Videographer Michael Hoopingarner plans music show for PBS
Chico, CA 95928
While it’s easy to agree with the mission of public television, it’s a bit harder for anyone save the president of the Huell Howser Fan Club and middle-aged men with an unhealthy obsession for Celtic Woman to argue they maintain the most consistently stimulating programming.
“What I see on PBS is that they’re increasingly scared of losing funding, and increasingly worried by their lack of viewership and lack of pledging,” explained Michael “Hoop” Hoopingarner. The local videographer has co-production and crew credits on more than a half-dozen programs produced by local renaissance man Peter Berkow’s Berkow Productions and aired on PBS (Sierra Center Stage concert series filmed at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and The Banjo-ologist, a documentary on local banjo master Gordy Ohliger, among others).
“So as a result the work that they do becomes safer; they take less risks. But at the same time they say they need to reach new audiences, to get younger people involved. They’re contradictory, because you can’t keep playing it safe and get new audiences.”
Hoop—who can regularly be found at his day job as lighting director at the Sierra Nevada Big Room or filming arts events at places like RayRay Gallery or the Blue Room Theatre—moved to Chico six years ago to study recording arts at Chico State. Doing sound for local shows led to the lighting gig, which in turn led to his partnership in Berkow Productions.
Hoop’s first crack at producing on his own is an upcoming pair of concert program pilots he hopes will address the problems he sees with PBS programming. The shows will be filmed at the Blue Room in two sets on Thursday, Sept. 29. The first will feature the Songbird & Scallywag Trio, with Berkow and junkyard musicologist/ festival-scene staple Joe Craven. The second stars the Big Mo Acoustic Trio, with the local blues favorite joined by Bob Littel on harp and guitarist Volker Strifler. Comedian John Ross will host the evening.
“For me, this is an experiment, this is to see if I can do something that’s fun and outside the box for PBS when it comes to music, and see if they bite,” Hoop said. Not only will the show feature offbeat comedy and a theater setting, it also will employ music-video techniques and other recorded segments.
Hoop explained producers can upload programs to the PBS satellite service (much as Berkow has with his programs), and affiliate stations can choose to pick or pass them up: “What I think is going to happen is that, because this will be outside the comfort zone for a lot of stations, but weird and risky enough for others, that half the stations will really like it and half won’t,” he said. “But that’s great, that’s what I want to happen.”
The concerts will be an hour long, with the pilots edited to 30 minutes. If they fare well, Hoop hopes to expand it into a series.
“PBS is a wonderful outlet for [this], and it’s a good fit. People who like this kind of music tend to be PBS supporters because they understand where it fits in the puzzle of how our whole culture operates in terms of the arts.”
Hoop explained his passion for public broadcasting wasn’t engrained with Sesame Street, but developed over the years, culminating with a recent epiphany.
“I’d always known, but never put together that PBS is well-known for its children’s programming and that it’s noncommercial media, which means there’s no commercials for children’s programs. When I thought about that—that’s amazing. It’s just the right thing to do; you should not advertise to children. So once I said that out loud, I realized I really, really like PBS.
“So many people involved with PBS believe in the mission, believe in bettering our culture and do things because they believe it’s the right thing to do and not for money. I like being around those kinds of people.”