KVETCHERS is a multimedia webseries. Episodes consist of material gathered from interviews on Portland streets.
KVETCHERS is a multimedia webseries. Episodes consist of material gathered from interviews on Portland streets. Read more
About this project
From The American Heritage Dictionary:
Kvetch, intransitive verb (slang): to complain persistently.
Kvetch, noun: a nagging complaint, a rant, a tirade
Kvetcher, noun: a chronic, whining complainer.
From the Yiddish kvetshn: pinch, squeeze, complain
KVETCHERS is a free multimedia documentary web series anticipated to extend, initially, for six months and to tighten its focus on the American condition as seen from the streets of a major Northwestern city. During spontaneous interviews with residents I meet while roaming the city in pursuit of another cup of coffee, I'll ask provocative questions and try to provide a public forum for people who might otherwise not have an opportunity to speak out nor be heard. The videos are posted at talk-pix.com, where there is no fee to access or download material.
KVETCHERS, in attempting to take another path to the root of the problems we find ourselves facing in 21st-century America, with humor and hope rather than despair, is reaching for a therapeutic antidote.
The late Andy Rooney was of the highest order of kvetchers. He made a good living and sealed his legacy through his near non-stop kvetching.
KVETCHERS is a commitment — the first series of episodes is planned to extend through the first half of 2012 — to a street-level study of where we stand and where we are headed, using the most readily available low-budget consumer-variety movie-making tools.
Episodes of KVETCHERS are downloadable, also for free, as video and audio podcasts, available anywhere and to anyone with a computer and ISP access.
Here's the story behind KVETCHERS: In November 2011, I sold or gave away all my stuff, including my sweet iMac and my fairly late-model pickup truck — the first vehicle I ever bought new and the way things are going, probably the last — quit a late-career newspaper job and got on a Greyhound bus in northern New York, headed for the West Coast. I took eight days to do it, getting off the bus a couple times to visit old friends, get some sleep, grab a decent meal and shower. I'd crossed the country that way before, years ago, and had some nostalgic memories of meeting folks on board and having interesting conversations. I thought I'd try to document that. I ended up disappointing myself. I got some stuff, but it wasn't really what I'd thought I was going to get.
I was waiting for a late flight at LAX when this little guy came up and wanted to interview me. I was tired and bored and I agreed, but only, I told him, if I could video him while he worked. During the course of our exchange, the guy — maybe he was trying to cheer me up — told me that the only certain thing in life, the only promise we can count on, is the fact that we are going to die.
The monologue he gave me was so brilliant and so effortlessly delivered, I felt I had blown my cross-country documentary idea. This guy had just walked up to me, a random stranger, and invited himself into my space to have a terrific conversation.
People at their most informal and in random settings turn out to be the best monologists. There is inspiration in ideas expressed from one to another.
At the end of that week in November, I understood that I wasn't going to make my documentary the way I'd envisioned, but I was going to die. That was certain, according to the guy in the airport and the rules of life on Planet Earth. So I had that going for me.
NOTHING TO LOSE: That was the moment that KVETCHERS and the technique to make the show happen entered the realm of possibility.
I kept telling myself that if the idea of a street-level documentary about the American condition was going to work, it was going to take a certain commitment.
That's what KVETCHERS is all about. I'm hunkered down in Portland — the western Portland, at the end of the trail, figuratively and literally. I want to approach KVETCHERS as a job, to become a better interviewer, to dig deeper into what's going on here in the third century of the American experiment. Episodic documentary works best for me. I can polish these little pieces and then move on to the next one.
A WORD ABOUT DOCUMENTARY: I've begun referring to KVETCHERS as a semi-documentary because, occasionally, in episodes you hear me asking goofy questions or responding to people. I'm not exactly a disinterested observer. I'm on the scene and in the scene. It's only a documentary in that the only scripted part of KVETCHERS involves the questions. Typically, I go out with a list of ideas, topics, questions based on what's going on in the news and in the culture.
FULLER DISCLOSURE: I've been a satirist since I was 10 years old, in writing, on the radio, on television. From my point of view, the world is so crazed, the only honest, sane approach is through comedy. KVETCHERS, aside from being an intrinsically funny word that is difficult for many Americans to pronounce, assumes the attitude that life on the planet is bearable if we can find enough material to make us laugh. And that might very well be the real work of the show.
But there's also a poignancy. Outside a WorkSource center, a woman cried when asked how her job search was going.
The costs involved in producing KVETCHERS are minimal, but nothing is free on planet Earth. It's a one-man operation, pre- through post. And it's six months of my life. I've put together a portable movie studio I can carry on my back. I pay for rental space to work and live in and I pay for utilities, including electricity, water, phone service, internet provider, the website. And I got to eat. I no longer own a car or truck. I pay $26 a month to ride TriMet anywhere I want to go in the city.
It's not only amazing how openly people will talk to a stranger with a video camera on the street, but, more than that, how willing most of them are to be webbed out into the world. It's an intimate process and an act of trust.
KVETCHERS launched online January 28 this year with the first episode and audio podcast. During the first week, I posted three episodes and expect to continue at that level of output or more through the end of spring and beyond.
As of the project's launch date, Tuesday, February 14, six episodes of KVETCHERS are posted at talk-pix.com and traffic on the site has seen increases every day since the first episode went live at the end of January.
Visit talk-pix.com and follow the development and progress of the series.
Getting this project funded will ensure that the work continues at the same intensity or, undoubtedly, an even higher level, beyond the planned first series. I'm a great believer in the artistic critical mass, the explosive point at which the work takes on a life of its own.
I thank you and look forward to our collaborative effort to make KVETCHERS a sustainable reality.
Together, we can make this happen.
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