Filmmakers Give People a Taste of New Jersey
Saturday, October 13, 2012 • 10:05am
RED BANK, NJ - Many people throughout the country view New Jersey in a negative way and shows like the Jersey Shore give the state a bad image. However, Red Bank resident Steve Rogers knew there was much more to the Garden State and wanted to show people. Since 2011, he has had a show on PBS “Driving Jersey.”
Rogers, who grew up with the love to film and direct, always wanted to see the hidden jewels and treasures of his home state.
He worked for the National Academy of Television, “the Emmys” and he commuted two hours each way, which he despised. He enjoyed his time there, but the innate desire to be behind the camera always burned in him, he said. He and three of his co-workers began planning “Driving Jersey” years ago and in 2009 he was laid off and his opportunity to begin filming was knocking at the door.
“That kind of was a good opportunity for me to explore and really kick start “Driving Jersey,” Rogers said.
The goal was to show New Jersey in all of its forms, he said. They did pieces on education, schools, roller derby, farmlands, dancing, Jersey in the summer, Springsteen, the Pine Barrens, the beach, the arts and dancing. Along the way they have met numerous people including tattoo artists, retired bus drivers and even a man named Lord Whimsy
When they started, everything was aired on YouTube, but their popularity grew. They entered the Red Bank Film Festival, did well and created their website www.DrivingJersey.com
“There’s some stuff that just calls to you,” Rogers said.
Rogers said there are many misconceptions about the state. He grew up at the Jersey shore, and knew it was not the place that T.V. makes it out to be.
“I just always thought that the national media got it wrong,” he said.
In 2011, everything changed when their show was nominated for an Emmy award and although they lost, there was a silver lining. A few months later PBS called, asking to put them on television and their first episode aired Christmas Eve of last year.
It's been amazing he said, especially since PBS leaves the content up to them.
“They want truly original Jersey content,” Rogers said. “I’d say the whole journey has been a surprise.”
But, Rogers stressed being an independent filmmaker isn’t the easiest job because the funds aren’t always there. Without being able to find corporate sponsorship or a large individual donation to fuel their mission, they are undertaking a grass-roots appeal, asking individuals to help by donating whatever they can, and if they can't donate, they can help by spreading the word.