09 February, 2023

XSTREAM Kicks It Up a Notch

I don't know what you did with the first weekend in your February, but my coworkers and I spent a good portion of Sunday shooting video for seven different ads and public service announcements. Each one of them will play this week on the newest addition to XSTREAM's lineup, Channel X a platform solely for presenting original XSTREAM Media productions to our imprisoned audience. We're pretty excited about this, mostly because our studio work is a priceless outlet for creativity in such a drab place. With a whole channel all to ourselves, we get to create even more!

XSTREAM Media's studio consists of a green screen stretched across one wall of a little-used staff office in the gym. It sometimes feels like a temporary setup. We have to break down and stow our equipment, from sound-absorbing panels to video cameras, after every shoot to make room for our bosses, the recreation officers, to do... whatever rec officers use their office for. As studios go, ours manages to be simultaneously rinky-dink and impressive. We do a lot with what we have.

Rather than trying to hide our resource deficits, we often adopt a quirky (not to say janky) DIY aesthetic in our productions. We build props from cardboard. We make very creative use of camera angles. In lieu of a wardrobe, we sometimes place our video likenesses behind cutaway flight helmets, suit-and-tie combos, and outrageous hairdos, paper doll-style. Other prisoners are quick to tell us if they think something we're doing sucks. Since they never quibble with our creativity, they must think our stuff mostly works.

As we enter this kind of renaissance with Channel X, there's a spirit of real freedom at play. I'm planning a series of poem-a-day shorts to play between featured programming. We're also developing a game show called "I Knew That"; writing a series of daily affirmations to intersperse with our commercials; preparing informative, entertaining presentations for the host of a forthcoming movie-of-the-week series; and assembling a library of karaoke videos for a project we're calling "The Karaoke Threat." (I've already been challenged to sing the Danzig song "Mother on the show" a weird choice that I embrace in the spirit of the dare). Where we go from here is anyone's guess, but it's bound to be fun.