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 V.18 No.20 | May 14 - 20, 2009 

Gene Grant

Screen Time

Easy ways to improve Albuquerque's community cable

Last week Marisa Demarco reported on the new community cable channel 26 called Encantada TV [Re: News Profile, "Encantada TV," May 7-13]. It will primarily focus on arts and culture and is operated by Channel 27 group Quote... Unquote, Inc. During the fanfare on Civic Plaza surrounding Encantada’s launch, there was a humorous moment with blindfolded kids trying to bust a television piñata.

Eventually the blindfolds came off, the tele was knocked to the ground and something bordering on Lord of the Flies commenced. It was a great bit of unintentional comedy, but the symbolism was apt.

For many people, cable access is the kind of thing that, in spite of its mission and knowledge that it’s not supposed to be slick, sometimes just makes you want to put your foot through the screen.

Look, we all support the mission. But why can’t it just be better? Is it so hard to have even passable production values? A compelling idea?

The blindfolds came off, the tele was knocked to the ground and something bordering on Lord of the Flies commenced.

It’s so frustrating. Community cable is about the only organic thing you’ll ever see on a television, and that shouldn’t go away. But there is also an opportunity with this new channel to broaden things.

The timing could not be better. Production values? Please. We do that every day. There are now insanely talented people doing film and television work here that would, at the least, make things look really interesting.

Better yet, there are ideas. Lots of them. Here’s a few offered in the spirit of idea starters (for my full list, see “Top 10 Community Cable Programming Ideas”).

How about if Albuquerque’s most robust blog, Duke City Fix, takes the essence of that shared energy into a visual format? A community voice of videographers exploring nooks, crannies and obsessions. I’d watch that.

Albuquerque stages an impressive amount of theater for its size. That’s worth celebrating, but there’s also a problem. We’ve grown theater’s footprint but not the patronage. This pie must be expanded. The Albuquerque Theater Guild (a consortium of all the theaters in town) is a solid idea with committed people behind it, and now a big fat opportunity lies shimmering: filming locally written and staged plays. It’s been done, most notably by the New Playwrights project on Long Island Public Access.

Playwrights are pushing out loads of original work. Any and all performance art and dance should have a performance filmed during every run. This one is a no-brainer with an enormous upside for the creative community.

What happens if the African American Chamber of Commerce gets a slot? Same for the Hispano and Native American chambers. There’s a lot of juice inside those memberships going unnoticed.

Or an Albuquerque-specific organic gardening show. And I’m talking the nuances of soil, insect control and water usage specific to every slice of the city. There are a myriad of angles, including how to get that information and find it on local shelves. There are great foodie groups here who could do something wonderful with the TV format. I’d include the Co-op in there as well.

The list just goes on.

The folks at Quote... Unquote, Inc. are taking the right approach by letting show applicants know there’s going to be a threshold of expected quality. And quality is exactly what community cable needs.

Top 10 Community Cable Programming Ideas

The new digital channel 26 on cable access portends an opportunity for anyone in arts and culture. Here’s why. There’s a saying in politics and campaigning that states, “If there was no camera there, it never happened.” This thought applies to cultural events as well, especially if there’s a local being highlighted.

I’m also gonna name names here, because there are some institutions that are hosting a ridiculous amount of killer creative content. It would help them immeasurably at the box office to parcel some of that out for couch potato sampling.

My personal top 10 would be:

1) The Albuquerque Theatre Guild hosting a show of theater-related activity in the city with footage, video, interviews, playwrights, actors, the whole experience.

2) The New Mexico Information Technology and Software Association (now called the New Mexico Technology Council) has traditionally been one of the better geek fests here. The problem is, if you don’t get to a luncheon or event, you have no idea what it’s all about. Dudes, get a camera in front of anyone and everyone at NMITSA events so we can all share in the magic.

3) The National Hispanic Cultural Center. Dear me, but what a shame that month after month after month there are things going on inside that building that are mind blowing in scope. Amazing performances. We should be privy to some of it.

4) How killer would a rotating roster of abuelitas cooking traditional New Mexican food be? Why? Because it would be about more than the food.

5) Could someone please get a camera rolling at those Duke City Derby events? The YouTube commercial they’ve got up is all well and good, but this is about storytelling with visuals. I want to know who these girls are and why they do this.

And don’t tell me this doesn’t fit into arts and culture. OK, it doesn’t, but I really want to watch this.

6) The Duke City Fix Channel; a collection of video essays, profiles, etc., along the lines of the blog.

7) A local version of Book TV. Without picking favorites for local bookstores, there’s an easy opportunity waiting for someone to emulate this show, which would be especially helpful for local authors doing readings and such.

8) An art gallery roundup would be superb.

9) The African American, Hispano and Native American Chambers of Commerce hosting their own gigs, highlighting their respective memberships. Not arts and culture? You’d be amazed.

10) An organic gardening show, specific not just to the city but your own backyard, wherever it happens to be.

This could go on, with slam poetry, filmmaking and a long list of things we do quite well here.

There are a zillion and a half compelling ideas, all of them I guarantee would be better than this list. And that’s the point. What are yours?

 

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