Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Kazoos in the News

The Kazoo Museum just can't stay out of the papers. A few months back a writer from Beaufort Lifestyle contacted me and now there's a great piece about the kazoo factory and museum in their latest issue.

You can read the whole issue on their site, but here's the part about the museum:

It's almost inspirational - isn't it? Are you planning your trip yet?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Welcome Home, From Fred Meyer

Well, it finally happened. Last week I brought the quest for my favorite Fred Meyer commercial to the internet and this week I got an answer. For those of you not familiar with my quest, you can read my previous post here. Last night I got an email from Norm Myhr, the retiring marketing director of Fred Meyer. Not only was he happy to help, he's the one who came up with the ad! Norm recalls how he first came up with the idea:

I happened to hear Tom Chapin sing this song on "Prairie Home Companion." Very few tunes cut through to me the way this one did. The essence and feeling of the song struck me as perfect song for the holidays, something we all long for in our hearts, no matter how far we wander.

As I recall the creative team at FM did not like it. "Too corny." Program Directors at some stations didn't like it, "Too Country and Western, our listeners are sophisticated urban professionals." Despite the critiques, the Customer seemed to like it, and remember it.

In those days chasing down music was no easy feat. We finally found Tom Chapin's agent, and he graciously agreed to license the tune.

I never realized that the jingle is actually a modified, rewritten, and re-recorded version of Tom Chapin's So Nice to Come Home. Norm also recalled a few things about filming it:
The commercial was shot at a home in Lake Oswego and the cast included almost all Fred Meyer employees. A bit of trivia was that the grandmother was the former "Safeway" spokeslady, Mary Marsh, and the Grandfather was Bob Anderson, long time host of "The Scandinavian Hour" a 50 year radio program in Portland.

I was so giddy when I got this email. I called up a bunch of my childhood friends so I could play it for them over the phone. And they were just as excited as I was. This commercial truly is an Oregon holiday classic. I haven't seen the video for the ad yet, but I'm pretty thrilled just to have the music. Tom Chapin still holds the copyright for the song so it's not really mine to share, but I can't post empty-handed so here's a memorable snippet that I hopefully won't get in trouble for. And I just sent him an email to check if he minded me posting all of it. If you do want to hear the rest of the song shoot me an email.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sometimes the internet talks about me

Last week I blogged about my attempts to find my favorite Fred Meyer commercial and yesterday I did a quick search to see whether the ad had surfaced somewhere. It hadn't, but I did find this link. I stumble upon sites like this every once in a while. It seems like there must be some sort of automated program that finds relevant information related to a topic and pastes it together on a page. This page had accumulated a bunch of information related to the holidays and Fred Meyer. It had more than a few typos and grammatical errors:

This company was founded in 1922 in Poland. Fred Meyer has rather ordinary assortment... Also you can visit jewelry section, clothes store, shoes store.

And it mentioned me too:

Fred Meyer is planning to launch new advertisement. They want to support holiday spirit. Famous anchorperson Boaz Frankel (his reality show will soon have a premier) will be the main person in advertisement. During the video spectators will feel winter holiday atmosphere when whole family is together. Boaz Frankel will sing a song about holidays: "Home again for the holidays. My favorite time of year. Yes, it's so nice to come home." And a new advertisement slogan will be: "Welcome home, from Fred Meyer."

Well, I'm not really sure what to make of all this. I do appreciate them mentioning the upcoming premiere of the Un-Road Trip and calling me a "famous anchorperson." I'm also humbled by their recommendation of me as Fred Meyer's newest singing spokesperson. This information may not be accurate now, but I sure hope it all comes true.

Fred Meyer - are you reading this? Apparently, the internet is trying to tell you something.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

That Time I Met Zooey Deschanel

I was sorting through the contents of an old hard drive and stumbled upon this short clip which I had almost forgotten about. It seemed seasonally appropriate and mildly embarrassing so I thought I'd share it. Back in the day when I had my own late night talk show on NYU-TV I often got invited to press junkets. Basically, I'd sit around a hotel full of journalists for an afternoon waiting for my five minute interview slot with an actor or director. The press junket for Elf was one of the first junkets I ever attended and I think I was especially bright-eyed and bushy-tailed during those days. I also had a huge crush on Zooey Deschanel at the time. In fact, I had gone to J. Crew with a friend a few days before where I paid too much for the sweater/shirt ensemble that I'm wearing in this video. I think it was worth it though. As soon as I walked in that room with Zooey she complimented the sweater. And then the interview happened - an excerpt of which you'll see below:

There are a few things that strike me about this interview:

1) I say "sweet" a lot. I guess I still do.

2) I am so completely enamored with Zooey that I don't seem to mind (or possibly notice) that she's mocking me. I think I was just so happy that she knew my name (and said it twice!)

3) I think my naivety won her over by the end though. Doesn't her final glance make it seem like I've won her over? Or maybe she's just resigned to spending a few more minutes with me?

