We produced three episodes this spring, which include a Meth bust in Tennessee, a drug dealer making illegal steroids in his Los Angeles kitchen, pimps working the streets in Chicago, and an auto theft ring in Oakland. This was one of the most challenging shows I've worked on, since so much of it involved forging delicate relationships with criminals as well as law enforcement officers, and the show was shot very on-the-fly, by-the-seat-of-your-pants. We never knew what we were going to get when we sent Mark out with a camera...a lot of times we got nothing...but a lot of times, we got some of the most scary and revealing footage we've ever seen.
American Underworld has been airing the past few weeks on Discovery. You can watch clips from the show here, and also find listings for when it will air on the Discovery Channel.
The Mongol Rally
I've got that itch for adventure again, so it's time to dust off my backpack and hit the road!
This summer I will be taking part in The Mongol Rally, a 10,000 mile car rally from London to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I'll be driving with a team of friends through about 18 different countries with anything but suitable roads (or no roads at all), with no electronic navigational aids, in a tiny little car that is generally considered crap and completely inappropriate for the task. That's the spirit of the Mongol Rally.
All in all, I'm planning to spend about four months abroad beginning in June. I'll start the trip with a week in Iceland, and then I'm planning to travel to several atlatl events in in Germany with my parents, and visit some relatives in Denmark.
The Mongol Rally begins at the end of July, and our current route will take us through 17 countries: England, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Mongolia. Afterwards, I am considering taking the Trans-Siberian Railroad through Russia back to Europe and spend a few more weeks there.
One part of the rally itself is to raise money for charity -- we are planning to donate well over 1,000 pounds to the people of Mongolia, as well as the car that we drive, so we will be setting up our team website and will begin collecting donations soon. It should be quite the trip!
Is the D.B. Cooper case solved?
Tonight's episode of Brad Meltzer's DECODED delves into the D.B. Cooper case, the 1971 skyjacking which has been unsolved for forty years. I produced this episode, and it's my personal favorite one of the season. And after this latest investigation, the case may very well be solved.
The show follows a new suspect named Kenny Christiansen, who was brought to light by the book Into The Blast: The True Story of D. B. Cooper. Kenny was a Northwest Airlines employee and a trained paratrooper; he suddenly began spending large amounts of money in the months after the hijacking; he was unaccounted for the night of the crime; and there was even a plastic bag of $20 bills found hidden in his backyard years later -- the denomination of the cash stolen by D.B. Cooper. Wikipedia has a longer summary of the case against Christiansen.
During our shoot, we visited Kenny's former home in Bonney Lake, Washington (where the bag of twenties was found), and searched the walls with an infrared camera. The idea was we were looking for a hiding spot or a cubby hole -- a place where money could have been hidden. We weren't expecting to find anything, but when we came across a peculiar rectangular area in the ceiling above Kenny's former bedroom, we had to investigate. We sent one of our Decoders up into the attic, and sure enough, we found something. In between the rafters in Kenny's attic, hidden under a layer of insulation, we found a hinged box that was clearly some sort of deliberate hiding space! It was the perfect size to hide the stash of money that D.B. Cooper stole, and we found it in the ceiling right above the leading suspect's bedroom. I know this doesn't prove anything, but it's another piece of circumstantial evidence to add to the ever-growing case against Kenny Christianen.
After we wrapped, author of Into The Blast Robert Blevins released a new edition of his book which includes a chapter on the History Channel shoot. I'm quoted in the book and Robert even put my picture in it. It's pretty cool that our detective work actually turned up something!
To see this episode, tune in tonight at 10PM on The History Channel.
Brad Meltzer's DECODED
Since June, I have been working as a Producer for a new History Channel series called Brad Meltzer's DECODED. The show features a team of investigators -- the "Decoders" -- solving mysteries from throughout American History. Bestselling author Brad Meltzer is the host, and kind of the Charlie figure to this Charlie's Angels.
I've been traveling all over the country, field producing episodes on a variety of really interesting topics. Here are a few of the episodes I'm working on:
- John Wilkes Booth: Did John Wilkes really die two weeks after assassinating Lincoln, or did he survive for another 40 years under assumed identities around the world? Was the man killed in Garrett's Barn a patsy?
- Rebel Gold: Where did the missing Confederate treasury disappear to after it was raided by night time raiders in Georgia in 1865?
