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Monday, September 8, 2008

Online Video Leaders: Jeff Macpherson

Photo by Tim Street
This photo is licensed under a Creative Commons license. If you use this photo within the terms of the license or make special arrangements to use the photo, please list the photo credit as "Tim Street / 1timstreet.com" and link the credit to 1timstreet.com.

Online Video Leaders is a new blog series I'm doing about leaders in the online video industry who I believe are breaking new ground and leading the way as we build this new industry.

For my first featured Online Video Leader I thought I would feature the person who inspired me to leave a life of producing television. A life where I was working for studios and networks who owned all the content I created. A life where I made good money but didn't get residual income. A life where I just wanted to escape and have a refreshing cocktail that would clear my mind and let me creatively run free. That person was Tiki Bar TV's Dr. Tiki AKA Jeff Macpherson. I'm sure I'm not the only one inspired by Jeff but I think he has had a much bigger effect on me than anyone else.

I had been working in entertainment marketing for several years creating TV promos, interstitials, movie trailers and commercials for Hollywood studios and TV networks but I didn't own anything I created. I would write, produce and direct industrial sales tapes for new TV shows, build websites to market movies, create online stories to launch new shows and it was creative and fun but at the end of the day I wasn't really driving the boat. I didn't get any credits for my work and worst of all I didn't own what I was creating.

That all changed when one day I got a call from Spike TV. I had been working for Spike creating promos and interstitial programing for them when at about 5PM on a Friday afternoon Spike called and asked if I could shoot something the next day on Saturday. I thought it would be something like covering a red carpet movie premier with a camera crew but when I ask asked Spike what they wanted me to shoot they said, "We were wondering if you could shoot some hot girls in lingerie reading cheat codes to videos games for the Spike TV Video Game Awards?" Without hesitation I said, "Absolutely!" My next question was, "Where are we shooting?" they replied, "We were hoping you could find a place." Then I asked, "Who are the girls?" They said, "Well, we were hoping you could find some girls." I said, "OK, do you at least have the cheat codes?"

The next day I was building a set in my office and casting beautiful women who were stripping down to their lingerie and once they were cast they would read cheat codes to some videos games. Not only was this funny, it was fun and I asked myself how could I do something like this, make money at it and own it.

I had been creating videos and interactive stories on the Internet for a couple of years at that point but I hadn't been able to make money at it directly. I would build creepy stories that used video, text and photos to tell a story but I couldn't figure out how to make money with it other than getting work from studios to create content that they owned. So with the Hot Girls in Lingerie Read Cheat Codes in my mind I came up with some silly idea about women dressed as French Maids teaching guys things but I didn't have a way to make money at it so I started searching for videos on the Internet that might be funny, sexy and some how making money and that's when I stumbled across Dr Tiki.

It was the Summer of 2005 and by Googling I some how found this thing called DTV that played a video called Tiki Bar TV. Tiki Bar TV was awesome. It had three main characters: a bartender named Johnny Johnny who wore a fez hat, a doctor, Dr. Tiki who made things better by writing cocktail prescriptions and a sexy drunk brunette named LaLa who was every guy's late night bar fantasy. These three people would hang out with other occasional bar patrons at a Tiki Bar, making cocktails, giving out the drink recipes and being silly. Tiki Bar TV had sharp witty writing that was fresh and like nothing I'd ever seen on TV. It had everything I was looking for and I was in love.

Now remember the Apple iPod was very popular at this time in 2005 but at that time it only played music and audio podcasts but this guy, this Dr. Tiki had figured out a way to use video with RSS and get listed in the iTunes music store even though his podcast was video. When I saw that I knew I was dealing with a genius. From what I could figure this guy was shooting a show in what looked like his apartment (which it was) he had his drinking buddy and his girlfriend (I'm still not sure about that) acting in his show and was getting global distribution through Apple iTunes. I was blown away.

This guy was already doing what I wanted to do, I could see how I could connect the dots on getting sponsors to sponsor the show and I was sure a video iPod was on it's way. I had to partner with Dr. Tiki. I fired off an email to Dr.Tiki and introduced myself. He replied and we began an email and phone conversation that led to me jumping on a plane from Hollywood and heading to Vancouver where the show was shot.

Photo by Tim Street
This photo is licensed under a Creative Commons license. If you use this photo within the terms of the license or make special arrangements to use the photo, please list the photo credit as "Tim Street / 1timstreet.com" and link the credit to 1timstreet.com.

Once in Vancouver Jeff, Kevin Gamble (Johnny Johnny) and Lara Doucette (LaLa) welcomed me with open arms and using my 2 new Sony HDV cameras we shot an episode of Tiki Bar TV in 16:9 aspect ratio because I was convinced that the Video iPod was going to debut with a wide screen video viewer. After we were done shooting we went out bar hopping in Vancouver and had a night of fun and frivolity that left me with a headache in the morning and a time I would never forget. I got to visit the set of Tiki Bar TV!

Well, I was wrong about the 16:9 video iPod but when the video iPod did debut in Steve Job's Key Note address Tiki Bar TV was featured by Steve Jobs as an example of the new kinds of video content that would be available on the video iPod. Tiki Bar TV immediately shot to number one as the most subscribed to podcast on iTunes and the gang was very excited. Jeff and his team had created a video series that caught the eye of a major corporate executive and captured the attention of the online world.

Dr. Tiki and I were never able to come up with an agreement that would allow us to work together but Jeff did get a private investor that had a whole lot more to offer than I did and we went our separate ways.

There are many times that I wish I could have come to a mutual agreement to work on Tiki Bar TV but I'm thankful I wasn't able to because had I become part of the Tiki Bar TV gang I would have never created French Maid TV.

Jeff Macpherson has been an inspiration to me on so many levels. Jeff is a pioneer of the online video industry and a true Online Video Leader.

I can't wait to see what Jeff's next project is.

If you are interested in sponsoring Tiki Bar TV or one of Jeff's future shows shoot me an email and I will gladly hook you up.


Nicholas Quixote said...

wow, it sounds exciting: figuring out things in the beginning. It must have been very rewarding to see the success that followed!

David August said...

Good read. Thank you!

Steve Garfield said...

nice series
good first story
I had forgotten you worked with jeff

1 Tim Street said...

I never really worked with Jeff, I tried to work with him and learned a lot watching him.

BS said...

"...a sexy drunk brunette named LaLa who was every guy's late night bar fantasy..."

I think you're being overly specific there.

groonk said...

nice article. i remember French Maid TV. there was a lapse in output so i thought it was over.

Guess i'll re-subscribe now.