Zooey recently showed up on the twitter scene and on tumblr too. So maybe she'll see this and have some sort of response?

Zooey: Are you there? Do you remember this exchange from seven years ago? Were you won over by my naivety? Can we film another interview this year and then do one every seven years from here on out?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fred Meyer: Where's the Holiday Spirit?

In a time where most of the Oregonians I meet were born a long way from Oregon I always appreciate meeting other native Portlanders. For one reason, really. So we can reminisce about local TV commercials from the 80s and 90s. When I meet another native PDXer I can finally bring up topics like Tom Peterson (and Gloria too).

We can discuss the range of Scott "if you don't come see me today" Thomason commercials and his untimely financial demise.

And often times you remember the commercial better than the business itself. I don't think I ever stepped into a Kienows or Organ Grinder, but I remember watching the ads. And what ever happened to that Izzy's Pizza jingle?

And then there's the trump card. The classic TV commercial I always bring up. It must have aired around 15 years ago because I remember singing it with my middle school friends. Fred Meyer's "Home for the Holidays" commercial featured a catchy song and a collection of heartwarming shots: folks driving in the snow, bringing wrapped gifts into a house, family gathering around the tree. I think there were a few verses in an extended version of the commercial, but the cheery refrain - as I recall it - went:

Home again for the holidays
My favorite time of year
Yes, it's so nice to come home

And then a folksy-sounding announcer added, "Welcome home, from Fred Meyer."

As cheesy as it sounds, this commercial will always hold a special place in my heart and that tune will forever be implanted in my mind. So about four years ago I started my quest to track down this commercial. Somehow it hadn't (and still hasn't) surfaced on YouTube so I sent an email to Fred Meyer customer service:
I really miss your old holiday commercials with the "Home again for the holidays" jingle? Any chance of bringing them back or at least of putting them online? I hope so.

A week later, Ann from the Marketing Dept wrote back:
Thank you for your nice comments about our Home for the Holidays commercials from years past. These are my most favorite commercials ever used by our company, and I'm with you! Hoping we use them again, or something similar. I loved the sentiment of the spots.

Have a good day, and thanks for sharing.

Fred Meyer Stores
Sales Promotion & Marketing
At least I found someone who shared my affection for the commercial and I was hopeful that it would surface eventually. But here we are, four years later, and there's still no sign of the ad. So in early November I sent another email asking if there was any way I could get a DVD or even just stop by and watch it at their offices. It took about a month to get a response this time:
Thank you for your interest in our “Home for the Holidays” television spot. Unfortunately, it’s unavailable for viewing. We do appreciate you taking the time to tell us that you and your friends remember that spot—I do too!

Again, thank you and sorry for the delayed response time.

VP of Marketing, Fred Meyer
Another brick wall. I emailed Ann-Marie back:
Thanks for getting back to me. I'm so bummed to hear that it's unavailable for viewing! Have you considered putting up a "retro commercial" page on your website or on youtube? I think it could prove to be quite popular locally and get some real traction on twitter/facebook/etc.

I hope you'll consider it.

I'm giving them free marketing advice! This ought to encourage them to take some action - right? Perhaps, but I'm not sure what the next step is. Hopefully by now you remember this commercial too or maybe you're so intrigued that you want to see it? If that's the case then you should send a comment to Fred Meyer customer service! Click here if you want to do that. Or maybe some of you have old VHS recordings that might have the commercial on it? Or maybe you know someone who works at Fred Meyer and can sneak a copy out of the basement?

I'm not going to say that I won't go to Fred Meyer till I see that ad, but I'll be somewhat grumpier every time I do go to Fred Meyer. So who's with me? Let's start a revolution!

Monday, December 13, 2010

I'm a Google Street View Celebrity

I've been waiting for this moment for over a year. Actually, I think it may have been closer to two years... Okay - I just checked my twitter and I can tell you definitively that it all started on April 7th, 2009. That's when I was walking through Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, OR and I spotted this:
It's the Google-Maps-Mobile! I'd heard stories and seen photos of these camera-equipped cars that drive down every street in a city. The cameras capture 360 degree views along the way that are then available in the "street view" setting on Google Maps. And there were two exciting things about this:

1) I got to see the Google car that takes the pictures! Cool!

2) I will be immortalized in a Google Street View!

And then came the hard part - waiting. I kept checking the Pioneer Square street view every month, but it would always load the same outdated photo. I was starting to lose hope. But a little bit ago I went online and checked once again.
I realize that the casual Google Maps visitor might not notice anything special. No one's going to be recognizing me on the street for this distinguished honor. But you see that guy with a bright green jacket and jeans in the middle of the square walking straight towards the camera? That's me! Let's zoom in a bit.
Yep, that's me. A little blurry maybe, but people have said that I look a little out of focus anyway. And if that's not enough for ya, the car snapped another shot as I was walking away. Check out this great backpack shot:
Nearly two years of waiting has finally paid off, and it feels pretty awesome. Feel free to navigate around the square yourself and try to find other friends too. This is better than Waldo!

