The Big Backstory

It all started with a little invention called the camcorder.  The Panasonic AG-456 VHS camcorder was my gateway drug into the world of making videos. As a budding producer, I experimented with every possible genre: cooking shows, short films, news, soap operas, commercials, even a remake of Gilligan’s Island with a new original score.  Fortunately, these masterpieces are still available for screening, as long as you have a VCR.  That’s a video cassette recorder. It recorded shows on big tapes that you had to rewind. Ok, just Wiki it.

My high school journalism teacher screened Michael Moore’s “Roger & Me” in class and I had my first ah-ha moment.  After that I focused solely on documentary and non-fiction — with a little comedy to make it go down easier.  I hosted a local teen talk show called “Locals Only” and in college created, directed and edited shows for our campus PBS station that were educational and actually funny.  You try making “a tour of campus sculptures” fun! It’s possible if you make your host snort french fries up his nose. And then replay it in reverse. Trust me, it works when you’re in a jam. Anyway, that early body of work lead to a coveted internship with the Academy of TV Arts and Sciences which made my ease into Hollywood fairly painless if you can call living in a converted garage in Van Nuys painless.

I was set up with a production company in Los Angeles and within months was hired as a segment producer for an Animal Planet show called “Wild Rescues!” Ok, so it wasn’t exactly an artistic documentary for social change but I learned fast that there’s a business to this business and that business likes show titles that end in exclamation marks. But I’ve learned to love what Hollywood calls documentaries and have had a blast producing, writing and directing shows for Discovery, Travel Channel, VH1, TLC and HGTV. Some production highlights have included filming a séance, swimming with sharks (I’m not talking about agents), riding the Concorde, being bitten by a wild black bear (oddly yes, that is a highlight), tracking killer bees in Panama and meeting Paul Newman.

I’ve also created and pitched my own shows.  I produced a spec pilot called “Meet Tom Kramer” a “docu-comedy” about a recovering alcoholic on a mission to find himself. The pilot was accepted into the New York Television Festival and won “Best Reality Show” at the Independent TV Festival LA. Because working full time, producing a spec pilot, directing short films on the weekend and remodeling an apartment building in LA are not enough, I also served on the AP board of governors of the Producers Guild of America. I helped create a successful mentor program and spearheaded a short film collective called “The Producers Lab.”

After several years of producing for broadcast, I’ve discovered the world of online video content and re-discovered the fun of being on-camera starting with two short videos I produced and hosted for Current TV. I then began working for Seesmic, a social networking and video content site.  I created and hosted a show called “newspOp” that covered a range of topics from the G-spot (yes, that one) to global warming, gay marriage, Burma, coral reef preservation and polyamory. Seesmic’s motto was “Join the Video Conversation” so my series was one of the first hybrid shows to integrate produced video content into a social networking community.

Now, I’m working on a new web series and continuing to do what I love:  create videos that educate and entertain and sometimes enlighten. I am genuinely curious by nature and love meeting people and helping them tell their stories. Regardless of the format or the job title, I feel ultimately that I’m a storyteller. For some reason that word, storyteller, always sounds like I should be sitting around a campfire smoking a pipe but it’s the only word we’ve got so for now I’ll use storyteller to mean creative producer who knows that whether it’s called media, transmedia or social media, it always comes back to story. As always, stay tuned and thanks for watching my shows… even if they were recorded on your VCR.

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