If you’re ever walking around New York City and happen to see a guy on a bike with five cameras attached to a handlebar extension, that might be Rich Collier. I can’t say for sure because it’s New York. Maybe there’s someone else doing that, too.
But probably not. For a few years now, Collier has been spending his days pedaling around the city, stopping at random places to enlist pedestrians for an impromptu quiz show mainly about New York-centric subjects.
Those short video pieces end up as little drop-ins called “Roll Play” on Create, the public television channel, on Time Warner cable, and in a different form, on Fox Business Network. A few are on Vimeo, and even fewer still on YouTube.
“I have a budget of nothing,” Collier says. ‘I am entirely a one-man band. But I’m a glimpse of the future. As the technology gets better, I’m confident other people will be doing this kind of thing.”
Well, “this kind of thing” covers a lot of ground. But it would be nice it that were true.
Collier pedals a 20-year-old Gary Fisher bicycle. On vertical shafts attached to the handlebars, he has two YI Action cams, and a couple DSLRs. A GoPro is attached to his cap. When he talks to passersby, they wear a GoPro too, to get video of Collier. The bike also has lighting.
He edits all of that using a Final Cut Pro 7, among other gear, and this is a how Collier separates from you or me. He’s had a long career as a producer at ABC, NBC, Lifetime, FX, VH1 and MTV. Prior to “Roll Play,” he won local Emmys for producing and hosting “Subway Q&A” for the short-lived Metro channel in New York.
Surprisingly, there isn't a lot of really locally-flavored video online, regardless of what locale you’re talking about. Marketing consultants often suggest real estate companies create hyperlocal sites. A story on a Website called Inman.com makes it sound like the easiest thing in the world. It isn’t.
Most of the video sites seem to be news oriented, or tourism and marketing based, not just content that focuses on locals just being locals, like “Roll Play.” Collier gives clues to New York themed songs and asks people to guess the artist, or he asks them to name famous landmarks. Obviously, some of this works better in big cities like New York than it would if some traveling bicyclist quizzed pedestrians about the most famous songs about Omaha. He’d have to do a lot of pedaling to find a winner.
But not every question is about New York. Once, Collier told contestants he would tell them a name, and they’d have to decide if that was a Pokemon character, a rapper or an infomercial product. (The names: TumTum, Fushigi and Can-U. I know the answers and I’m not telling.)
Winners get a “Roll Play” t-shirt; He applies shirt's "Roll Play" graphic in his apartment. “I’m my own sweatshop.”
Collier wants to syndicate the show. He resists going deep into YouTube, which he thinks is too youth-oriented for him to succeed. “I’m out of my cavity prone years,” he says. He took my suggestion to look into it, but not until he purposely mangled his pronounciation of "PewDiePie."
For now, he’s still supplying those few outlets, and quizzing proud New Yorkers about their buildings, politicians, monuments and artists. Some of the contestants know their stuff. Some don’t. On the streets of New York, he says it’s pride versus knowledge.
The “most passionate” he says, are from Brooklyn. The smartest? He says, “I would like to diplomatically say that each borough is, um, equally informed.”