11 December, 2020

Add "Producer" to My Resume

In the wake of a rash of staff assaults, prisoner stabbings, and general badness, the warden and deputy warden of ERDCC were demoted or fired this fall. As a new administration takes the reins, changes loom. Astonishingly, the changes we've seen in the first month have been positive. The biggest, as far as I'm concerned, is the green-lighting of a multimedia-production studio to be staffed by my coworkers and me, aka Team XSTREAM.

Jefferson City Correctional Center has had a full-featured studio since the '80s – Jefftown Productions, which distributes such scintillating one-off videos as "Progressive Relaxation Techniques," "ParentLink," and the blockbuster hit of 2018, "JP5 Tablet Demo." A couple of other Missouri prisons recognized the benefits of this and followed suit. Various parties have striven to get a studio at ERDCC for years. Even with the full support of the Recreation Department, and a pledge for the donation of all necessary equipment by Saint Louis University's Prison Education Program, the previous warden denied every proposal that came his way. Our incoming warden seems more interested in progress and reform.

And so, earlier this week, Team XSTREAM rallied to adapt the large office that abuts the gym, moving furniture to accommodate a green screen, lighting, microphones, tripods, et cetera, leaving just enough room for what work the staff members need to do in that space. A couple of days after that, we set up cameras. Physical setup was the easy part. What proved to be more involved was the paperwork.

My coworkers brainstormed programming ideas – simple stuff that the four of us, none of whom have done video work, could produce and distribute via the prison's in-house cable system. We tried to think about diversity: a show hosted only by deaf and hearing-impaired prisoners, an LGBTQ+ program, an homage to Mystery Science Theater 3000, a special on positivity and purpose, a collection of tutorials on tricky school subjects, a how-to video on self-care and hygiene.... Our list of proposed titles and one-line blurbs ran to three pages. We didn't even include the programming that Saint Louis University, the Inside-Out Alliance, Ashland University, the Restorative Justice Organization, or the Speak Easy Gavel Club might want to generate.

I made official-looking Word forms for proposals, releases, and program approvals, created a production-schedule Excel spreadsheet, wrote the XSTREAM Media mission statement, and sent invitations for various staff members to appear on our casual interview series ERDCC Profiles, starting with our incoming warden and the new head of Recreation.

I also created an end-credits production logo to tack on to the first programs we produce. Sepia-toned footage of an octopus (the XSTREAM mascot, which we call Hank) hurry-scurryies across the ocean floor; our name flickers underneath, to the clatter of an old-timey film projector. It looks cool, in a ridiculous way that I deeply appreciate. Almost as importantly, my coworkers also like it.

Midweek, we recorded a demo, a silly proof-of-concept thing. First, Luke interviewed me on camera, then our coworkers Gary and Twon did the same. Quick-and-dirty drum-and-bass intro music was set atop a passable graphics intro, and the boss said, "Looks great, guys." He signed off on many of our development ideas right away.

Now the fun of creating those programs begins. I keep remembering the not-great "Weird Al" Yankovich movie UHF, in which a burger-flipping loser gets a job as programming director of a tiny failing public-access station and turns it into a smash hit, developing shows about every stupid, insane thing he can imagine. Could XSTREAM Media be my UHF?

Meanwhile, the Raspberry Pi situation (which sounds like a '70s prog-rock band) continues to develop, step by tiny step. Now if we could just set the damn things' clocks....

1 comment:

  1. that is awesome. NEW WARDEN with a good head on his shoulder. Rehabilitation is so VITAL in all US prisons. Good luck in all your new endeavors


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