"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!
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.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)