top 10 you feel like you know these people. You care about were their story arch is going. With On the Lot, 5 contestants disappeared from one week to the next, and I have no idea what happened with them. The sad thing is I got to know that 5’s work, and some of them were extremely solid, where’d they go? Why’d they go? Who knows….
The ratings for the show are in the toilet. I’d be surprised it the show makes it through a whole season. For this, I thank God that I didn’t get on the show. I would have had to leave my job at a crucial time, go to LA, and then come home and be pissed that the way they do the show, no one get’s featured. America doesn’t get to see you, unlike American Idol where people get picked up even if they don’t win, I have a hard time believing these directors will get anything, but a pat on the back. That is not their fault. On a whole they are capable directors, but FOX and Mark Burnnett Productions, has handicapped their ability to be seen. I remember thinking that this show was going to change my life. And it did. I realize now, or at least I remember the lesson I’ve learned from other ventures, that these things very rarely do what you want them to do. I thought my CBS gig would change my life. I thought Def Poetry would change my life, Excellent reviews in NYC…..
Ultimately, they do change my life, just not in the fashion I imagine. There is something beautiful in that. I’m glad I’m finally old enough to see it.
So when NPR (National Public Radio) announced their new program to find the next generation of shows, and hosts, I was pretty skeptical that this sort of contest was worth entering. But I love NPR. Love it. Listen to it non-stop, but my problem with it, is it’s too stiff. Doesn’t have any soul to it, except maybe News and Notes. So despite being in the midst of trying to be “On the Lot” I entered Public Radio Talent Quest for the hell of it. And then boom Tuesday, they called me to tell me out of 1400 folks I’d made it into the top ten. Very very cool.
Some people on the site are upset about the way the contest is run, but after my On the Lot experience, I feel like this contest had been run extremely well. But then I wasn’t as emotionally enveloped in this one as I was with the previous contest. Honestly I never expected to be in the top ten, so if I had not made it, then I wouldn’t have been effected too much. Now that I’m in the ten, I want it. Badly. The other contestants are excellent most of them have some experience in radio or podcasting, of which I have none. What I do have, is me, what I do, that is unique to what anyone else brings to the table. I think that’s the key. If they wanted someone who sounded and acted like everyone one else on NPR, they would not have chosen this diverse group of people. So that’s the new journey. I hope you’ll take the time to go by the site www.publicradioquest.com, and cast a vote for your favorite poet/playwright/actor (that would be me)