PLAY IT AGAIN ORESTES: Orestes Vales is well-known around the halls of Webster University's media center, an up-tempo, high-energy adjunct video professor, in the school of communications.
Recently, Valdes mentioned that a new show was airing, with a heavy dose of student work serving as content. The show is "Playback," now airing on the Higher Education Channel on Saturday nights at 9 p.m. If you've got cable, you've probably passed by the HEC from time to time, the network probably showing some type of speech, lecture or documentary on a group of people you've never heard of before or since.
But during "Playback," the station is treated to something, well, quite different.
Valdes says, "The first season of "Playback" is made up of about 95% Webster University student film and video work. We have a call-for-submissions letter out to the heads of the film and video departments of the area colleges, so hopefully they will want to join in on the fun, too.
"Feedback-wise, it's been slow going since HEC is, for the most part, an outlet for telecommunications courses (non-educational programming, while very much in existence on HEC, neverthelessand rightlytakes a back seat in terms of promotion to the educational programming. Not that we don't intend for "Playback" to be educational in some abstract sense of the word!). Student work, for the most part, tends to remain quite personal in natureeven if that means attempting some genre-based experiments; and certainly, with the advent of digital technology, the quality of the work is also on the rise. Although time will tell if ideas will eventually triumph over the considerable visual firepower these new digital systems are able to offer)."
Valdes brings a long history of championing student and independent video on the St. Louis airwaves. From 1989-99, he worked on "Mind Over Television," which was a staple of local origination and cable access stations around town, emanating from DHTV. In 1993, the show was a finalist in the Hometown USA Video Festival in the "Innovative" category, quite a mark, in that it's the largest and oldest-running festival of independently-produced community media in the nation.
The producer of the show offers this sobering thought, noting that many of the old contributors to "Mind..." have departed the area: HEC seemed like a natural outlet for the 'Playback' series since the majority of the work seen on it currently is student-produceda direction we were sort of heading in anyway with 'Mind Over Television' as our charter members gradually moved away, took new jobs, got arrested, etc. Since St. Louis is a big union town, at least as far as film/video contracts are concerned, a lot of our students who want to work specifically in the film industry wind up leaving town (New York, Los Angeles, Florida and Chicago are popular destinations). The people who do remain in town, however, generally wind up doing freelance work of some sort to finance their personal projects. Some sort of clearinghouse for information/resources/equipment rentals, etc. geared towards the independent film and video producer (similar to the 'scene' they have in San Francisco, for example) would go a long way in keeping some of our finest living and working here in town. Here's hoping for the future."
Running at a half-hour per episode, the shows will sometimes leave you scratching your head, often will make you laugh and usually will give you a glimpse at young vidoegraphers just scratching at the surface of their talent. In that way, Valdes is right: HEC is a natural outlet for the program. It's not always the smoothest program on the air, but it might be the spunkiest.
Which you'd expect with Orestes as the producer.
OREGON DREAMING: After a recent trip to Portland, it's obvious the town has a couple things on St. Louis. Scenery, true. A strong urban core, yup. And zines every block!
Indeed, the independent publishing community in Portland and nearby Eugene is simply amazing. Every record store features dozens of titles, from the most obscure to the better-known ("Cometbus," "Dishwasher," "Thrift Score" and "Eight-Track Mind" among them). In St. Louis, you could scour the town for weeks and not find the selection that you'd get in a handful of Oregon CD shops.
The town's also got an embarrassment of riches when it comes to other indie media. Not one, but two weekly papers, to go with a number of other free pubs.
Here... there's not the same regularity and spark. But one nice twist might be on the immediate horizon.
In St. Louis, "Confluence" has been a steady contributor to the progressive scene with it's spirited pages, commenting on environmental, justice and urban issues. Best yet, according to editor Mark Bohnert, the publication will soon also be featuring an independent web guide to all the local indie publications, whether on-line or print. Hopefully, by next month the site will be up and running with links to a variety of off-the-beaten-path outlets.
That'd be a welcome step for a town that needs all the non-mainstream programming it can get. Check the Confluence or this site next month for details.
MAYORAL DEBATE UPDATE: Shameless plugging, it's true.
There are a couple debates coming up surrounding the Mayoral race in the City of St. Louis. On the 11th of February, a Sunday afternoon, all six candidates have been invited to a debate at La Clinica, 3646 Fairview, in the Fanning neighborhood. This one is being sponsored by the Hispanic Festival Inc., and is will be held at a social services agency specializing in helping the local Latin community. However, the wider population of the City is invited.
On Monday, Feb. 12, KDHX' The Wire will host a debate among the Democratic contenders for the job, with Freeman Bosley definitely in and Clarence Harmon definitely out. Listen in and see if Francis Slay and Bill Haas drop in! The show airs at 7 p.m. on 88.1 FM.
The following week, the two Republican contestants, Francis Wildhaber and Michael Chance, will take part in a debate on that side of the aisle. Same time and station.
And for Southsiders, the 26th will feature a debate between the two Democratic candidates for Alderman in the 15th Ward, Jennifer Florida and Mike Daus. Again, on Monday at 7 p.m., on KDHX.