- D.B. Cooper The only unsolved skyjacking case in American History. Who was this famous airline hijacker, and did he survive his 1971 jump from the back of a Boeing 727 with $200,000 in cash?
- The White House Cornerstone: The very first piece of the White House was laid in 1792 in a secret Freemason ceremony, and it has since disappeared. What happened to the cornerstone, and did the Freemasons have something to do with it?
All in all, it is a really fun job, even if though it's a lot of work. The series is set to premiere on December 2nd on the History Channel, so be sure to tune in!
DECODED is produced by Go Go Luckey Entertainment.
Reality Rush, LLC officially launches!
Today, my event planning company Reality Rush officially launched! We specialize in running team building adventures based on Reality TV game shows like Survivor, The Amazing Race and Big Brother. Although we have been running events for nearly two years, we became official in September, 2009 when we trademarked our name and filed the paperwork to become an LLC. Today, we have launched our new website and are announcing our company!
Our grand premiere event, Urban Hunt: Los Angeles takes place on April 10th. This is an exciting scavenger hunt around Los Angeles, where teams of two solve puzzles, compete in various tasks, and explore their city. (Think of it as an afternoon version of The Amazing Race.) It's a whole heck of a lot of fun, and I encourage everyone to sign up.
We're very excited to expand our business and run many more events over the coming years. If you know any groups who are interested in having an unforgettable adventure, be sure to contact Reality Rush!
The Lazy Environmentalist
In September, I started a new job -- I am now an Associate Producer on The Lazy Environmentalist. TLE is an environmental TV series on The Sundance Channel, about easy and cost-effective ways of going green. The host, Josh Dorfman, helps people in various walks of life find ways to be more eco-friendly without bending over backward or making huge sacrifices. The idea is that going green doesn't have to be hard.
We are now in the thick of production on episodes covering everything from interior decorators to surfers to funeral directors. As an AP, I do huge amounts of research, find experts to appear on the show, help write the scripts, and then produce, produce, produce.
I now know more about biofoam surfboards and biodegradable caskets than I ever dreamed I would know. I've also been doing a lot of shooting for our various segments. Just last week, I found myself riding along with an exterminator for the day, while he tried out eco-friendly pesticides on all sorts of cockroach, spider and rodent infestations. It has been an interesting and educational experience to say the least!
You can check out the Sundance Channel's websites to see some clips from the show. Enjoy!
Pizza Party Weekend
A few months ago, some friends and I started a sketch comedy group called Pizza Party Weekend, and I've discovered a new passion for writing and performing live comedy! We started out making comedy videos for the web and performing the occasional one-off sketch at comedy variety shows, but we apparently made an impression, because we got offered our own hour long sketch show at the Theater Asylum in Hollywood.
So far, we have written and performed two hour-long sketch comedy shows as PPW -- one in May and one in July. Our comedy is similar to the offbeat /underground style of the Upright Citizens Brigade theater (in fact, one of our aims is to eventually get a show at UCB).
That said, all five of the members have very different voices, and I feel like we complement each other well. We've done sketches about our "Evil Selves," kids arguing over the name for their (videogame) Rock Band, creepy high school teachers with crushes on their students, the Community Chest from Monopoly, a twisted summer camp, and a whole lot more.
Pizza Party Weekend's next show is coming up next week (Sept. 23rd), so if you're in Hollywood, check us out. Details and links to some of our videos are available here.
Reality Rush's Races
Reality Rush, the adventure planning company that I co-founded with my friend Justin Walter, is gaining a lot of momentum! Reality Rush runs weekend team-building events based on reality shows like Survivor, The Amazing Race, The Mole and Big Brother. And in the past two weeks, we have produced two (Amazing) Races!
Both Races went incredibly well, and all the contestants had a great time. One of these races was for our first client, the staff of E! Live Events, and we are already scheduling upcoming events for groups including Teach For America and various colleges.
Our contestants have also given us rave reviews! Here are some quotes from post-Race surveys:
- "The closest you can get to being on the real show!" - Shaun Smith, 30
- "An unforgettable team-building experience that challenges every fiber of your being." - Jennifer Stewart, 25
- "Truly one of the best adventures I’ve undertaken in a long time!" - Gerry Johnston, 47
If you or your group would like to participate in one of our Reality TV inspired games, visit our website!
