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This is the story of how public access TV helped shape the culture of Austin, one of America's weirdest cities.
209 backers pledged $17,000 to help bring this project to life.

About

When We Were Live - A Film about Public Access TV project video thumbnail
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$17,000

209

"When We Were Live" is a feature length documentary about the  pioneers of Austin's public access television in the 80's and 90's. 

This is the  "YouTube generation." Everything is on video. It's on our computers, phones, and now it's even on our watches. With the click of a button we can make the whole world laugh, cry, think, or take action.

But what about the pre-YouTube generation? How did Generation X broadcast themselves when they had something to say? 

Have you ever heard of a TV station where anyone (rich, poor, right, left, or just bored) could have a television show? Where $75 and a couple classes gets you on the air? That is public access television! Picture Wayne's World, Pump Up the Volume, and UHF and you've barely scratched the surface.

This film is a collection of the highlights (and lowlights) from the golden era of access tv. These stories include the antics of a banana-obsessed drag queen, a fake on-air shooting, a famous prank caller, a late night advice-giving vixen, and more!

After 20 years...

over 50 former producers have reunited and donated countless hours of footage to this project completely free of charge! This footage has appeared on Letterman, captured the defense of AIDS awareness to the Supreme Court, and helped launch the careers of legendary filmmakers. It contains shows with names like "Face Your Pets!" "Moon the Klan," "Singles Hotline," "Carmen Banana," and "Infosex."  In it, we see the rise and fall of an era and how that translates to the viral-video crazed world of today. 

My fascination with access started at a young age.

When I was a little boy in rural North Carolina, I literally thought that public access meant "church television." We only had one access station and religious programming was broadcasted around the clock. 

In my teens, I traveled to Asheville, N.C., a town known for its weird culture. It was at a friend's house that I saw the strangest thing, a heavy metal band playing on "the Church Channel"!  The second I discovered that anybody could have their own tv show, I wanted in. The whole world (or at least a few strangers) would see my version of Wayne's World. Unfortunately, by the time I was old enough to do so, YouTube had caught fire and a lot of public access stations were closing their doors. 

But 15 years later, my  fascination with access has never wavered. 

It started out with an idea for a short film. During a lunchtime conversation with two born and bred Austinites, I found out about a notorious access show called "Ol' Bitty." In 1994, if you were awake around 2 am, you could watch this foul mouthed church lady wax poetic with callers about the filthiest of subjects.

After finally tracking down Bitty (AKA James), I was put in contact with another old access star. Then another. Then another!  Before I knew it I had nearly 50 former producers, truckloads of footage, and some of the greatest stories I have ever heard. Nobody turned me away. It was as if this community had been waiting 20 years for a film like this to be made.

When I watch  these tapes, I feel like I am reading an old yearbook from a school I never attended. The kids on screen were in their thirties at the time, and are now in their sixties. It started out as an opportunity, but now it is an honor. These are precious and joyful moments for the people on screen, and it is our responsibility to do right by those who have given us so much trust.

Our goal is $16,000. 

This will cover the cost of principal photography and the transfer of archive footage.

Remember your old home videos? Do they look IMAX quality today? Neither do ours! This means we need specialized analog-to-digital equipment to make this footage viewable on the big screen. 

Our production includes over 20 interviews with former access stars, producers and crew members.  Other expenses will include a controlled studio space, gear rental, travel, expendables (batteries, etc) and food (bagels will do).

Whether the story of the pre-YouTube generation entertains a new generation of viral-video junkies or these tapes melt or turn to dust (as VHS often does) is up to you.

Everybody gets something!

We don't expect something for nothing, so we have included some great rewards! At the higher levels we have fantastic prizes, including producer credits and training in the Adobe Creative Suite. However, if you  only have a buck or two to throw in, we will still make our gratitude towards you known on our social media.

Here is a closer look at some of our awesome prizes!

The Lost Episodes of Carmen Banana

We're so excited to reward all donations of $50 or more with a digital download of the "lost episodes" of Carmen Banana! They were recently rescued and restored to their original splendor, so you will get maximum resolution as you watch Carmen's massive papier mache knockers in search of banana bargains and other 80's-tastic Austin adventures.

Here's a teaser episode - and remember that you could get more episodes if you donate to the When We Were Live kickstarter!

