‘Driving Jersey’ Heads Home to the STACPBS Submits Episode for Emmy Consideration
“Driving Jersey,” a human interest television series depicting the lives of various colorful and conspicuous characters created by Manahawkin natives Steve Rogers and Ryan Bott, has enjoyed the run of its first season and is on to a second on NJTV. It will make a homecoming with a screening of two of the episodes at the Stafford Township Arts Center on Oct. 18.
“We air in all of New Jersey and in Philly and New York City,” said Rogers, who now resides in Red Bank. “We’re talking about 14 million potential viewers.”
The “Driving Jersey: Homecoming” event will take place at the STAC on McKinley Avenue beginning at 7:30 p.m. One of the episodes deals with Beach Haven West resident Gino Valenti, a retired schoolbus driver and big band singer; it includes a segment about the STAC’s performing arts program. The other episode tackles public school educators in New Jersey. This will be followed by a collection of musical performances, some from instructors who teach at STAC. The night will also be filmed, with portions of it to be included in a future episode in the series.
An affiliate station of the Public Broadcasting Service entered another episode from the first season of “Driving Jersey” for consideration of a regional Emmy nomination in the human-interest category. That episode depicts the work of a school in Red Bank called Rockit, which teaches teenagers how to be rock stars.
“They were trying to figure out what we are. Sometimes you show performances, other times harder-hitting stuff,” said Rogers. “We’re about human stories.
“We’re very thankful for PBS entering us,” he said. “We weren’t sure about their selection at first and then decided it’s a fine episode. I think Jack Black really lit a fuse on this type of thing,” Rogers said, referencing the actor’s 2003 film “School of Rock.” The classes end by giving kids a chance to “play on the big stage” of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theater.
Before receiving the television deal with local PBS affiliates last year, Rogers and Bott entered an episode of “Driving Jersey” into the National Emmy Awards, and that was nominated in the “New Approaches to Media” category, due to its availability at the time online at drivingjersey.com and throughout New Jersey on college and university television stations.
Rogers himself began as a temp at the Emmy Awards and went on to be a national correspondent, eventually becoming manager of content for the Daytime Emmy Awards and Technology and Engineering Emmy Awards, an employment that lasted 10 years.
Despite its acclaim, “Driving Jersey” has been driven much by the work Rogers, Bott and company often do for little to no money, and has now become dependent on public donations if its second season is to continue.
Bott and Rogers currently are hoping a funding drive using the kickstarter.com web site will bring in enough money to do just that. The page to contribute can be found at kickstarter.com/projects/2017657164/driving-jersey. It currently has just 20 days to reach its $10,000 goal.
“What we’re asking for is a tiny sliver of what a typical public television documentary series uses for its next season. The amount of money is probably what most use for a single episode,” Rogers said.
“The thing about Kickstarter is you set a goal and if you don’t reach that, all the money goes back to the donators. People think we need $1,000 from each person. Essentially we’ll take a dollar or 10 bucks and then ask that you share it on your Facebook page. It comes down to being a project of the people,” said Rogers, adding that the multitude of hours the crew spent filming, interviewing, and literally driving through New Jersey this past summer was done as a labor of love.
“It’s very rewarding work and it’s very hard work, and we’ve been doing it for years now. When we first started doing it, it was just going out with cameras and wasn’t very serious. It was just fun – and it’s still fun. The hard part is making ends meet. For years now we’ve been doing this for nothing. We just thought ‘Well, this is what you do.’ Now it’s gotten to the point where it’s absolutely essential we have some money to do this. The concept we create is nearly extinct on television. If people see it and like it and want to complain about stuff like ‘Jersey Shore,’ they don’t need to send $1,000, or even $100. It can be $5 and spreading the word.”
— Michael Molinaro