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City gov't showcases 'engaging' TV
Collaborating with community for Channel 8
Producer Jody Jenkins is helping reinvent the City of Savannah's Channel 8 with local films, music videos and other artistic content.

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Anyone who's ever watched the city government channel knows it can be an unexpected source of entertainment.

At any given time, there might be lively bickering between council members or a local proprietor heatedly defending his liquor license. The view of the arching dark curves and richly-textured walls of the council chambers alone is worth at least a few minutes of eyeball time.

But let's face it, most of us click past Channel 8 on our way to HGTV or Spike.

A new effort by the city government to expand the content of SGTV and attract more viewers could change that.

For the last few months, SGTV producer Jody Jenkins has been quietly collecting local independent films, music videos and all manner of Savannah-related artistic media for regular broadcast. He then edits this trove of creative content for Engage, a series meant to showcase local talent as well as reflect interesting pockets of culture.

"The idea is to present the modern mosaic of what Savannah really is now," explains Jenkins, surrounded by monitors and dials in the humming production room on the fourth floor of City Hall.

"The history is fine, but we're not just an antebellum carriage ride."

So far that has translated into a colorful amalgam: The first round of Engage launched Memorial Day weekend and featured artist profiles, student animation, hip hop theater from AWOL and a short film by SCAD senior Caleb Suttles about a gay church in South Carolina.

"It's like throwing all the socks in the dryer and letting them tumble around," says Jenkins with a grin.

A native Southerner who lived in Eastern Europe just as the Berlin Wall came down and last worked in a TV newsroom in Paris, Jenkins brings a worldly scope to the editing desk. He also co-produced American Jihadist, the award-winning documentary about a former U.S. soldier now raising a Muslim family in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Though Engage is strictly a no-budget affair, he is working under the supervision of Public Information Office director Bret Bell and SGTV coordinator Wayne Nix with an eye on developing original content, perhaps a cooking show or interview roundtable. Jenkins also hopes to join forces with SCAD film professors for short films exploring Ossabaw Island, Savannah's socioeconomics and other areas of local relevance.

In the meantime, he spends a lot of time partnering with existing media. The professionally-produced TEDx videos may appear in the Engage rotation along with the Creative Coast's monthly podcasts, adding video where there was once only sound.

"We can't offer money, but we can offer access, giving the entrepreneurs, artists and other interesting people a face," he says.

While SGTV will continue to feature the compelling drama of council and MPC meetings as well as the monthly news program Cityspan, Engage will fill the hours in between. On deck for the next mix are a historic documentary by Cosmo Mariner's Michael Jordan, extreme skateboarding footage from filmmaker Richard Williams and spoken word footage from Spitfire Poetry.

"SGTV is bringing awareness to our growing spoken word scene and letting local artists know that their city cares," says Spitfire's director, Marquice Williams. "This raises the admiration of our community, allowing it to continue its reach to the masses."

Future possible collaborations include an edited version of the UFO documentary Zero-Point and the unique footage of local bands shot for the Connect Sessions. Still, there's a limit to what Engage will run.

"We're not looking for home movies," Jenkins admonishes, then stops to consider. "Well, maybe if it's really good...we want anything that's from here or about here.

"It can be about Tibet, as long as there's a Savannah connection."