Here Come the Videofreex


TYPE
: Documentary
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Post-Production

LOGLINE

An inspiring documentary about a pioneering video collective from the 1970s, built from their own incredible archive of video tapes.

SYNOPSIS

The film starts in 1969. America is undergoing cultural and political revolutions, but you’d never know it by watching TV. Young CBS executive Don West creates a secret project to tell the stories of the counterculture ignored by TV news. He hires a ragtag group of young people who have embraced a brand new medium – video. They name themselves the Videofreex and on CBS’s dime, they travel the country in an RV taping footage the networks could never get, including interviews with Abbie Hoffman and Black Panther Fred Hampton just months before his murder. The pilot they produce proves to be decades ahead of its time. But when CBS executives see it, they fire the group and say they can keep the “worthless” equipment. The Freex decide to stick together, smuggling their videotapes out of CBS offices late one night in a guitar case, and they move into a loft in Soho. For the next two years, when the Anti-War, Black Power, and Women’s Movements take to the streets, the Videofreex are part of the action, capturing it on tape and hosting weekly screenings. During this time, the Freex truly coalesce as a collective; living and working together, they find their own voices as artists and journalists. And despite the dearth of women behind the camera in mainstream media, the women of the Videofreex are shooting and directing their own pieces from their own point of view, working side by side with their male counterparts – an equality that was rare at the time. But by 1971, the Freex are overloaded by NYC and in need of new inspiration. The entire collective decides to leave the city and move to a sprawling farmhouse in the Catskills. At first, locals are wary of the Freex, who they see as a hippie commune. But the Videofreex win over the community when they build a transmitter and illegally create the country’s first pirate TV station. Channel 3 Lanesville is made for and stars the local people. With news coverage, children’s programming, and call-in shows, it’s the only on-air entertainment for this valley community that gets no TV reception, and it’s hugely popular. It stays on the air throughout the 1970s, becoming a model for Public Access TV, and creating a legacy of radical, homegrown media. HERE COME THE VIDEOFREEX ends with reflection at the Videofreex inspirational legacy. Once you know their story, you can’t look at the journalistic and visual creativity that now
flourishes on the web and not see the Freex as the grandparents of today’s boundary-pushing media makers. In Egypt, in China, in the US, and all around the world, citizens are finding creative ways to make their voices heard, just as the Videofreex did more than 40 years ago.
 

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

The heart of this film is the original video shot by the Videofreex from 1969 to 1978. They filmed everything – rallies, musical performances, parties, art pieces and perhaps most importantly – themselves. The footage is black and white, almost ugly, yet fascinating because it’s nothing like the usual stock images we see of this era. And every frame was filmed from the point of view of our characters. With interviews as guides (but never dominating), the Videofreex footage grounds the visual style of the film, and allows us to build our narrative arc, which follows a three-act structure. Act one focuses on the genesis of the group and the creation of the CBS pilot, act two follows the Freex in their tumultuous New York years documenting the protest movements of the day, and act three tells the story of the illegal pirate television station they built for the community of Lanesville, and explores the surprising relevance of the Videofreex legacy in today’s very different media landscape. The style of the film will very much be an ode to the Videofreex, with amusing visual and sound devices inspired by their work. Our soundtrack will consist of lesser-known period music. For example, we’ll use the music of Buzzy Linhart (of the pop hit “Friends”) who often jammed with the Freex at screenings in their Soho loft. We do not want the film to feel historical, but rather to
feel like its unfolding in front of our eyes and we very much want to communicate the relevance of the Videofreex story today. The world, especially the way people interact with media, has changed drastically in the last forty years. And although some of Videofreex work may appear innocent, most people who see their footage remark at just how fresh it still feels. The energy and excitement in their footage is what we hope will make the film so inspiring to older and younger viewers alike.

KEY CREW

There are no key crew provided

 

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