Back (and busy) in LA!
I finally returned to Los Angeles last month after nine months of traveling! While I look for a new full-time job, I am doing various freelance web design and videography work, and have resumed development on my business Reality Rush.
I am heavily involved with Last Lantern Productions, a new L.A.-based production company launched by former Ithaca College professor Changhee Chun. I am one of the founding members, and we will be producing various video, web, multimedia and print productions for a variety of clients. If your business is in need of a production team, please visit our website.
I am also now freelancing for New Horizons Pictures, where I am a Web Producer. Our team is responsible for launching a new multimedia and e-commerce website to market legendary filmmaker Roger Corman's library of over 400 classic films. Other freelance web development projects I've taken on recently include the site for the documentary Craigslist Joe; student television station Rollins College TV; and dress wholesaler PolyUSA. I have also launched one more website of my own: Power Hour HQ, a directory of video drinking games for the college crowd!
Stories told in just six words
Can you tell a story in just six words?
Ernest Hemingway was challenged to do just that in the 1920s, and it resulted in what he considered to be his best work: "For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn."
I was inspired by Hemingway's challenge, and thought that a website all about super short stories would be pretty cool - so I made one! Six Word Stories is a daily-updated collection of the best six word stories -- written by famous authors, amateurs from around the world, and submitted by fans of the site. It also has its own Twitter Feed.
This site launched just a week ago, and it's already a big success! Over 500 stories have been submitted, and it's had 50,000 unique visitors in the past two days. Check out Six Word Stories and let me know what you think.
Happy New Year
Happy 2009, everybody!
I returned from my trip through Asia a few weeks ago, and it's great to be home in America! When I left at the beginning of July, I had just my backpack and a hunger for adventure. In all, I saw Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Olympics, China, Tibet, Nepal and India. The trip was absolutely incredible -- but it's hard to sum it all up here, so check out my travel blog for a more detailed account. One thing's for sure: I caught the travel bug, and I will be going on another long trip as soon as I have the chance.
I am now home in New York for the holidays, but I will be returning to Los Angeles in a few weeks. I hope to resume all the projects I left behind this summer, and try some new and exciting things as well.
I will also be seeking a new job when I return to LA; if you have any job opportunities, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Bootstrappin' in Asia
Greetings from Nepal!
I am now in month four of my backpacking trip across Asia, and I'm having an absolutely amazing, life-changing time. I have climbed Mt. Fuji; slept on the beach in Okinawa; driven a moped up Taiwan's treacherous Taroko Gorge; marvelled at the Hong Kong skyline; watched America win gold at the Beijing Olympics; fed bamboo to giant pandas; herded yaks in Tibet; slept at the base of Mt. Everest; trekked through the Nepalese Himalayas; bungee jumped from the world's second highest freefall; made lots of friends; and learned so much. And that's just the beginning...
Along the way, I have been blogging occasionally at my travel blog, Bootstrappin', so I thought I would share it here.
I've posted hundreds of photos from my trip on this blog, and post whenever I find something interesting to talk about. I hope you enjoy reading about my discoveries and adventures!
Traveling around the world!
I've always had a huge interest in travel, exploration and adventure, and I decided a long time ago that I wanted to see the world while I'm still young. Now, I am getting my chance!
Tomorrow, I am taking a one-way flight to Tokyo, and for the next six months, I will be backpacking around Asia -- starting in Japan, and heading west (and anywhere else the winds will take me). I've planned nothing in advance, so it should be very exciting trip. If all goes well, and my money lasts, I'm going to continue heading all the way around the world.
For the time being, I will be putting all of my television and Los Angeles-based projects on hold, and I have just wrapped my job at Actual Reality Pictures. I'm still going to update all of my websites while I travel, as best as I can, though I'm sure they'll also slow down a bit while I'm busy sightseeing and exploring.
I'm really excited for this trip, and I'll be sure to share my adventures with all of you as I go!
Presenting: Reality Rush Adventures
Recently, a friend and I have been working to start an event-planning company called Reality Rush Adventures. Reality Rush runs weekend events based on Reality TV shows like Survivor, The Mole and The Amazing Race for parties, corporate retreats and team-building exercises.
