As someone who mainly does travel content, the covid lockdown hit me like a sack of bricks. Not only was I locked out of the country I had called home for the past 8 years, I was also essentially locked inside my new home, a tiny airBnb in a tiny town in South Carolina. The world went from being my oyster, to being a 100 square foot prison. I was distraught..until I realized with google maps street view and two hilarious co-workers to keep me company, I could still travel the world (digitally) and have a great time doing so. This was the birth of "Virtual Vacations".
However, before we could record a second episode of this hit new series, the world started to open back up, and my buddy Nick suggested that we start visiting some of these fascinatingly shitty places we had only seen on google, IN THE FLESH. Thus, we plotted a road trip through the most boring part of our country (Columbus Ohio to St Louis Missouri) and voila, REDISCOVERING AMERICA was born.
I'll be completely honest, when we embarked on this trip, our plan was to film enough to release 4 to 5, 5-7 minute videos, focusing on each of preposterously boring tourist attractions we visited. But upon returning to NYC, realized we didn't have enough footage for any of the places we filmed at to stand on their own. However, it dawned on us if we combined all of the content we had created over the course of our 4 day adventure, we could release one solid 26 minute video that had more of a TV show vibe, so that's what we did. Our audience seemed to enjoy this new style of long form content so when Labatt Blue Light expressed interest in sponsoring a video series of mine, it was a no brainer to continue building off the Rediscovering America foundation we had already built.
As someone who had previously made every piece of content either solo or with the help of a lone cameraman, working on a sponsored series was quite the change of pace. Now we'd be able to bring the talented Corey Rutledge as our main cameraman/director, a 2nd cameraman, AND A PA (production assistant) on all the shoots. THIS WAS THE BIG LEAGUES. Traveling with a full on film crew meant that we were now filming twice or even triple the amount of content, and instead of dropping 26 minute episodes, we began dropping 30 minute, 47 minute, 54 minute, and 34 minute episodes.
Some would call these runtimes a little excessive, but in all honestly, the only episode we could've shortened a bit without sacrificing quality was the SoCal one (the fake actors scene did run a little long). Overall, being able to experiment making long form videos with high production value that were focused on my homeland instead of a foreign country, was an overwhelmingly positive experience and I'm proud of the final products we have released.
It wasn't easy, having to plan the logistics of the next episode while still editing the previous one would often get stressful AF, but being able to work with a team of people just as passionate about it as I was made the work enjoyable most of the time.
Corey, thank you for taking the production reigns while on the road so I could focus on interacting with the beautiful weirdos we'd come across instead of worrying about the technical stuff. Whether it was for an intro, transition, outro, or music video, you always had a vision for something that would really crank the video up a notch in the final edit. If the production ever hit a minor (or major) speed bump along the way, the whole team knew they could count on you to smooth things out ASAP. Keep crushing Bob Seger at Karaoke nights around the country.
Nick and KB, thank you for supplying this series with the majority of its laugh out loud moments. One of the reasons I never minded editing these videos is that you guys would have me cracking up (alone in my apartment) while going through the footage. There was a small vocal majority who would complain in the comments about these videos being "too scripted" but I can assure you there was never a script involved. It just may seem like that at times because KB and Nick are insanely good at improvising on the spot. Even when it was just Nick, KB, and I interacting with each other, the majority of the time we'd just start rolling the cameras without any sort of plan on where the scene was headed. For example, when we filmed ourselves brainstorming and recording a song with Neek, we showed up to the studio without an inkling of an idea for what the song would be. The first time Nick and I heard KB's "Dragonfly Sinner" idea in the episode, was the first time we had heard the idea in real life too.
which is probably why I was so adamant that we do a song about Salmon Sunsets instead. Really the only times we would pre-plan a scene was if we knew we needed a transition to get us from point A to point B. I know GAZE is over, but it would be an honor to do more Rediscovering America videos with you guys in the future.
To all the 2nd Cameramen and PAs, you guys were the unsung heroes of the season. Thanks for getting all those releases signed and helping us avoid a lawsuit. Shout out Colin for filming the first pilot episode with us when he had no idea what he was getting himself into (we didn't either at that point tbf). Shout out Porter and Josh for helping us start the season off with a bang, shout out Fasoli and Rob Wallace for helping us close out the series in style, and shout out Owen and Bailey (the PA not the twitter guy) for filling in on short notice when need be.
White Sox Dave, I'm sorry our attempt at bringing you out of your comfort zone in the finale was a massive failure but I think it will make for some exceptionally entertaining content.
Riggs, WE STILL LOVE AND MISS YOU. An invite to the classic would be appreciated.
Labatt, thank you for being the coolest sponsor any of us have ever worked for. Countless times while editing each episode we said to each other, "zero chance Labatt lets us keep this part in" and 100% of the time, they let us keep it in. Thanks for respecting our vision and showing us that you can still enjoy an ice cold Canadian beer as a Patriotic American.
Last but not least, shout out all the people we met on these trips, stoolies and non-stoolies alike. Some were weirder than others but all were incredibly friendly and helpful. Being able to connect with unique characters across the nation was by far the most rewarding aspect of creating this series and we hope to meet more of you in season 2!
Season Finale drops tomorrow night at 7PM See ya then.