By Vernon A. Williams
Watch out Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, You Tube TV and myriad platforms that dominate the media landscape. Brothers Greg and Mel Gray of Gary have launched DopeLivenTV. While the general subscription service is similar, the viewer choices will be totally different. Their platform will feature all original programs.
DopeLivenTV is shooting for a similarly broad and global audience as the established services. But the entertainment content won’t be restricted to Hollywood and New York program formulas. Instead, the brothers will unveil a bounty of undiscovered creative genius in Northwest Indiana and throughout the country producing their own work!
The Gray Brothers discussed their intriguing venture in a recent Crusader conversation:
How did you two first become interested in media production?
Mel: I’ve been intimately involved in technology (Wireless Telecommunications and Video Surveillance) for most of my career and specifically became seriously interested in Media roughly over 20 years ago. I can remember back in the mid-90s when Internet TV first began to surface and subsequently, around 2005, when High Definition TV (HDTV) first surfaced. These were game changing events for the media world and laid the path for today’s Over the Top (OTT), on demand, Internet driven television. It has been fascinating to watch how the media world continues to evolve.
Greg: Years ago, I wanted to do something that would show my creativity. I started a dance show in Gary, IN and after a couple of years, started a music video show called 9.2.5 Music Videos. The video show took off and was very successful at the time, reaching millions of homes across the country. The premise of the show was to talk to the recording artists while showcasing their music videos. Instead of sitting in a sterile studio, we went to the artists’ surroundings, backstage, homes and had real conversations, not just an interview.
What became of that television program?
Greg: It worked for a number of years. It had a good run, but I wanted to do something behind the camera instead of in front of the camera. I wanted to do more, but I wanted to be behind the camera instead of in front of it. I fell in love with videography. Then my son, who was in high school at the time, started getting into music. He formed a group. I bought recording equipment and set up a studio for him. To promote the music, I bought cameras to record his videos. My video skills and interest expanded. I also started thinking about creating stories. My first production was a mini-series featuring my son and his group entitled, ‘Consequences and Repercussions.’ That got me hooked on video production.
What was the “aha” moment that sparked plans for Dopeliven TV?
Greg: My brother, Melvin, even when I had a successful run on television, has always watched, and supported my efforts. He came to me one day and actually brought up the idea of a television platform. As a businessman, he has always thought outside the box. I thought it was a great idea. He also wanted me to see ways to encourage the young people to learn about what we do. We decided to teach young people through a class designed for the 21st Century Charter School in Gary. For two weeks we taught students how to use their smart phone to make short films; from concept to storyboard to shooting scenes to post edit. Storyboard. The learning experience was priceless.
Describe the kind of shows for DopelivenTV and how you will accrue material?
Greg: Part of our mission statement is to create new people to watch in the industry, so we are encouraging independent filmmakers, actors, and the like to use our platform to showcase their talents. We support those who don’t have the resources to get their work seen. Everyone isn’t going to the film festivals, or on Netflix, Hulu. We are providing a platform that wants to help those people to get exposure and we do that by going to the various communities to obtain the material and content, and in addition to make a small revenue with a program we called the affiliate program.
Explain how your commitment to produce content rather than rely on existing movies and programs will add to the challenge. How will you meet that challenge?
Greg: We want to create real programs for real people. At the beginning I reached out to a number of filmmakers all across the country and received a lot of “hood” movies. The problem with that was that we wanted to keep the integrity of DopelivenTV and not be known as the home for “hood” movies. So we decided to upgrade some equipment, and learn how to do movies and short films ourselves. We are reaching out to writers, playwrights, and people who have a creative base to see if we can support their ideas and help them make their movies, and at the same time, create our own original programs. In doing this, we are forming a production crew, consisting of people, and will teach them the business, while cultivating their creativity to help the business to grow.
Talk about your international travel and how it enhances this fledgling business?
Mel: My employment with Motorola involved many global growth initiatives, requiring travel to Europe, South America and Far Eastern countries like Taiwan. While in China, I helped develop and lead numerous business activities – concluding my stay in that region with over two years in Shanghai. I moved to Calcutta, India for two more years then on to South Africa for several years. Through my travels I’ve realized three important facts: 1) There is a tremendous amount of unique, undiscovered and unseen talent across the globe, 2) People around the world have a desire to learn more about cultures that are different than their own, and 3) today’s Internet and media technologies have made it possible for people to satisfy their desire for information and entertainment. People can now access and view what they want, when they want it regardless of where they are located, and subscription TV services have become increasingly popular.
Do some take the connotation of “dope” in your company name the wrong way?
Both: When Dopeliven was started, the word Dope was sometimes perceived in the negative sense by those who did not understand our application of the meaning. The word “Dope” has several connotations depending on one’s age and background. In the early 80s ‘Dope’ made the leap from noun to adjective and, more importantly, from negative connotation to positive connotation, coming to mean ‘excellent’, ‘good’ or ‘cool’ in the vocabulary of the emerging hip-hop culture. We’ve adopted the positive perception of the word to connect with our target market (18-50 years of age) who were around during the hip-hop emergence and would be aware of the evolution of this word. Many probably used the word in the positive sense in their past and the younger generation certainly uses it positively today. For us, it exemplifies the way we live, Dopeliven means good living. No stress, no worries, no problems. In the beginning the brand was new, no understanding. But as we got the name out, people saw how we did business, and just were happy with what we were trying to achieve and how we interacted with the community. Subsequently, the brand began to create legs of its own. So now we don’t necessarily have to explain the name, it speaks for itself. We’ll need to make sure that we communicate the positive view of the word as we continue marketing and establishing the brand.
For more information, visit www.dopeliventv.com.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected]