Education and entertainment
We believe that public television should present as much education as it does entertainment.
The former gives it lasting value; the latter keeps audiences watching.
This web-site will show you a little about the public broadcasting programs we want to develop and distribute. Why, you ask, should these obviously really first-class ideas be done here? What does ep5 have to offer that isn’t found in other, more experienced, more “established” production shops?
Let’s skip the old argument about how an industry which refuses to encourage newcomers to explore their potential eventually suffocates in its own staleness. Let’s, for a moment at least, ignore the insiders’ reluctance to take chances on unproved people and notions. (And who are “unproved people”? Anyone not already on the inside.)
Rather, consider what ep5 actually has to offer.
By its nature, the making of radio and television programs costs ridiculous amounts of money. Real money, proper money, the kind that is hard to come by in this business. Oughtn’t producers who can get the greatest mileage from a dollar get to drive, once in a while? Our management has years of experience in accomplishing things on minimal capitalization. The trick to making this work, of course, is producing those kinds of programs which can be done without elaborate and costly sets, staff, and equipment.
This means carefully selecting production methods which can be implemented at genuinely low cost. Example? Let’s take one that epitomizes the old and conventional way of doing it. Years ago, we shot extensive documentary footage on several local railroads. In the course of this work, we spent a lot of time with a fellow who actually owns a few railroads. He described the fun that he had hosting part of the production of the feature film, Unstoppable.
At one point in the story, the script called for running the train at not less than fifty miles an hour. Trouble was, the speed limit on the stretch of the line that looked good was thirty, and railroad speed limits are enforced not by the village cops but by the feds. What did the movie company do? They paid to upgrade that section of the railroad to fifty miles an hour. At no cost to the railroad company. That kind of thing costs millions.
We’d tell you what the cameraman was paid on that project, but you probably wouldn’t believe us. It was a lot.
While we have no access to production details, we assume that the movie was shot with Panavision cameras on 35mm film. At that time, this was what you relied upon to get first-class results. When the project budget is a reported $100,000,000 or so, you don’t skimp on the camera gear. You don’t skimp on anything.
At the risk of belaboring the obvious...skimping is not what we propose to do. Modern digital technology recently passed that tipping point at which image and sound quality from comparatively inexpensive gear exceeds that expected from 35mm film and the best tape recorders. Granted, one man’s “inexpensive” is another man’s “Are you freakin’ insane???” In the context of what is being undertaken, there are times when the expenditure of fifty thousand dollars can be and is regarded as chump change, depending upon what that expenditure achieves. By exploiting today’s technology and carefully limiting the scope of our activity, we can get a great deal more bang for the buck than most.
Shall we be even more specific? Our series on programming has a budget of $4,320,000. The series on engineering careers for women, $6,000,000. Compare this to what Sony, a fully capable and established company in the television industry, spent on the drama series, Battle Creek. Thanks to the infamous hack of their computers in 2014, production costing data that should have been kept secret was revealed. All three of these are one-hour programs. Sony spent around three and a half cubic megabux on theirs.
So what, you ask? What is exceptional about that? Those figures compare very well, considering the industry norms.
What’s exceptional is that their money bought one single episode, the pilot.
Ours will buy the complete series.
Not only twenty-six and thirty-nine broadcast episodes, but an additional forty to fifty hours or so on the WWW. Each of the series will total approximately eighty hours of information-dense content.
Clearly, this isn’t comparing apples to oranges; it’s more like pussycats and elephants. Accomplishing this requires more than being frugal with the on-set catering. If you compare a drama program with big-name stars, numerous outdoor scenes, a full-sized production crew, and all the other cost items that comprise a conventional television production to the instructional/educational/documentary works we want to make, you begin to appreciate why the wise general picks only those battles that he knows he can win. This is why we have no interest in making television dramas with famous actors. Or even with talented nobodies.
By the way, for those with a sharp eye for detail, that camera above is not a 35mm but a 65mm. The camera to the right is their new digital. The one that you cannot buy. You can rent it, and plan on spending thousands of dollars for each day you have it on set. Yes, it’s that good. Digital film technology has finally breached the ramparts and consigned expensive film stocks to the dark, dusty, soon-to-be-forgotten warehouse in which they keep the carbon arc lamps, gel painting desks, and directors’ puttees and berets.