View Larger Map
And to make things even better I got immortalized in the same shot as KGW's Studio on the Square. I'm definitely available to come on the show again and discuss our joint newly found fame! Or I'd be happy to autograph glossy 8x11" glossy Street Views print-outs to anyone interested. You know where to reach me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Back in Unincorporated South Carolina

I spent most of this week at Halogen Headquarters. After writing all the scripts for the Un-Road Trip series over the last few months it was time stop editing and record the final versions of my narration.
I spent about a day and a half in this recording booth. But I wasn't alone. Well, I was in the booth - it's pretty small. But on the other side of the glass I was joined by two other folks. Todd's producing the show for Halogen and he was giving me notes on my readings and telling me to slow down or telling me when my ad-libs were too inappropriate. Here's Todd in action:
And manning the sound board was Anthony Short.
And this isn't Anthony's first time working with the Un-Road Trip - he also wrote the theme song for the show (which I wish I could share with you, but I don't even have a copy of it yet).

It was strange to relive the whole trip again - talking through every step of the way and trying to reflect my moods and thoughts from nearly two years ago in my narration. Sometimes I found myself closing my eyes so I could picture the locations, people, and vehicles I was describing. And then I'd open them again because I hadn't memorized the script. But it was a blast and I think we came up with some really funny lines. At least Anthony and Todd were laughing.

I always thought I talk a lot in my normal life, but I've never talked as much as I did in my two days in the recording booth. My throat was surprisingly sore after so many hours of reading narration. I'm still a little hoarse even a few days later. Not to be confused with a little horse:

I also spent a day at the Halogen offices meeting with some folks about marketing plans, future collaborations, and I also got to hang out with Cliff who's doing a lot of the editing for the show:
Cliff edits the show
In this photo he's working on a few bits from the last episode.

And a few other things. Spending time in a recording booth turns everyone into a diva:
And while wandering around the studios I found this:
I found the Ark of the Covenant!
It's the Ark of the Covenant! And I always thought it was in some government warehouse. Don't worry - I didn't open it. They probably wouldn't let me do a season two of the Un-Road Trip if I had a weird melted face.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Another Day, Another High-Five Attempt

Seriously? It's happening again?

While looking into the recent attempts to break my Guinness World Record for Most High-Fives in an Hour - there were two this summer - I've found yet another attempt that is set to take place tomorrow:

Commemorate BODIES...The Exhibition's Milestone Anniversary with Guinness World Record Attempt for “Most High Fives in One Hour”

Friday, November 19, 2010- BODIES…The Exhibition will welcome hundreds of tri-state students, downtown residents, NY locals and visitors, to partake in the BODIES 5th Anniversary celebration. We will celebrate five years serving New York City with an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for “Most High Fives in One Hour.” A BODIES representative will have only 60 minutes to slap skin, which is the largest organ in the body, with more than 408 people in order to break the record, which was set in Portland, Oregon in 1996. The public is welcome to join in the record-breaking attempt; in addition to making history, participants will receive a free visit to BODIES…The Exhibition and a commemorative t-shirt.

Friday, November 19, 2010
Check-In: 11:00am – 12:00am
Record Breaking: 12:00pm – 1:00pm

I wonder if these guys know that my record may already have been broken twice this summer. Sheesh. My record went nearly four years without being challenged, and now there have been three attempts in the past six months. Can't a guy get a break?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sometimes I spend my summers making epic musicals

For the past five summers I've been running the film-making program over at Willowbrook, a summer arts camp located in Tualatin, Oregon. Kids make dozens of movies every summer, but we also all collaborate on one bigger project. During the summer of 2009 we decided to make our most ambitious film. It was a fifteen minute original musical called The Epic Willowbrook Musical. It was a hit at camp and there was no question what the next summer's movie would be.

So when summer 2010 rolled around we started writing The Epicer Willowbrook Musical during the first week of camp. Filming ramped up by the end of week 2, and by week 4 production was essentially complete. Everything you see below was written, composed, performed, recorded, choreographed, acted, and sung at Willowbrook by Willowbrook campers and staff. And for having no musical background I think I did a pretty good job directing it. Take a look:

Epicer Willowbrook Musical from Boaz Frankel on Vimeo.

My nephews are still singing the songs, so we must have done something right.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Life Unexpected's Unexpected Demise (maybe)

Okay, fine - I'll admit it. I'm a fan of CW's Life Unexpected. I was going to keep quiet about it, (sort of how I kept quiet about being a Gilmore Girls fan a few years back), but I just learned that the network hasn't ordered additional episodes this year which doesn't bode well for another season. It's not my favorite show on TV, but I do watch it semi-regularly and it definitely deserves at least another season. The episodes are fun and engaging. The characters are quirky. I have a huge crush on Shiri Appleby. It takes place in my hometown (and current residence) of Portland, Oregon. And even though I'm bummed that they do their actual filming in Vancouver, BC, they do fill the show with a bunch of Portland b-roll.

