So I just got done reading a little post in the forums on the Rev3 website by a former host and it started bringing back memories of my days and the problems I encountered there and the problem with podcasting in general.
Let me start with a little back story. I was living in Los Angeles working for an Avid rental house. I would go and sit down with the directors, editors, producers for different films and television shows and deliver systems to get them through the productions. Providing training and 24 hour technical support for different productions. Then I find out that TechTV is moving production operations down to L.A. and joining a network called G4 which I had already done work within the past when I was working for SCEA.
So I got a job in G4 and watch it go from G4 to G4TechTV to G4TV to G4 from the engineering department. The producers on TSS (now AOTS) got wind of me and my personal hacking and techie background so they started coming back in the engineering department and kept asking questions. Sometimes the host would come in asking how to make a voltage regulator and so on. Then they started asking me to bring my projects on the show. Then it got to the point that the show producers were sitting down with my bosses trying to get me out of engineering and on the show full time. Well to be honest I never liked being in front of the camera but I did like learning something and packing it into a fun exciting way for someone else to learn how to do it. So we came to an agreement that I would work on the projects after work and I would go on the show and let a producer script what I would say to fit a 4-5 minute segment as long as I got to write the articles and only have someone grammar check it. I enjoyed this arrangement and it was fun except for being on camera. I would rather stand in front of a room of 500 people and make a presentation than be in front of a camera. Don’t get me wrong I love the camera but much like an ugly girl with a nice body I can only love the camera if I’m behind and not in front of it. I wanted to be the guy in the back room building amazing things and then sit down with the talent and tell them what to say right before they went on air. I was able to do this once at G4 where me and the art department crew built the world’s largest NES controller and then right before the show I told Kevin what to say and how and what each thing did.
Then some people left G4 under different circumstances and tried to start Rev3 in San Francisco which I was excited for since I got to see behind the scenes of what they wanted to do in L.A. and I thought I should be part of this because at the time even though it was a small group of people it had a vision I could get behind. Long format productions of intense technical material presented in a way that makes it understandable. Which late I translated into “40 hours of research and build in 40 minutes”. Well the opportunity came up with me taking a pay cut by half of what I was making at G4 to join Rev3. I didn’t care I was going to be behind the scenes engineering and making tech content for SYSTM which someone else would be presenting and I wouldn’t be the only one making projects either. Then came day one after moving to San Francisco. Oh your hosting the show and producing the show and were going to give you a camera person, editor that wasn’t happy they weren’t hosting the show instead. I said to them, make 1 project of anything and the show is all yours. I don’t want to be in front of the camera. They did it once and never again but it didn’t stop them from holding a grudge. So the first thing I realize is that there is no studio to shoot in and there is no camera and no mic’s and no lights. So I go out and purchase my own camera, lights, mics to get us through the first few shows while I was building a studio from the ground up literally. After dumping $12k of my savings into equipment to support the company which no one ever even said thanks or reimbursed me for we got the first few shows in the can. Basically with me scripting and building everything and having a camera guy fighting me every step of the way. I bring up this issue with the others and they say “well he’s our drinking buddy” so were not going to do anything. After awhile shows were cut with deliberate bad takes where I would screw up a fact and then stop and say that was incorrect. Well magically it would cut away right before I say the correction. I wasn’t getting any help from anyone and things would only get worse as time went on.
It was at this point I said that I need a show producer to control the situation because I can’t produce, build and work on the studio. (Way too many nights sleeping there already) and they had just hired a new director of production for Rev3 which I looked to for help and what I got just floored me. They gave every other show a separate producer and editor and talent but not SYSTM. So the camera guy became the producer of the show. My immediate reaction was that the show needed a producer that understood the projects. The answer I got was that a producer doesn’t need to know anything about the content of a show. My mouth dropped and I had no response to this dead serious response. That statement still haunts me to this day. I had other moments that made me drop my jaw as well. I would sit in meetings with print outs of forum post and be told to not listen to the forums. They are not a good judge of the audience. I don’t think I ever worked in a place that made me have that confused dog face look so many times. At least in television you could speculate because there wasn’t enough information there to work with but with the internet there is so much information that you can pin point any problem and path for growth to an exact science.
