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New local television show spotlights city’s creative quirks

Minneapolis has a new quirky hyper local television show called MPLS.TV.

The creative crew behind the show has shot footage throughout the city, including the Warehouse District and the Chain of Lakes. This winter, they will film in the skyways and there are plans to shoot in Northeast and Dinkytown for future episodes next year.

So far, they have five episodes posted on Vimeo, the video-sharing website. They have a number of videos showcasing local musicians, too, including one of Jeremy Messersmith playing his song “Light Rail” in a skyway over the Hiawatha light rail line. Their shows also appear on Minneapolis cable access channel 17, MTN.

Chris Cloud, 26, came up with the idea for the television show when he was hunting for domain names for a food blog he wanted to start. When he stumbled across MPLS.TV, he started thinking about creating a show that would showcase what makes the city special. He recruited his friend Kevin Albertson, 25, who he’s known since high school in North St. Paul for the project. The pair have been making videos together for years.

Another one of their friends, Rafe Stanley, 27, agreed to help out when they started brainstorming ideas for the show last spring. Stanley is the head writer, Albertson is the head editor/director and Cloud is the executive producer.

“Minneapolis is the main star of the show,” Cloud said. “I think that [the city] has so much creative energy. A lot of people are idle or stagnate because of the economy. … A lot of people are looking for something to get involved with to stay fresh and involved in what they are good at.”

The show’s fifth and final episode of this season, “Uptown,” aired on Dec. 10. It features scenes from two popular hangouts on Lyndale — the Red Dragon and Sauce Spirits & Soundbar.

The target audience for MPLS.TV is people in their 20s and 30s, but Cloud said they cover ground that can appeal to anyone, regardless of age.

“Our show can be appreciated by many different age groups,” he said.

A promo on the show’s website sums up their mission: “We craft sketches, conduct interviews, and feature local musical acts that highlight what makes Minneapolis unique, sets Minneapolis apart, and what brings Minneapolis together.”

A prime example of something that reveals a bit about what makes this town tick is the Zombie Pub Crawl. For one of its episodes, the MPLS.TV crew hit the streets interviewing people dressed as the undead.

More than 5,000 people participated in the fifth annual Zombie Pub Crawl on Oct. 10, which featured bars in Downtown and the West Bank. Many other cities across the country now have similar zombie gatherings, but Minneapolis reportedly claims the title for the largest one.

“It’s a very unique time where people get to act free and wild,” Stanley said. “It’s a very unique phenomenon. It shows the clash of cultures a bit. It gives the dynamic of how Minneapolis is.”

The episodes, each about 30 minutes in length, have one-word themes. To date, they’ve covered Uptown, transportation, the lakes, Halloween and breakfast. The shows are a mix of on-the-street interviews, comedy skits and fake news segments.

The television crew has visited many familiar places in town, including Al’s Breakfast in Dinkytown, the Walker Art Center and the Bakery on Grand. Some of the scenes are kind of crass, but overall, MPLS.TV has a lighthearted and playful vibe that celebrates the city. Monty Python, the British comedy group, has inspired some of their antics.

 “We started getting a lot of good talent by putting the word out there. We have a group of dedicated writers, web designers, content generators and actors,” Stanley said. “One thing we really want is to solicit participation from more people.”

Albertson said MPLS.TV is aiming to have more than a dozen episodes under its belt by next July.

They’ve been learning the ins-and-outs of television production on the fly. They’ve been operating on a modest budget, too. To date, they’ve only spent about $2,000. They are hoping to find a sponsor soon so they can take their production process to a new level.

They are working hard to build their online audience and would like to showcase new features in 2010, too, including local author readings and a concert series. They’d also like to host a block party next summer. A DVD for college students on the basics of life in Minneapolis is also in the works.

“There’s really nothing else like us in Minneapolis,” Cloud said. “We’re part laughs and part knowledge.”