I'm a TV producer myself, (even though it still feels like a lie when I write it), and I'm currently in the midst of post-production for a new TV show. And it won't be perfect. I'm learning new things everyday and it's an exciting experience, but I know it won't be as good as I want it to be. I learn new things every episode and by the time I've learned all these things it's too late to re-shoot or rewrite earlier episodes. But future episodes will be better, and if there's a chance to do a second season then I'll really be able to incorporate all the things I've learned. A show can't be perfect on it's first go-round, but that's what networks are making their decision based on. Or at least they are now. Back in the 80s and early 90s they used to give shows a few seasons to let them find their groove. Many popular shows didn't start out quite so popular and many horrible shows ran for years before they got taken off the air. Hello Larry, (another show based in Portland and starring MASH's McLean Stevenson), might be one of the worst shows I've ever watched but it lasted for two whole seasons. Now, for a quick musical pick-me-up let's watch the intro for season 1 of Hello Larry:

And because I can't help myself, let's watch the intro to season 2 and spot all the changes they made, (including a recast daughter and the addition of a Harlem Globetrotter), to try to unsuccessfully improve the show:

If Hello Larry can get two full seasons, can't we at least get the same for Life Unexpected? What's the rush to get it off the air? So the CW can race to produce a slew of other shows which may find mild success before they take them off the air for yet another show?

And the thing that upsets me the most when I think about Life Unexpected being canceled is how they're breaking up a happy TV family. Not onscreen but off screen. It's clear by watching the twitter feeds how well the cast and crew get along and enjoy working together. I've visited quite a few TV show sets and that's not always the case. I don't think people realize that canceled shows = lost jobs. Sure, CW will be hiring for their replacement show soon but it still sucks losing a job - especially one you really like.

So what now? Do we petition CW? Send VooDoo Doughnuts to their offices? Stage a rally in Portland's Pioneer Square? I'm up for all the above, though I'm not sure if I'm motivated enough to chair any of these efforts. Unfortunately I've been through losing a beloved TV show too many times before. R.I.P. Aliens in America and Andy Barker P.I and Greg the Bunny and of course, Freaks and Geeks. We hardly knew ye, and I hope that Life Unexpected doesn't join you in the TV graveyard quite yet...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How Twitter Saved My Street

It all started with a morning walk down my street. That's when I saw it for the first time - a small hole in the road. But as I crouched down to inspect it I noticed it was more than just a break in the asphalt. There didn't seem to be any dirt underneath for at least a foot or so. Was it the start of a catastrophic sinkhole? A portal to another dimension? A shortcut to Clackamas? Either way, I photographed it and twittered about it:

And here's the accompanying photo:
SW Portland is sinking

Later that morning my pal @Jandroid retweeted my discovery to Mayor Sam Adams' attention and he was pretty quick to respond:

I got back to him with the info and the very next morning when I took my morning walk I discovered this:

Problem identified
Twenty-four hours later a cone and a barricade were already in position over the hole. And there was some official-looking spray painting around the area too. And that's how it stayed for a little over a month. Then late last week I noticed this piece of machinery in the area:

Machinery in place

Later that morning the asphalt had been ripped up and they had leveled out the dirt and gravel underneath:

Hole filled

And just a few hours after that the barricade was gone and there were four cones protecting the freshly paved (and hole-free) patch of street. Beautiful.

Mission accomplished

It was pretty exciting to watch the whole process and it all happened surprisingly quickly. You always hear about all hassle and trouble it takes to get things done in a city, but this got resolved so efficiently. Maybe they call it "the city that works" for a reason. To be completely honest, someone else may have called or contacted the city as well (heck, maybe there was a letter-writing campaign I never heard about), but can we pretend that my twitter started it all? Or maybe Mayor Adams and the folks at the city gov can fill in their side of the story? How do all these things work anyway?

Either way, thanks for fixing my street!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Zombies, Bikes, & Venomous Spiders

So my pals at BodyVox got in touch with me a few months back and asked if I was interested in producing a few spooky videos for them. They wanted something short and fun to help spread the word on their upcoming Halloween-inspired dance show, BloodyVox. I came up with a long list of zombie/ghost/vampire related ideas, but finally whittled it down to two concepts I was really excited about. I pitched them to BodyVox and they liked both of them so we moved forward and started planning.

There are so many one-take online videos out there and I've always wanted to make one myself. I also really liked the idea of bicycling zombies, and after scouting the Springwater Corridor I found a stretch of the path that seemed perfect. After sending out a facebook message, I recruited a solid group of zombies (thanks Daniel, Chris, and Lisa!) and BodyVox brought some of their dancers and volunteers as well.

I shot this from the back of an Xtra-cycle as my pal MacKenzie pedaled.

