A noble experiment in broadcast bird-flipping ends at 12:30 a.m. this Sunday, June 30, when WRDQ-TV Action 27 airs the final installment of the locally produced comedy/variety series "Guerilla TV" [The Green Room, Sept. 19, 2000]. The show bows out with a retrospective episode; and its title, "The True Hollywood East Story," tells you all you need to know about the attitude of native-bred irreverence the program cultivated during its four years of existence. (Under various titles, it was seen on Time-Warner Cable, WNTO-TV Channel 26 and finally WRDQ.) Creator Jon Rohrer says that it wasn't the cost of producing "Guerilla TV" that sank the ship -- he owns the video-production and editing gear his team used -- but the monies he had to lay out to keep the show afloat as paid programming.
"Unfortunately, the advertising support from the community never caught on as much as we hoped it would," Rohrer reflects. But at least he can dwell on the two national Telly Awards the series won for excellence in programming, as well as its strong ratings. In last February's sweeps, he says, "Guerilla TV" bested all of WRDQ's Saturday schedule, including "Nash Bridges" and Gator basketball. (Though the late-night show is technically seen on Sunday, it's recorded as a Saturday entry for ratings purposes.)
Rohrer details these accomplishments with a pride that's tempered by aware self-mockery. At its zenith, he notes, the series returned a monthly profit of $25. With no budget to speak of, "Guerilla TV" and it predecessors, TV and "TV 2000," took gleeful potshots at trigger-happy Florida sheriffs, inept cable providers and wet-blanket Orange County chairman Rich Crotty, among other natural-born targets. The effects were felt as far away as Colorado, where WNTO's Denver-based, fundamentalist-Christian owner pronounced the program "sacrilegious and offensive" and booted it off his station, Rohrer recalls.
"The True Hollywood East Story" revisits such controversies, but it's just as useful as a document of the lost generation of Central Florida talent that appeared on the show. Watch for cameos by painter Keith "Scramble" Campbell, Genitorturers frontwoman Gen and the comedy troupe THEM, the latter of whom are captured looking barely old enough to drive. The episode also provides evidence that the show's ideas were sometimes better than their execution, but Rohrer claims to be pleased with the ultimate success-to-failure ratio.
"You're not going to please everyone, and we figured that part out pretty early in the game," he says.
In the wake of the show's demise, Rohrer will continue his day job as a freelance cameraman and editor. He will also be repackaging some of "Guerilla TV's" best material in the hopes of attracting a national network. To those locals who may elect to follow in his footsteps, he tenders some carefully considered advice:
"I would encourage others to give it a shot, but beware that TV does cost money. And call me, because I'm looking for work."
The horror flick "Jeepers Creepers" was named Best Feature Film in this year's Crystal Reel Awards, a competition saluting Floridian achievements in the motion-picture, TV, recording and digital-media industries. At a June 22 gala at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotel, the independently produced short "Looking in the Fishbowl" was named Best Short Film or Video, while Full Sail Real World Education earned nine student honors. For a list of winners in all categories go to www.fmpta.org. I could tell you up front who won Best Director of Photography for Marketing or Corporate Infomercial, but why ruin the suspense?
If you build it, they will kick in
Despite challenges from without and within, Orlando's two most significant cultural festivals enjoyed strong and sustained community support this year. The May 10 through 19 Orlando International Fringe Festival bounced back from a near-catastrophic fire to move a record 18,997 tickets and nearly 6,200 buttons. (The latter are required for admittance into all performances, so their sale is the most realistic and reliable arbiter of Fringe attendance.) Official numbers released by the Fringe leadership show $116,423 in ticket monies returned to the performing artists, an increase of almost $11,000 from last year.
The June 7 through 16 Florida Film Festival registered overall attendance of 20,500, a mere 400 less than in 2001. A drop-off may seem like nothing to crow about, but its lack of severity is a major relief, given that this year's festival was virtually bereft of attention-grabbing guests like last year's Gabriel Byrne, Jason Lee, Joe Pantoliano, Leelee Sobieksi and Campbell Scott.
The lesson to be learned is that their audiences love these events more for their core content than any attendant bells and whistles, and will continue to turn out if affordability and quality remain in sight of each other. (Note the average of three shows seen by each Fringe button-wearer.) As plans for 2003 develop, both festivals should reaffirm their commitment to their basic constituencies, whose unwavering dedication and generosity once again kept the proverbial wolves from the door.
Here's one idea to start with: How about returning the Fringe to its traditional late-April time frame, once again allowing the ticket buyers who patronize both events (and research has shown that they're legion) some sorely needed financial recuperation time between arts-related expenditures?
The remedial is the message
The best way to fill in any gaps in your film-festival attendance is to sit at home and watch a lot of TV. Two of the Florida fest's top documentaries, "Refrigerator Mothers" and "Mai's America," will be seen in the coming weeks on PBS' P.O.V. program. Broadcast times are 11 p.m. July 17 and Aug. 7, respectively, on WMFE-TV Channel 24. (Warm up with a viewing of last year's "Hybrid" at 11 p.m. July 10.) The dramatic feature "Rare Birds" is available on VHS and DVD for your at-home perusal, and the crowd-pleasing documentary short "The Collector of Bedford Street" is due for an airing sometime in 2003 on Cinemax. Ready, set ... TiVo!