Route 66 News

Fundraiser launched for proposed Route 66 television series

Steve Brown, host of PBS-TV’s “The Real Desert, with Steve Brown” and longtime Route 66 enthusiast Jim Conkle in recent days launched an IndieGoGo fundraising campaign for a 13-part documentary about Route 66 for the network.

Here’s the video for the campaign:

Brown and Conkle hope to raise $66,000 by June 6. The price tag sounds steep, but Brown explained why:

We need to produce it to broadcast standards in HD or better quality, with closed captioning (that alone will run $8,000) in order to meet national PBS requirements. On our recent shoot of an episode of The Real Desert, with Steve Brown, the insurance alone ran $655 – for the weekend, and that’s just for general liability.

It costs a lot to take a small crew out for two weeks or more on the road, and post production and editing, and then there’s distribution and promotion. But the end result is regional distribution with a strong likelihood of national distribution on PBS, as well as international distribution through a host of other channels, with additional content available online and on mobile platforms.

This funding, while it will not cover all of the expenses, covers the bare bones basics on the road, and allows us to recruit sponsors over the next six months to fully cover production costs. Neither Jim nor I will get paid from this support. We do hope to eventually get paid through production and distribution of the show, as well as a little from the tour accompanying it.

If we do not reach our full goal, the funding still provides us with the resources necessary to get the project underway, recruit sponsors both from the eight states along the route, as well as other corporations, foundations, and organizations.

The campaign launched Wednesday. As of noon Friday, it had raised about $430.

I’m skeptical whether Route 66 needs 13 episodes. That’s a lot of time commitment for television viewers. “Billy Connolly’s Route 66” was fewer than four hours long, for example, and I thought that was about the upper limit for that sort of project.

And in the YouTube age, short and tightly edited videos can reach millions of viewers — even more, if it goes viral — for not a lot of money.

Brown’s original plan was six episodes. If the campaign doesn’t reach its goal, many he can go back to that for a leaner look at the Mother Road.

Then again, I could be proven wrong. It’s happened before.


5 thoughts on “Fundraiser launched for proposed Route 66 television series

  1. Shanghai Brown

    Well, I’m sorry to hear that the person who runs Route 66 News doesn’t think there is 13 hours worth of interesting material along the 2,488 miles of Route 66. Maybe he’s right – maybe the people, places, and the story along the world’s most famed highway just aren’t that interesting. I’m betting, however, that they are, and not only that, but that they’ll offer a great representation of what is still the best in America.
    The whole point of this project is to do what other projects could not – document the living culture, supported with history from the road, in a fun and active manner, so that it would both have historical value, as well as be entertaining. It is designed, obviously, to be aired an hour at a time, each episode matching a day we spend on the road.
    There are plenty of You Tube videos, and our production plan is to produce 13 episodes of The Real Route 66, plus six episodes of my current PBS show, The Real Desert, with Steve Brown on the segment of the trip from Amarillo westward. We’re also planning to pull individual interviews, stops, and points of interest from the shoot and create highlight videos of three to six minutes in length to go on You Tube and to be made available to travel blogs, tourism associations, etc., all promoting Route 66. This will go along with print/digital content, and will also be part of our mobile content.
    The fundraiser is to help get us started with the project. PBS is a great distribution system, and they’ve been a huge help with my current show, but they don’t pay a dime toward production costs. We’re also bringing a tour with us for those who’d like to enjoy an in-depth immersion into traveling the road.
    My show is currently broadcast to 5.7 million households across southern California, but we have the ability to get The Real Route 66 on the national programming feed to all PBS stations, as well as to license it for international distribution. You can compare that to a You Tube video if you want, but we’re planning something that You Tube videos, and one-shot documentaries lack – a large, ongoing campaign to promote Route 66 travel and business. PBS often continues to air series like this for over a decade, so it would be great to see more support and less skepticism. Or perhaps Route 66 politics are more important than the success of those along the road?
    I suppose we’ll see…
    – Steve Brown

    1. Ron Warnick Post author

      My point was it’s unwise to go into a project with a preconceived number of episodes, especially when you’re dealing with nonfiction. You don’t know how much compelling material you’ll actually have. Get the material, THEN see how many episodes you can create.

      I’m still skeptical there can be that much really good material. I’ll be happy to be proven wrong.

  2. Jim Conkle

    Thanks for posting this Ron. Although I am a part of this project and play somewhat an important role, It really is Steve’s idea and project. It is my pleasure and honor to be a part of it.
    As member’s of the Route 66 Community we can never do enough for the road and its people.

  3. Shanghai Brown

    Hey Ron,
    No, it’s actually not unwise to go into a project with a preconceived number of episodes. It’s professional. It’s how you do a series. Seasons typically run 13 or 26 episodes, so we try to match what the stations want and can easily slot into their schedules. After all, the goal is to put this on national PBS distribution, so I’m working to make this work for them. In addition, audiences in places like the UK, enjoy an in-depth look at our culture. Stuff we take for granted can amuse them no end. As long as it amuses them over here and gets them on the road, I’m pleased. From what I’ve seen on the road, it’s not like folks can’t use more business. I know they get tourists already, but you can never stop promoting the route, either domestically, or internationally. That’s why we want to create the show, as well as related content for online and mobile use. We want to craft an interesting show that drives folks to get out and see it for themselves. To me, that’s what it’s all about.
    The idea is to go deeper than a one, two, or even three-hour documentary can go. But keep in mind, it’s also meant to be watched one episode at a time, not like one of those Breaking Bad marathons that turn viewers into zombies. You don’t have to watch them all at once!
    We’re looking to include history, the culture along the road, the personalities, places, offbeat attractions, lore, music, art, natural beauty, and the sheer fun of a great road trip on the world’s most loved highway. We want lots of involvement, so come on out and join us!

  4. Gary Cardwell

    Great project, I’m curious though, with the miles you have to travel and all the small Historic Route 66 towns your going to stop and film in, I see it hard to do in two weeks. To truly capture the essence that makes up the Route 66 culture and all the personalities. I agree with Shanghia that there is a tremendous amount of interesting people here along the Route, and a tremendous amount of interest from travelers, from all over the world, to get a chance to visualize and have an understanding of the culture that made Route 66 so famous. I know this to be true because we have had a family business ( Antique Store and Trading Post) for 48 years here in Tucumcari, NM on Route 66, and to this day we visit with tourists from all over the world and by spending time with each couple or family gives us a sense of what the tourists want while traveling. I do understand the time restraints due the cost of a large project like this. Thanks Gary C.

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