This only took about 7 or 8 takes. This was the last take:

A few years back I started making an annual Thanksgiving movie with my nephews and due to popular response (mostly from my family) we started making them for other occasions as well. This seemed like a great opportunity to employ my 5 & 8 year old nephews once again and tackle yet another subject. They're always game for putting on costumes and I'm always impressed by their range of emotion and acting chops:

Stay tuned for our 2010 Thanksgiving movie - coming next month. And don't forget to buy your tickets for BloodyVox!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Kazoo Museum Has Opened Grandly!

After weeks of planning, months of research, and too many hours spent on ebay The Kazoo Museum has officially reopened in Beaufort, SC. It's in a whole kazoo complex that's also the home of Kazoobie Kazoos and their factory.

The big event took place on Wednesday, October 6th and it seems like most of Beaufort came out to celebrate.

Rick Hubbard (founder of Kazoobie Kazoos and famed kazoo performer) and Stephen Murray (president of Kazoobie Kazoos) shared some remarks along with a number of local government officials who came out for the big event.

People were really excited to welcome a new attraction to the area, and located about halfway between Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC it really is a convenient location. I gave curated tours to anyone interested and answered quite a few question for interested visitors. I realize I'm incredibly biased, but kazoo history really is quite interesting and we've amassed a pretty nice collection that I think will appeal to most folks.

And the local press came out too. I even got a few mentions. An article in Bluffton Today referred to me as "Kazoo historian and curator of the Kazoo Museum." I like the sound of that. I may get some new business cards printed. There was another great article in The Island Packet. And WTOC from Savannah Georgia did a story for their evening news - though they didn't talk much about the museum opening (but I still get a few seconds onscreen). You can check that out here.

And you can see more photos from the museum and the grand opening here:

If you want some more info on the Kazoo Museum and what all this is about you can check out the museum website here or this old blog post. So are you planning your trip yet?

Monday, September 20, 2010

One episode down, nine to go

I watched the first episode of the Un-Road Trip TV show last week. It was pretty surreal. The graphics weren't quite finished and the audio wasn't final yet but there it was - twenty some minutes of television about the first few days of my trip. And it was pretty cool. I forgot how many awesome people I met on this trip and it was fun to see all of those folks again. And it's been fun to get back in touch with a lot of them to get new depiction releases for Halogen's legal department. Who knew procuring legal documentation could be so fun?

This pilot episode is now making the rounds at Halogen TV and once it gets approved, (hopefully this week), we'll get started on the remaining nine episodes. I've been recording temporary narration tracks for the show on my laptop in Portland, but I'll head out to North Carolina again in November to lay down the final audio. And in a few short months the TV show will be unleashed into the world.

It's incredible to see how much collaboration goes into a TV show. I know I already wrote about that a few posts ago, but I was looking over the credits for the first episode and it's surprising to see how long that list is. I was trying to remember all the folks who helped out with the first week of the trip and adding them to the "special thanks" section. Did you help with the trip? Want to be in the credits? Let me know and maybe I can squeeze you in.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Time to start the hand exercises again...


I feared this day might come and it looks like it has. In fact it looks like the day might have come twice this summer. It appears that my Guinness world record for "most high fives in an hour" has been broken. Twice. It all started a few weeks ago when someone mentioned that they had searched online for my world record and found plans for another high-five record attempt in Chicago. ComedySportz in Chicago was attempting to break my record:
After each and every performance of ComedySportz, our players line up and high five the audience on their way out of the theatre. It is a simple gesture of gratitude and camaraderie that has been a part of our show for over 23 years. In short, the High Five is part of our culture and now we will bring the "high-five culture" to the City of Big Shoulders. Especially with so much bad news permeating the headlines, we think this is exactly the kind of fun, positive event that Chicago needs.

The current record for 'Most high-fives in one hour (individual)' is held by Boaz Frankel (USA) who high-fived 408 people at the Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Oregon on October 23, 2006. C'mon Chicago, we can do better than that!

It was honestly a little strange to be reading about myself in this context- as "the guy they wanted to beat." I emailed the ComedySportz guys to see how it went and apparently they beat my record by less than a hundred high fives though they were still waiting for verification from Guinness.

Then just a few days ago I heard about another attempt around Chicago at Hoffman Estates High School:

Hundreds of Hoffman Estates high school students slapped hands with their mascot, Flash, Friday afternoon in a bid to smack down the Guinness World Record for most high-fives in an hour.

The current record stands at 408 high-fives. Boaz Frankel set the record at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Ore., on October 23, 2006.

One by one students filed into the football field near the school, delivering a high five -- no underhands, down lows or fistbumps allowed -- to a purple lightning bolt standing outside.

The final tally in the school's effort: 1,363 in one hour.
That's three times as many high fives as I got! That's just over 20 high fives a minute. It looks like I've got my work cut out for me.

