Though Huell Howser is an easy (and frequent) target for ridicule, I've got nothing but admiration for his production sensibility:
"We have two agendas," he told me. "One is to specifically show someone China Camp State Park or to talk to the guys who paint the Golden Gate Bridge. But the broader purpose is to open up the door for people to have their own adventures. Let's explore our neighborhood, let's look in our own backyard, let's go down to Koreatown and buy some kimchee. We won't do a story on what it's like to spend the night in a $10,000 hotel suite. We do things to put the spotlight on the fact that every single person we meet potentially has a great story to share. Can I repair a car? No. Can I cook a meal? No. Can I paint a picture? No. Can I talk with people? Can I help them tell their stories? Absolutely."
It is all very lo-fi and DIY. "I don't have an agent," said Howser, 58. "I don't have a manager, I don't have a press agent, I don't have a wardrobe guy, a makeup guy, a parking space, a dressing room. It's basically me and a cameraman and an editor and a couple of guys in the office. I can go out between now and noon and do a full 30-minute show just talking to people on the street and have it on the air tonight. It's an economic model that's a production model, but it's a model that I believe in philosophically as far as what the viewer should see."
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[It's] long takes, few edits, as much unaffected experience as possible. "It's not unusual for us to have 6-, 8-, 9-, 12-minute sections, just edited head to tail," he said. "I did an interview with David Hockney where he showed me around his studio that didn't have any edits. And we always shoot wide because I want the viewer to see what you would see with your eyes if you were there, so when I'm sitting here talking with you" — meaning me, across the table — "I see you but I also see the bush over your shoulder. I see the Brinks trucks behind you. That's life."
Cheap, simple, quick and full of life; not terribly far from Robert Fripp's endorsement of music made by "small, highly mobile, independent and intelligent units." The question is less "What other ventures can this model be used for?" than "What other ventures can't this model be used for?" For those interested, by the by, Howser's show California's Gold also goes out as a video podcast.