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Autographed Movie Poster

Every $100 donation will get a special "zine-style" poster autographed by the stars of  the film.  Our amazing designer, Rocky Gargiulo, worked tirelessly to make this collage out of dozens of found images.  Besides being a great piece of 90's underground nostalgia, it allows for each of our stars to sign their name over a picture of themselves in their access heyday. As an added bonus, the director will add a personalized thank you message to each poster. Three colors to choose from!

Risks and challenges

We have A LOT of tapes at our disposal. If you were to film yourself every day for ten years, you would still have less footage to sort through than we do now. Luckily it is very well cataloged by Austin History Center Video Archivist Tim Hamblin. A well known name in his field, his cataloging techniques will save us massive amounts of time.

As mentioned before, VHS and Umatic tapes were not built to last. As such, many memories will have been tearfully lost to time. However, the film's director, John Spottswood Moore, is also the editor. After nearly 12 years as an editor of film and video, he has become very well versed in cleaning up archive footage. Such can be seen in his short documentary "Once Again," told almost exclusively with 20 year old VHS tapes.

Ultimately, the sad truth is that even if all of the obstacles above are a breeze, without funds this film will not get made. If the figure seems high to you...it is not. We came by the number very carefully, trimmed the fat, and every penny will be spent on the essentials.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 1 or more About US$ 1.00

    CHANNEL SURFER
    All donors will receive our sincere thanks, which we will express publicly with your name on our website and Facebook page. We know that this film, like public access television, is only made possible by contributions by viewers like you.

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    Pledge US$ 15 or more About US$ 15

    CASUAL VIEWER
    In addition to listing in our donor acknowledgements online, you will also receive access to a special online screening of the completed documentary! Be among the first to see it before theatre release.

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    33 backers
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    Pledge US$ 25 or more About US$ 25

    FIRST TIME CALLER
    At this level, you will receive our public online thanks, access to the online screening, and a digital download of a limited edition DVD of "The Best of Austin Access," featuring a carefully selected collection of some of the most hilarious and iconic moments in public television history.

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    Pledge US$ 50 or more About US$ 50

    REGULAR CALLER
    You will receive all of the previously listed items, plus a digital download of "The Lost Episodes of Carmen Banana," a collection of clips and episodes of one of Austin public access television's most cherished series.

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    Pledge US$ 75 or more About US$ 75

    STUDIO AUDIENCE MEMBER
    In addition to listing on our website, access to the online screening, digital download of "The Best of Austin Access," and "The Lost Episodes of Carmen Banana," donors at this level will also receive a limited edition When We Were Live poster with autographs from the film's stars and a special thank you message from the director.

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    Pledge US$ 100 or more About US$ 100

    CREW MEMBER
    Your name will be memorialized on the big screen! In addition to all of the items listed above, your name will also be listed in the "special thanks" section of the credits with a nickname of your choice (ex. John "The Wrecking Ball" Moore).

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 250 or more About US$ 250

    CAST MEMBER
    Not only will you receive all of the previously listed perks, we will also dedicate an episode to you in our "Show of the Week" web series, a weekly online video series featuring curated episodes of classic Austin Access Shows.

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 500 or more About US$ 500

    TV STAR
    You will be invited to join the film cast and crew! You will receive all of the aforementioned perks, plus 2 tickets to a Special Screening of the film for the cast and crew. (Travel and accommodations not included.)

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    Pledge US$ 1,000 or more About US$ 1,000

    ASSOCIATE PRODUCER
    Wow! You are really helping us to make this film a reality - thank you! You will be publicly thanked on our website, gain access to the online screenings and downloads, the autographed poster, dedication in an episode of Show of the Week, AND you will be listed as an Associate Producer in the film credits!

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    Pledge US$ 2,500 or more About US$ 2,500

    EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
    You will receive our undying gratitude, access to the online screenings and downloads, the autographed poster, dedication in an episode of "Show of the Week," AND you will be listed as an Executive Producer in the film credits!

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    Pledge US$ 5,000 or more About US$ 5,000

    VIP
    You will receive all of the aforementioned goodies, Executive Producer credit, AND 5 hours of 1 on 1 training in Adobe Creative Suite (for yourself or the designee of your choice) by the film's director.

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    Pledge US$ 10,000 About US$ 10,000

    STUDIO BIG WIG
    You have made this dream possible, and you are a true celebrity in our eyes. In addition to all of the Executive Producer perks and the 5 hours of training, you will be the director's pesonal guest to the film's festival premiere. Seriously, we are overwhelmed with gratitude - thank you! (Fufillment of this reward is dependent upon the film's festival release. Travel and accomodation not included).

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Funding period

- (30 days)