I'm already starting to think about my next record re-breaking attempt. In order to high five all those people I'll have to do plan it at a sporting event or parade or something like that. Stay tuned for details...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shine your kazoos! We're planning a party!

After weeks of toil, hours spent on eBay, and a soft open a few weeks ago the Kazoo Museum is having an official grand opening! I spent a week in Beaufort, SC in June installing the museum in its new spacious home at the Kazoobie Kazoos Factory and now we're ready to share it with the world! Or something like that. I'm still not exactly sure what this event will include but I guarantee fun, wonder, and definitely kazoos. I'm prepping a short film on the history of the instrument which will premiere at the event and then play year-round in the Kazoo Museum Theatre. The Kazoo-Spectacular will be going down at a yet-to-be-determined time on Wednesday, October 6th. So book those tickets!

I've also been toying with the idea of starting a kazoo podcast. Maybe something quarterly? Anyone have interesting insights on the kazoo and want to be a guest?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Post production is moving along...

For the longest time the Un-Road Trip was just me. I started planning the trip in August of 2008 and for nearly a year it was just me sitting at my computer, doing lots of research, sending a lot of emails, and looking at a lot of Google maps. And then I set off on the trip in April of 2009 and suddenly a lot more people were involved. So many folks helped me out along the way. They lent me their horses and boats, invited me to spend the night, and offered a ton of helpful advice. Those people really made the trip the amazing experience that it was, and I still keep in touch with a lot of them. In the last few months production has really ramped up on the Un-Road Trip TV show and now the whole Halogen TV family has gotten involved. I can't even track all the folks currently working on it. From what I gather they include musicians writing a theme song, animators creating the show open, editors cutting it together, marketing people planning how to promote, and probably some other people I'm not even aware of. And suddenly there are dozens of people involved in the Un-Road Trip that I've never met. It's a pretty strange/funny/wild thing to have this little project suddenly employing people. So it's bizarre to talk to Todd (who's producing the show for Halogen) and have him show me all these clips created by people who I don't know. During an iChat conversation yesterday Todd showed me a rough cut of a segment from the show:
Watching a rough cut of episode 1 via iChat
It was crazy to watch. Sure, I was there but I had no concept of what it would all look like. And I probably still don't have a great idea since when I look at these clips I remember my thoughts during filming and interactions with the off-camera crew. And then came the really wild part. Todd showed me an early version of the animated opening segment of the show. It features a little collage-animated version of me traveling around the world on all sorts of modes of transportation. I had no concept of what the opening would look like and this really blew my mind. I can't believe that a guy I've never met had to sit at a desk somewhere and animate me. So strange. Here's the end of the intro as photographed on my laptop:
Un-Road Trip TV show opening graphic
It looks pretty sweet and I can't wait to start sharing clips with you guys- thought that probably won't be for another few months.

There's other wacky stuff on the horizon too. My documentary about the endangered Salt Creek Tiger Beetle is coming along, I'm helping to plan a big grand opening for the kazoo museum in South Carolina, and I'm working on a little music video too. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 23, 2010

I think it's time for another trip...

I've been learning about so many awesome vehicles in the past week or two and I'm starting to feel a little antsy. Being in Portland is nice and all, but hitting the road (or Un-Road) in one of these contraptions sounds pretty darn tempting...

First off if this glass-bottomed hot air balloon. I never did use a hot air balloon during the trip- mostly because their route is pretty unpredictable and it requires a chase vehicle (which seems sorta un-un-roady). But this seems like one heck of a ride and a little terrifying too:

And there's this life-sized Lego car that some guys built in the Phillipines:

I've written about these guys before, but this Bay Area-based airship (aka blimp) company was giving rides in the Pacific Northwest last week. Too bad it cost $725 for a 90 minute ride...

And lastly (for now, since I'll probably hear about something cool later today) there's this adorable three-wheeled camper.

It's like a tiny house on wheels! It's only a concept but I'd be happy to take it cross-country if they build one for me. Are you guys reading this? Maybe Halogen can make another series about that? It is small, but it's also so cute and efficient that I think I'd be up for it. Get in touch!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back in the paper!

Flipped through The Oregonian this morning to find my face smiling back at me.

I'm in the paper!

Always a little strange, but it was a fun article by Peter Carlin. He's been one of my favorite writers there for years so it was awesome when he started covering the Un-Road Trip a little over a year ago. This article covers my cross-country journey along with a bunch of my other side projects. It's nice to get some press for my beetles and kazoos too. And hopefully reading about my Tiger Beetle documentary in print will inspire me to finish editing it even sooner! Check out the article here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cameras are Rolling on the Un-Road Trip

It was just about a year ago that I completed the Un-Road Trip and two weeks ago I headed out to North Carolina to tape the final intro and in-between segments for the Un-Road Trip TV show (the series is scheduled to premiere on Halogen in early 2011).

