Arcosanti as a Reality TV Show


Given the unique life of the Aconauts some have suggested making Arcosanti life into a Reality TV show. I have discussed this with various people over the years (such as David Tollas and Doctress Neutopia) but this is the first time that I can recall that I am talking about it here. I wanted to discuss that a bit here as it has come up again and I would like to encourage people to look at and consider what this might actually entail.

The benefits are obvious, this could be one way to generate interest in Arcosanti and revitalize the project.

First it would would take a level of expertise and a dynamic, creative group of people to make each episode interesting enough to generate significant viewership. These people would most likely require some kind of salary. So money would have to be found to fund their creative effort. In terms of viewership I would say we are talking at the very least tens of thousands of viewers for each episode but possibly we could get by with a much lower number.

Major sponsorship would be needed for a large scale reality TV operation like this and/or an executive producer with about 100-250 to risk on this project. However this does not have to be a Hollywood based operation. There are many examples of serial shows about a myriad of things on YouTube. It could be done on the cheap (for 10-50k or even less) but you are still going to need a camera crew and staff to manage this and promote it.

That gets to another point: scripted or unscripted. Most reality TV shows are scripted which has let to some critical reports about the lack of integrity of many of these shows because they are completely staged events. Duck Dynasty apparently was unscripted to a large degree, but I am sure there is some planning about what to discuss on each episode and how to make it interesting for the viewers. Realty show outdoor survivalist star Cody Lundin laments about how many reality shows are faked in that they appear real life but they are actually staged. Lundin is a northern Arizona personality who has for years worked with Arco Alum Tony Brown’s Ecosa Institute as a outdoor living skills specialist.

When I participated in the seminar in 2000 he was brought in to provide a 3 day outdoor living survival course for the students which took place on the Aqua Fria at Arcosanti. Lundin later went on to co-star on a Discovery Channel called Dual Survival about two survivalists from very different backgrounds. The show was a rating success for several years and made Lundin a well known figure and celebrity.

Of course the reason these shows become scripted is because they feel like they need to spice it up to make it interesting and get the ratings. So to avoid that, is quite challenging because whatever you have to document has to be spontaneously interesting and that means a very special kind of people who are comfortable with the camera documenting their every move but more than that able to keep people entertained and their eyes fixed on with what they are doing.

My thought would be that in order to make a reality TV show work at Arcosanti, we would need to have a group of people at Arcosanti (or cultivate a group like this) who were media savvy and inspirational larger than life figures who know how to command attention from others just living their everyday lives.

This gets to a larger issue and whole other topic. What is emerging is a merging of celebrity with reality TV with many reality TV personalities become stars and celebrities in their own right. Often they capitalize this by create a whole range of businesses to take advantage of their celebrity. So their position as known quantities in the media is used to promote their causes and business ventures.

What I would suggest is that a Reality TV show for Arcosanti should include a complete makeover for Arcosanti highlighting its unique attributes and cultural aspects while also talking about the struggle of putting such a vision forward on a practical level and current efforts to revitalize the project. This would include various projects and efforts that would be documented in each episode.

Therefore it would be more than just a TV show but a marketing and promotional effort to facilitate a larger discussion about the issues of the day and not just life at Arcosanti. We could invite personalities and leading minds of contemporary society to Arcosanti and arrange debates involving people who are both supportive and critical of the project.

Some examples of people who could be invited to Arcosanti to be included in our reality show

Supportive:

  • Movie-maker and celebrity Francis Ford Coppola
  • CA Governor Jerry Brown
  • Former Governor of AZ and US Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbit
  • Dual Survival star Cody Lundin.

Critical:

  • Architect Moshe Safte who wrote The City After the Automobile.
  • Architect Peter Graves
  • Sustainability advocate and WorlcChanging Blogger Alex Steffen

So in addition to any financial risk involved, there is also a risk of a more open exploration of what life at Arcosanti is like and to consider different views and candid perspectives in relation to the project, some of which may not be laudatory.

We could also use the show to promote industries and ventures in development at the project such as for example value added products produced at least partially from produce harvested from our greenhouses or the gardens such as Salsa or pickled garlic. We could also use the show to showcase new markets for goods produced in our foundry ceramics studio.

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