Then I started building the studio and nobody else was hired to help me. I watched as every show producer got interns and there wasn’t even a show yet. Lunches were being brought to them (and I swear I saw some dry cleaning too) but I couldn’t get anyone to help lift gear into the racks. The sad thing is there were people sending in resumes to help me and people trying to connect with me thru the forums and FB and every other way and I would say can I please have him, her? I was put to the back of a pile and not a concern. This is when I realized that there was a split in the company. I was not being looked at as an equal but as the help. So much so that I would write a budget and hand it to one guy and they would say hand it to the other guy first. In a company of 5 guys that’s embarrassing and insulting. To be honest with you building that studio brought me to tears on more than one occasion. I’ve built bigger projects and managed teams larger than the entire staff at Rev3 but working on that project I never felt so alone and taken advantage of. Towards the end of the build I finally got an intern and it was by mistake because they were hired to help someone else and they didn’t work out. Too bad I was almost done. Did I mention construction ran 2 months behind and they cut my completion date a month without asking me? Did I mention they cut my budget by 30% after design and initial ordering which any engineer will tell you cant be done. Not a thank you, not a completion bonus which would be expected and I usually get after a project that size. Have I ever hated a job like this before? No. In fact most jobs I’ve had ended very well. I think it is because of the alienation I felt and the serious lack of respect I received. With out getting too personal I had a full breakdown and took a week to check into a hospital for a series of infections due to a severe weaken immune system from stress.
Well at this point I had checked out and really stopped caring. I no longer felt part of the team. Everything I said was ignored and decisions were made without me. But I still hoped that SYSTM could be a “40 hours of research and build in 40 minutes” type of show. But after my return I found I no longer had any say in the content and the show was slipping away from me. Then I started losing the studio to old buddies of higher ups who never ran studio ops before. I watch shows that had key players get giant budgets and sets and staff. Imagine looking at a show with a staff of 3 on one side of the room and another show with a staff of 12 on the other side. Then seeing projects cut and build times cut and schedules cut to make room for other shows and no room for the show I wanted to see. So I quit, gave my 2 weeks and said “Don’t call me”
After realizing that I dumped all this time and energy in the place I realized that it was all about face time for the people there. They loved the camera and in my opinion didn’t care about the content. I sat in more meetings about chairs and desk and backdrops for sets than I did about the content.
I wish I could say that it was just this podcasting company but its across the board and I see it everywhere. I was recently asked if I would do a podcast with some people and I decided on saying no because I saw it being all about face time again and getting their 15 minutes of fame. This is all over and I’ve gotten to meet most of these podcasters in person and I could easily count two times over on one hand the total of podcasters that do it for the content and not the screen time. So I keep looking behind the curtain for the real techies to admire and the most amazing ones I know would never go in front of a camera because they would rather “do it”.
Can I say at least I made a friend there, made some money, learned some new skills? Not really.
So now I happily work at a company where they proudly display me to the clients and say here is David. He will fix all your problems. Then the CEO says “if the client give you any trouble do what you think is right. I got your back.” In fact over the weekend they were at a dinner with Robert Zemeckis and the point of discussion was how I helped the company. I consider this a quality work environment where if you do good, they say it, if you do bad they say it.
Do I realize that this little blog posting is in poor taste and not proper business format? Yes but I’m still having problems dealing with what I had to deal with there and in order to let it go I really needed to vent. So don’t read this thinking I’m trying to get you to stop watching or hate something about Rev3. If you like a show, watch it and don’t worry whats going on behind the scenes. I just got tons of emails and twitters wishing I would go back to do the show and it would just crush me.
OK I got that off my chest.
I feel better now.
That has been eating at me for the last year.
The sad thing is it has made me never want to invest in another person’s dream but only my own dreams.
The good thing is that anyone that helps me with my dreams would get everything I didn’t.