Halogen is cutting together all the footage from my trip into ten 30-minute episodes which will be strung together with a sort of conversational narrative. We wanted to try something new that wasn't a straight-to-camera hosting situation and I think it should be pretty cool (or at least interesting). Essentially the show takes place as I'm presenting a slide show of my trip to pals at my house in Oregon. It moves in and out of video as we count up modes of transportation, joke around, and delve deeper into the trip.

I flew in a few days before the rest of the cast so I could work on the script a bit more and help get the set in order. The set was one of the coolest parts of the shoot. They essentially recreated my house (okay - who are we kidding - I haven't lived anywhere for two years) in a studio in North Carolina. It looked pretty authentic and pretty Oregonian too. It definitely looked like some place I would live. After two days of prep work the rest of the cast arrived and the cameras started rolling. In addition to four cast members, there was a crew of about ten folks. We had three cameramen, a script supervisor, a gaffer, an intern, a producer- even a make-up person to touch us up every few minutes. I've been involved in some big productions before, but never in the middle of them like I was this time.

Take a look at some photos from the shoot:

I think it went pretty well, though it's pretty hard to tell when you're in the middle of it all. Were we funny? Was it interesting? Did I look too pale? The whole crew seemed to think it was going great so I'll have to take their word for it for now. I guess I'll find out for myself in a few weeks when I see the finished pilot.

Post-production is really in full swing now. The theme song's been written, the opening's being animated, and the first episode will start getting cut together next week. It's starting to feel pretty real, and I'll document as much as I can right here. Stay tuned...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Recreating Oregon in North Carolina: A Quick TV Show Update

In a little over two weeks I'll be flying out to Charlotte, NC to film all the introductory and in-between bits for the Un-Road Trip TV show. We're recreating my house in Portland, OR in a studio in Charlotte, NC where I'll be hosting the show from. Pretty crazy! They've hired DPs and set dressers and gaffers- this is going to be the biggest production I've ever been involved in. I'm collecting various Oregon mementos and souvenirs to place around the set to make it look a little more authentic. And I'm trying to include some fun details on the set and in my outfits since I always like catching that stuff when I watch TV shows. If anyone has any ideas let me know. I'll be taking a ton of photos and video to put up here and also to create some behind-the-scenes featurette for the eventual DVD. Who knows when I'll have my next TV show so I've got to make the most of this!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New & Slightly Improved Trailer

Remember the original trailer for the Un-Road Trip? The one with Matt Lauer? Well, in anticipation of the upcoming series the trailer has been re-edited with real Un-Road Trip footage! Check it out:

The Un-Road Trip: Coming soon to TV! from Boaz Frankel on Vimeo.

So go ahead and click play and listen to Lauer's familiar timbre as action-packed vehicularly-exhilarating footage plays!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Seattle TV still loves me!

One of my favorite local pieces covering the Un-Road Trip was produced by Evening Magazine, a nightly magazine show on Seattle's King 5. A few weeks back they called me for an update (I told them about the upcoming TV show) so they could write a new intro for a re-airing of the segment. They really covered the whole trip pretty thoroughly and were even there to cover my rib-shattering fall! Take a look:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Kazoo Museum Comes Home!

After over a year of living in boxes in my parents' house the Kazoo Museum has gone out into the world and is once again educating people about the wonders and history of my favorite instrument. A few months back I got an email from Rick Hubbard (aka The King of Kazoos) about the possibility of moving the museum to South Carolina. His company Kazoobie Kazoos had just relocated there themselves and now had a larger space to house a gift shop and visitor center. So a few weeks ago I re-packed and mailed a few boxes from Portland, OR and last week I opened up those boxes in Beaufort, SC. The space is pretty awesome. The building used to be a lighting showroom so it's already an inviting space with more overhead power outlets than you know what to do with.

Rick and Stephen Murray (president of Kazoobie Kazoos) had already purchased six glass cases and arranged them in a cozy nook of the front room. I spent a week with them laying out a chronological exhibit outlining the history of the instrument with antique kazoos, patents, and a lot of new text I wrote up for the occasion.

In addition I also set up a few side exhibits. I really like this mini exhibit about the kazoo as one of the few instruments invented in the USA:

We also did some thrift store shopping to put together this recreation of Thaddeus Von Clegg's workshop where the first kazoo was supposedly built in the 1840s:

The Kazoo Museum is already open for business, though we're in the early stages of planning an epic grand opening celebration in October. So keep you calendar clear and start planning that trip to Beaufort!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Livin' La Vida Un-Road

Biking in Charleston

Even though I finished the Un-Road Trip about a year ago I still haven't been spending much time in cars. Now I'm on a sort of mini-car-free vacation in South Carolina. Before the trip I bought a folding bike that I'd been eying for a while and it's pretty awesome. As soon as the train arrived in Charleston around 5:30AM I unfolded my bike, hopped on it, and rode into town as I watched the sun rise. I hadn't done a ton of research before I got to Charleston so I was pretty much exploring the town with my bike and iPhone.

