One in a Crowd: When We Were Live

A history of Austin's cable access legacy seeks crowdfunding

One in a Crowd: When We Were Live

Public access television: The YouTube before there was YouTube. A media platform for pioneers, innovators, and crazy people, and nowhere was that more true than Austin. Now, new documentary When We Were Live wants to resurrect the best and most bizarre transmissions, from Barton Springs activism to mooning the KKK.

North Carolina-born director John Spottswood Moore grew up obsessed with public access TV. Now, he's working on a documentary about one of the oddest, most revolutionary expressions of the media maelstrom: Austin.

Under many names and guises (now channelAustin), the local cable access station has played a key formative role in the careers of figures like directors Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez, comedian Bill Hicks, seminal review site, and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. But it's also been a de facto film school for generations of camera-hungry filmmakers of all stripes, and a source of endless "what did I just watch?" moments for sleep-deprived audiences.

Moore is planning to interview 20 of the underground icons of Austin's Eighties access heydays, and transfer the huge collection of shows they have donated from VHS and U-matic tape to digital media. That's the expensive bit: old home-recorded videotape is notoriously low-quality and fragile, so the fundraising target of $16,000 will mostly go towards the equipment to archive and restore this easily lost footage.

So if you want to help get Face Your Pets!, Moon the Klan, and Carmen Banana back in front of audiences, visit the film's Kickstarter page, and find out more at the movie's Facebook page. Perks for donors will include DVDs of the finished film, access to rare footage, and even Adobe Creative Suite software lessons from the filmmakers.

For a brief glimpse into the murky history of Austin Access, read What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been (June 5, 1998). Now here's Moore to make his elevator pitch:

Got a film, game, website, prototype, or crazy project? Are you in Texas? Are you looking for crowdfunding? Want us to talk about it in this column? Email us at with all the details.

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