that cable guy

that cable guy

When the words “public access” are mentioned together with cable programming, it’s not odd to get an instant image of Wayne and Garth peddling their theories of life in a basement while sitting on a ragged old couch that was once the pride of someone’s living room. Or worse. Possibly a Gene Scott wanna-be smoking cigarettes and reading scriptures out of the Bible. We don’t have to worry about such embarrassments here in Orlando, home of the Protected and the Blessed, because there is no such thing as “public access” here, only “leased access”, which is basically like renting an apartment or office space, but on the air– viewable by a potential audience of 250,000 people. After a careful screening process, you too can produce television programming and David Segal’s Alien Surf Productions made the cut. He’s the creator of “Bootleg: Orlando”, a music and art show that recently celebrated its tenth episode with a taping at Will’s Loch Haven Pub, one of the many locations featured in the show on Time Warner Cable channel 21, Monday nights at 11 pm and Sunday nights at Midnight. Hosted by the leering Mandaddy of GARGAMEL!, the show features raw footage of local bands and also submissions from analog and digital filmmakers. Segal is the primary videographer, a very nearly omnipresent figure in the downtown clubs. With a newly purchased digital video camera in tow (“I guess we’re not really that bootleg anymore,” he smiles ruefully.) he is off to the races, scrambling about on the stage wings, shooting from all angles, always in long takes. On the night of the tenth show taping, he is sprinting around, long hair tied back in a ponytail, brow furrowed as he fiddles with the lighting rigs. “You come in here, the bands aren’t lit, I’ve gotta go up and screw with the lighting,” this and shoot, produce, edit and finally sell the show to advertisers so that his labor of love can be viewed and appreciated by that quarter million good timin’ folks. It’s a hard job, but Segal’s happy that at least he’s doing it the way he wants to do it. It wasn’t always the case.

“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be some kind of an artist,” says Segal later, editing the material shot during a wild and rowdy evening. “I also wanted to be a race car driver,” he laughs. Realizing that down deep inside was the heart of a filmmaker, he enrolled in a cinema program at Valencia Community College in 1992. Graduating in ’94, he began working freelance on commercials, films, anything he could get his hands on. It wasn’t long before the term “starving artist” began to apply to the recent graduate. “There were times that I didn’t know where I was going to get my next dime,” he says. But he admits that these tough times were also ones of great inspiration as well. “When you’ve got nothing and you gotta make something from nothing, you get very creative,” and he laughs. “You know what I’m talking about.” In time, he found himself in a business partnership that left him feeling out-of-control. The deal went bad and Segal vowed to do-it-himself from here on out. That way, there’d be no-one to blame but himself. “I needed to be in-control, I wanted to be in charge.”

Freelance work continued and Segal began producing documentaries. After working with Dean Baker on a project at Post F/X, talk came up about a collection of tapes that Segal had featuring Orlando bands in the local clubs. “Most of my friends are musicians, the Cluj guys, way back when they were Alter Ego, Dave and Steve were my closest guy friends,” says Segal. Soon, his library began to bulge with the proof of an explosion happening in the sleepy music city. “Gargamel, Bughead, before I knew it, in 1996 I started filming the downtown scene, anywhere I saw something interesting, filming all my friends, everyone pitched in with tapes, who knew what it was going to be?”

When Baker told him that he had a sure-fire hit with some sort of musical variety show, Segal went to work viewing the hundreds of feet of footage. Inspired by the look and feel of old MTV, (“music videos, to me, are the coolest form of eye candy,”) he sounded a call to filmmaker friends, bands and anyone who had some creative elements to lend. It was to be a melting pot of Orlando area talent, proof that they existed since no-one else had bothered to create a show about the many musicians , visionaries, sculptors and painters who lurked the nights of the City Beautiful. “I just started assembling all of these bits and pieces in April/May of ’98 and somehow got it into somewhat of a structured format ,” he says. Shortly after that, Will’s Pub signed on as his first advertiser and it was time to debut the show. Indeed raw, the video crackled with immediacy and thrust viewers into the heart of nightlife and alternative art. Soon, bands were begging Segal to show up at their gigs for a chance to be on the show.

But life still isn’t easy enough to breathe freely; some advertisers, like Ratpack’s On The Avenue, dropped out and pinched the production wallet. Segal spends a great deal of his own money to finance the shows and the advertising helps, but it’s still not enough. “I can understand , it’s tough to sell advertising for something that’s unstructured–it’s art,” he concedes. “The Time Warner people helped me out, gave me a good rate that I could live with.” Still, he pounds the pavement himself, trying to interest new sponsors. It seems the few that he maintains are hard-core supporters of the Orlando scene, like The Milky Way store downtown and Wing Shack, both of whom are advertisers on the show. Plans to go bigger budget with “Bootleg: Orlando” obviously depend on Segal’s in-flow of cash, though he has no seeming lack of material contributors. His dream is to have a staff work the money end of things while he concentrates on assembling the next episode. “I’ll never get rich doing this,” he says. “But this show isn’t for me–it’s for everybody.” He is modest in pointing out that it’s mainly the content of the show, not the packaging, that makes it compelling viewing. “It’s a sampling of who we are, it’s Orlando’s show.”

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