Downtown Charleston is fun to bike around- small streets, slow traffic, friendly drivers- though it's a little trickier once you get out of the center of town. Apparently South Carolina is ranked 33rd in the list of bike-friendly states and while some other SC cities (Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg) are working on building some infrastructure to promote cycling it doesn't seem like Charleston has started on that task. In my few days of riding I've seen two small stretches of bike lanes and a couple of "Share the Road" signs with a picture of a bicycle. Otherwise I've been doing my best to wear bright colors find wide shoulders and ward off reckless drivers. I've had to change a few of my plans after a man at one of the bike shops strongly recommend I stay off some roads, though I've been able to find plenty to do in the area.

Five years ago they did open the massive Ravenel suspension bridge that does accommodate a roomy bike lane:
Ravenell Bridge

One of the days I ditched the bike altogether and joined a bike tour to check out one of the many plantations in the area. It's pretty wild to see these places in person after reading about them in my elementary, middle, and high school history books. I love Oregon, but it certainly doesn't have the same sort of colonial, revolutionary, and civil war history that the Carolinas do. And there I was on the Magnolia Plantation looking at former rice paddies and rustic cabins that slaves used to live in. Pretty wild.

Cemetary in Charleston

Coincidentally I planned my trip during the Spoleta Festival, an annual arts festival that's been going on for over thirty years and is somehow linked to an Italian arts festival. There were literally hundreds of performances happening throughout the week- from blues to jazz to plays to dance pieces to marionette operas. It was tough to decide what to check out, so I ended up seeing five concerts and a one-man-show. A few of the shows were free, so I didn't even have to shell out that much cash.

Piccolo Spoleto

And after a sweaty nine mile bike ride through the hot and humid streets of Charleston I'm drying off at the Amtrak Station getting ready to board a train to my next desitination- Beaufort, SC- where I'll be reinstalling the Kazoo Museum after a few year hiatus. Stay tuned...

Kazoos in transit

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Un-Road Trip: Coming to a TV near you!

It looks like it's really happening. The Un-Road Trip is going to be a television show. These things never move very quickly, though this process has been pretty darn speedy. It all started in October when I happened to meet a voice over artist who told me about some spots she had just recorded for Halogen, a new cable channel. The network sounded pretty cool- as they say on their website:
Halogen is a television network featuring empowering entertainment that targets and activates a generation that is willing and ready to give back. With shows, documentaries and short-form films, Halogen offers a variety of lifestyle programming that aims to motivate viewers to leave their mark and make the world a better place.

It sounded like a good fit for the Un-Road Trip so I emailed the head of programming and after a few months of emails and phone calls we decided to make a deal. A few weeks ago we really got things moving when I spent a week at their offices right outside Charlotte, NC. I worked side by side with my newest buddy Todd who will be producing the show (with my assistance, of course). We started the week by digitizing all my footage from the Un-Road Trip and importing it into the Halogen mega-computer. Then we went through every single clip- and there were a lot of them- and I talked Todd through every city, vehicle, person, and mishap on the journey.

Editing at Halogen

That part took a long time. About three and a half days to get through the nearly thirty hours of video. And then on Thursday afternoon it was time to get creative. We started filling up the white board in Todd's office with every city and major mode of transportation on the trip. And then we started talking about them in terms of episodes so we could break them up into bite-size 30 minute chunks. Although in television 30 minutes really means 22 minutes. And 22 minutes actually means four separate 5 minute segments. Which isn't a lot of time to squeeze in a 12,000 mile journey. We broke the trip into 10 separate episodes- which is more than I initially expected- and suddenly it started to feel pretty real.

Planning out the episodes

And it got more exciting from there. Todd and I spent Friday discussing the framework of the individuals episodes. How would they be introduced? What would the graphics look like? How would the narration work? What kind of music would we use? I wanted to make some interesting choices and create something that would look/sound/feel unique and incredibly Todd was thinking the same thing. One of my primary goals was to figure out a way to host the show without talking to camera and doing cheesy introductions and segues. We talked over a lot of options and I think we found a solution that seems more casual, genuine, and hopefully funnier. I'm not going to go into our scheme quite yet as we're still figuring out details, but hopefully it will turn out cool. And if not I might have to blame it on Todd.

The week flew by and I was back in DC before I knew it. I've been emailing and talking with the folks at Halogen and everything seems to be moving along amazingly well. It's hard to believe that this TV show is really happening. I'll be meeting up with Todd again soon to film some of the introductory pieces and record some narration and hopefully I'll find out our premiere date soon.

I always hoped the Un-Road Trip would have a second life after the journey and it's beyond exciting to be able to share the story with a wider audience with help from Halogen. I have no doubt that we're going to create something that's engaging, unique, and fun. Hopefully it'll be good too.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I Still Love Alternative Transportation

I can't seem to get over my love of unusual vehicles and transportation, so when I got the opportunity to produce a video for the Smithsonian's website it didn't take me long to decide on a topic...

Check it out: