After 30 years, public access TV has a home

Artist Larry West, already a bit of a cause celebre among certain Philly circles for his run for mayor in 2008, has always toyed with the idea of shooting a local version of “Wayne’s World.”

He even knows the first two music videos he’d play: Strapping Young Lad’s “Detox” and Megadeth’s “Peace Sells, But Who’s Buying.”

“I definitely did think about doing a public access show in the past,” West said yesterday. “The idea I was running around was a Philly ‘Wayne’s World’ version, me playing metal videos and local politics.”

He and others now have a public access hub to do so. After 27 years of fighting for a station and two more trying to get a studio, Mayor Michael Nutter celebrated the station’s grand opening yesterday.

“We wanted to create a space to show you we’re more than just a television station, but a community center,” said director Gretjen Clausing. adding that YouTube has made people more willing to share their ideas and opinions and communicate with the masses, she said. “Public access is still incredibly relevant.”

The building, whose equipment is completely digital, features a media lab, community space, classrooms and offices. The studio’s bright color palette is based on the test patterns of a classic television, said lead architect Alan Metcalfe. “We had a low budget, so we put a lot into paint and nice, bright finishes.”

“The most important aspect was to be accessible,” he said. “People gravitate to people, so you can see the sets on the street. We wanted to create curiosity so people come in.”

How to start shooting

In order to submit television pitches to PhillyCAM, the pilots must be locally-produced and you must become a member.

The cost is $25 per person and determined by a sliding scale for businesses, depending on their operating budgets. That can cost anywhere from $30 to $200, said membership director Antoine Haywood.

There are currently 360 active members, 85 of which are organizations.

The weekly schedule features 65 original series and 20,000 hours of programming. PhillyCAM can be viewed on Comcast channels 66 and 699 and Verizon channels 29 and 30.

More ideas for shows

Here are some ideas for new shows from people who gathered for the grand opening of the city’s public access television station:

“I’m a Zen Buddhist and it would take me seated on a Zazen cushion in silent meditation with a green screen in the background. Cartoon images would be projected in the background to show the busyness of the mind,” said organization treasurer Leslie Birch.

“I’d like to see local business programming. There are so many adorable businesses tucked away in Philadelphia,” said Matthew Baron of Awesome LLC and Woofer, a dog clothing line that plays mp3s. “The three things people are always talking about are politics, real estate and sex, so I think a show about any one.”

“I always wonder about Philadelphia elementary schools who are named after people,” said Susan Rubin, wife of building owner Mark Rubin. “I think a short spot about who they are named after and what those people did would be really cool.”

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