How do you use entertainment to motivate individuals to take action?
The above question is one that Halogen TV faces daily in their effort “to be a platform for social good where people can connect with their purpose and with each other.” Halogen TV is a cable channel here in the United States that challenges its viewers to, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “be the change you want to see in the world.”
My good friend Brian Conlon is the Acquisitions Production Manager for the young network, and he graciously agreed to answer some of my questions about the way Halogen approaches storytelling for the sake of social good.
If you’ve ever considered using your art to help those in need, then you need to check out what Brian has to say.
Brian, can you give us a quick overview of exactly what you do at Halogen? The title “Acquisitions Production Manager” sounds so official.
Haha! Well, essentially, I manage all acquired content that is on the network. When I say “acquired content,” I mean shows that have already been produced and are ready for air. Currently, Halogen TV is around 95% Acquisitions and 5% Original content. So I am responsible for finding that 95% by building relationships with outside producers and distributors.
A lot of emails and phone calls are part of the job. And every once and awhile a trip to Miami or Cannes for a TV Market.
What influences your decisions when you’re looking for new material?
First and foremost, the show has to be on brand. I always tell distributors/producers to please check out our website and get a feel for what is airing before they pitch to me. We do have criteria that we follow. The show needs to be character driven, fit one of Halogen TV’s pillars (purpose, connection, justice, beauty), and needs to be entertaining.
But at the end of the day, if the internal Halogen TV Meter doesn’t go off, then we don’t consider the show. I can usually tell within the first couple of minutes if the show is Halogen TV or not.
Is all of the material for the channel in documentary or reality show formats, or does the channel have room for fiction? If so, what kinds of stories could fit the network’s vision?
The majority of our programs are factual (reality) series. We do license documentary films; however, we found series work best for the network. Yes, there is room for scripted/fiction, and they would go through the same process as any other show. We find stories of hope or stories of people helping people in some capacity work very well for us.
Scripted is a tough world for us to play in right now. This is why we don’t license a whole lot of fiction. But it’s definitely a world we hope to be a bigger part of in the near future.
Have you had the chance to meet the creators of your shows? Can you tell us some about the creators you’ve met? Did you feel they were truly passionate about their material?
Well, for Acquisitions I primarily deal with the distribution company. The distributors are the middle ground between producer and network. They play a huge role in getting the producers show to the right distribution platform by utilizing their relationships and knowledge of the business.
On occasion I do meet with the producer/creator of a show that is self-distributing their material. This is equivalent to a person trying to sell their own home. It’s very possible but not necessarily the easiest or most profitable route to take. That being said, meetings directly with the creator usually give me a better understanding of the show. They are naturally going to be very passionate, and they know every detail about their show. This can be especially helpful if I’m looking at a series and want to know more about the story in Episode 7 or if I want to know if there is a particular episode about people helping people.
I have a deep respect for producers since I come from an independent producing background. It’s easy to tell if a producer is passionate about their project. Usually I have to cut them short because I have another meeting scheduled, but, at the end of the day, I would highly recommend using a distribution company to distribute your work.
Artists and writers can be very inward-focused people, and using art for social good is an incredible way for artists to help the world around them. For people considering ways to help, how would you recommend they get started?
I think the first thing first is to find your passion. Find out what gets the juices flowing. Is it an organization or a specific cause? Find that passion, and use media as an outlet.
How would your passion best be translated? Maybe it’s a film or tv series. Maybe it’s a painting or script. Once you find the outlet, start networking. Find and talk to people with similar passions. Attend film festivals if it’s a film, and go to networking events in your free time. Keep in mind that there is nothing more powerful than using media as your voice, so take advantage of it.
For me it has always been whom I have connected with in the past. I am a relator, so I like to keep in touch with everyone and help as many people out in this business as I can. Form a solid group of people that share the same passion, and great things will happen!
Switching gears a bit… Can you tell us how working at Halogen has impacted your life? I can remember conversations from before you began working there about some of the frustrations you faced in your day job, but our talks shifted pretty dramatically when you found Halogen.
Wow! Halogen TV has been such a blessing, man. Before this opportunity came about, I was definitely in a transitional phase in my professional career. I left a safe position at the local news station in Charlotte to pursue my passion as an independent filmmaker. I say “safe position” because it became a 9-5 job for me. I wanted more than a 9-5, so I left the news station to produce independent films.
This experience is why I say that I have so much respect for producers that are out there pitching shows. I know how tough it can be. Times were definitely getting tough for me as work started drying up. I seemed to be down and out on my luck until I got a call from Marshall Nord (SVP of Programming for Halogen TV). He said they were a few months away from launching the network and that he needed a freelance producer to come in and help with the launch. I honestly thought this was going to be a temporary gig at first, but after my first day at Halogen TV I knew I wanted to be a bigger part of the network.
Early on I had the chance to meet with our GM Becky Henderson, and her passion and vision for the network was and still is contagious. I challenge anyone to spend two minutes with Becky and tell me they wouldn’t want to work at Halogen TV. As the freelance work continued on I really wanted to be full time. In January 2010, Marshall offered me a full time job and I haven’t looked back since.
I am very excited about the future of Halogen TV. I truly believe that we will become a major player in this business as our programming catches on with audiences all over the world.
Are there any upcoming projects at Halogen that you’re particularly excited about (and that you can tell us about)?
I am looking forward to Roadworthy: The Invisible Children Tour and Long Way Down both premiering this month on Halogen TV.
Roadworthy is an original series produced by my good friend Tyler Garnett that documents individual volunteers (roadies) that are a part of the group Invisible Children. We follow them as they meet for the first time and trek across the U.S. together to increase the awareness of Joseph Kony and raise support to help end the longest running war in Africa.
Long Way Down features Ewan McGregor and his best friend Charley Boorman as they travel from the top of Scotland to the bottom tip of Africa on motorcycles. Both shows are very entertaining, and we hope our viewers will agree.
Thank you to Brian and Halogen TV for this opportunity to chat. To find out where to watch Halogen TV in your area, please visit http://halogentv.com/findhalogen/.
Do you know any works of fiction that you think would be particularly motivational for people to work towards social good? The Constant Gardener is one of my favorite stories that tells a compelling story without talking down to the audience.
Share your suggestions in the comments below.