I’m lucky enough to be a Producer, Director and one of the Executive Producers of this historic feature documentary film, “Feast Your Ears: The Story of WHFS 102.3 FM.” This was one of the most beloved radio stations in the history of FM radio and one that I grew up listening to. Though WHFS, which stands for Washington High Fidelity Stereo, was started in 1961 by two young guys from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Labs in a 20x20 room (powered by car batteries...yes, car batteries) we will mainly focus on the radio station’s golden years from 1968 to 1983 when “HFS” was reflecting and shaping an emerging, ever-expanding counter culture.
It was a transformative period when FM radio waves were wide open, and “freeform” programming offered a fresh alternative to the limited scope of AM top 40 music. Instead of relying on surveys or consultants, deejays were free to make their own choices about what they played – based on their own tastes, integrity and imagination. In between songs they might interview musicians and have them perform live in the studio. These same deejays might also sound off spontaneously (often through a thematic set of songs) uniting a "tribe" of fans through music. They were champions of vernacular American music absent in standard rock programming – mixing in blues, jazz, comedy, country, bluegrass, folk, cajun and zydeco - introducing new artists and their musical influences to a rapidly growing audience.
This film will feature many of the HFS staffers and deejays including Cerphe, Weasel, Damian, Josh Brooks, John Hall, Sara Vass, Thom Grooms, Adele Abrams, Ty Ford, Fred Sirkey, Steve Lorber, Gary “Doctor Dread” Himelfarb and other personalities like the larger-than-life GM and part owner Jake Einstein, who stood out in an era of radio sameness. We’ve already interviewed a lot of musicians who expressed their deep love and appreciation for the station: David Bromberg, Roger McGuinn (The Byrds), Bruce Cockburn, DC’s own Nils Lofgren, Paul Barrere & Bill Payne (Little Feat), Terry Adams (NRBQ), Joan Armatrading, Chris Smither, Jonathan Edwards, Freebo, Jesse Colin Young and others.
One of the main reasons we need your financial support is that we have more interviews lined up with the likes of Dan Hicks, Rickie Lee Jones, Big Al Anderson and Joey Spampinato (both formerly of NRBQ), Danny O’Keefe, Wavy Gravy, Michael Lang (Woodstock), TV producer David Simon (The Wire, Treme, Show Me a Hero) and let’s not forget the surviving members of Firesign Theatre. In addition, we’ll be interviewing many of DC’s legendary local musicians who were showcased by HFS and we’ll sit down with key business owners who supported the station.
When I started this project in 2013, I thought I’d find some people would be interested. What I wasn't prepared for was how many people were not just nostalgic about WHFS, and how much it meant to them, but still mourned its absence like a death in the family. I’ve been overwhelmed at the positive response to the film from these fans and musicians. Their passion and love for what the station, the music, the deejays and that era meant to them is immeasurable. We will focus on what HFS brought to the DC community in a time of national turbulence, activism and cultural evolution.
While this is my first feature documentary film I’ve surrounded myself with some very talented people to make up “TeamFeast”. We have on board as Executive Producer Maryanne Culpepper who was President of National Geographic Television for almost two years and worked there close to twenty. Making visual magic we have Dick & Linda Bangham at Rip Bang Pictures taking care of the excellent graphics/animation, editing and the website. They’ve been in the industry for a long time with broadcast TV and music industry successes and unparalleled creativity. One Consulting Producer is Richard Harrington, who wrote for the Washington Post for 28 years and started his own alternative newspaper in DC in the late ‘60s with Quicksilver Times and then the arts paper Woodwind. The other Consulting Producer is the legendary deejay Jonathan “Weasel” Gilbert who started at HFS in 1970 and worked there for 33 years. Currently on the air now on the PBS station WTMD-FM in Towson, MD, Weasel is still taking freeform progressive radio out for a spin playing the same kind of delightful sets he spun for all of us at HFS in Bethesda. To so many people he was a musical encyclopedia and mentor.
WHFS left an indelible impression on its listeners that endures to this day. Please contribute what you can and if you’re as delighted about this historic film as we are, share this Kickstarter trailer and our website on social media platforms, via email, texting or even carrier pigeon. Okay maybe not the last one. Help us finish this project and create one very fine film about this amazing and iconic radio station that beamed us their messages and music “from high atop the Triangle Towers!”
Thanks very much!!
Jay Schlossberg, Director
Risks and challenges
While we are asking for $60,000 through this Kickstarter campaign we know we'll need about double that amount, or a little more, to finish the film. We know we can do another campaign later but wanted to be conservative to be sure we got this amount and in hopes we would far exceed our ask. We've self-financed a lot of interviews already as well as for research, legal fees and clearances.
As we see it there are two possible financial challenges we'll have that are hard to predict the costs for: first, because of the era we're covering (1961-1983) and the fact this is a now defunct radio station, it's going to take a lot of hours of research, with multiple archivists, to mine some of the footage, photos and artifacts we'll need. To date they've done an amazing job, and we've collected a nice cache, but we have a ways to go.
Secondly, and this is the big one, music rights. Depending on how we cut the final piece, and how we use the music (and which tunes we go with) the rights and clearances we'll have to pay could range from not so bad to extraordinarily high. We already have a terrific team in place to clear all music properly and be sure we pay a fair cost to the publishers. But until we get to that point closer to the end there's no way to put a fixed number on this part. Yet.
As the director I've intentionally surrounded myself with people who've got knowledge and experience in certain areas that I may not. This is truly a joint effort to make up "TeamFeast" and you can be sure your contribution will be used wisely and effectively.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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