In April, we ran our first game -- a three day Survivor event for 16 people in Leo Carrillo State Park outside of Malibu. You can watch a short trailer of it here:
Unlike conventional event planning companies, our events are much more elaborate and intense than the typical trust falls and ropes courses. We create an authentic Reality TV game, with all of the tribal councils, pitstops, twists and intricacies of the competitive reality shows on television. The only difference is that there's no cameras, and they take place over a weekend rather than a month.
We will be launching the official Reality Rush Adventures website soon at www.realityrush.com, and next month, we will be running two events: Sabotage: Los Feliz (based on The Mole), and The Race: City of Angels (based on The Amazing Race). Stay tuned to Reality Rush Adventures for the latest news on our company!
A quick update on what I've been doing career-wise.
In March, I took a job as a swing Associate Producer at Actual Reality Pictures, where I worked on Flip That House season 4 for TLC, and Greenovate for the Discovery Home network.
I am currently a Segment Producer for a new show on TLC called Should I Stay or Should I Go?, also produced by Actual Reality. It's a home renovation show about the American mortgage crisis, where we help families in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure fix up their house, thus allowing them to refinance. I spend most of my days out in the field, shooting, conducting interviews and field-producing. It's a fun job where I get a lot of creative input, and I'm having a great time working on this show.
I have also recently become a member of a Reality TV think tank called The G Group. The G Group is a company headed by executive producer Brian Gadinsky (American Idol, America's Most Wanted, American Gladiators), and its primary function is to come up with new Reality TV concepts -- and then sell them to networks. As a member of the think tank, I attend weekly meetings where we come up with original reality show ideas, and then develop them. If we manage to sell an idea, everyone in the group gets a cut, as well as a job on the show (if we want it). I'm very excited about this opportunity!
The Race featured on Fox Reality Channel's Reality Remix and in IC View
It's been nearly a year since I graduated from Ithaca College, and The Race is still getting national press! A few days ago, I was interviewed by the Fox Reality Channel for their show Reality Remix. The Race will be featured on a special upcoming episode, due to air in June. (I will try to post a clip from the show here once it airs.)
The Race was also featured in the latest issue of IC View, Ithaca College's alumni magazine. The article gives a great look at how The Race came about, and how we were able to pull everything off. You can read the article online, or download the scanned version!
My new video blog: Pie Heaven
Yesterday, I launched a new video blog called Pie Heaven!
One of my favorite hobbies is watching online viral videos, and I've always wished there were a site I could go to that would take the very best of the day's viral videos and put them in one place for me to watch.
That's the idea behind Pie Heaven -- it's a daily-updated website where my friends and I post the best and funniest viral videos that we find online. Granted, there are already several other websites already doing the same thing, but our goal is to post new and undiscovered videos, rather than re-posting ultra-popular videos that everyone has already seen. Hopefully Pie Heaven will grow and become a popular diversion for people all over the Internet.
You can visit the site at: www.pieheaven.net
The Race 2 wins two PEGASYS Awards
Last week, The Race 2 was awarded two PEGASYS Awards for excellence in public access television. The show won in the category for "Best Documentary," and was also the highest-rated overall program in the competition, thus receiving the award of "Best Educational Access." As one of the four top-rated programs, PEGASYS will be sending The Race 2 to represent Tompkins County in a national access television competition, the Hometown Awards, to be held in July by the Alliance for Community Media.
This is the second year in a row that The Race was honored at the PEGASYS awards (the first season won the same two categories in February 2007). Not only that -- this was the fourth year in a row that one of my productions received an award. Unicorn Boy won "Best Comedy" and "Best Educational Access" in 2006, and The Solarium with Professor Smedley Drake won "Best Educational Access" in 2005.
Demo Reel updated
I have done a bit of an update to my reel -- most notably increasing the quality of the video significantly, by pulling clips from the original master tapes rather than already compressed clips. Take a look:
I have made DVDs of this as well. If you'd like a copy, please email me at email@example.com!
New Blog Launched: Bandergrove.com
On Sunday, I launched a new blog: Bandergrove.com, which I plan to update on a regular basis. I'll be writing general interest articles about topics I find interesting, and things that I've done.
Be sure to check it out!
Also, I recently released another issue of my QuickBasic / Freebasic programming magazine, QB Express, which has a following of several thousand people. Since 2004, I have released twenty-six issues (and counting) of this magazine, and have published hundreds of articles and programming tutorials in QB Express.