Blog Post

Chuck Olsen, Minnesota’s Video Ambassador

Not since Purple Rain has Minnesota been so artfully chronicled in motion pictures as it is on Minnesota Stories, which celebrated its second blogiversary this week. A daily videoblog, it features all sorts of great content from, in, and about the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. The impresario behind it, Chuck Olsen, has been blogging since back in 2002 and produced the first documentary about blogs, Blogumentary, which I’ve written about before here at NewTeeVee.

Olsen is a busy man. When he’s not running the show at Minnesota Stories, he’s editing and filing the occasional report for Rocketboom, has a roster of clients as a freelance filmmaker, and is constantly spawning new projects such as The UpTake, a site for citizen media focused on politics, to Gastronomical, a work in progress on the foodie scene around the Twin Cities (embedded above). But he recently made some time to answer our questions. Excerpts follow.

NewTeeVee: What it has been like with the community of media makers in Minneapolis, not traditionally a media hub. Do you think the web has made that possible where other video distribution platforms haven’t?

Chuck Olsen: Minneapolis has always had a strong but small filmmaking community, sort of like Austin without a big breakout director (Coen brothers notwithstanding). We also have a lot of big ad agencies here — the BMW short films came out of Fallon in Minneapolis I believe.

The ad agencies are still chasing the viral video idea, which is a big gamble and easy to lose. I feel like Minnesota Stories has helped bring together that filmmaking and mediamaker community, which is actually much bigger and more diverse than anyone might guess. I don’t think the web has necessarily made Minnesota more of a media hub, but online video has rejuvenated the media community here. Everyone wants to do it or is doing it, so there’s some excitement and people are getting paid.

NewTeeVee: Has online video also brought people out of the woodwork, as it were?

Chuck Olsen: Absolutely! Getting Minnesota Stories submissions, and searching YouTube for Minnesota-related video, has been a constant stream of surprises. I think the online video revolution has a quiet undercurrent that’s at least as important as the loud Hollywood/tech world stuff you hear about the most. What you don’t hear about is the Ethiopian immigrant filming events and customs for his community.

NewTeeVee: Has there been any cross-pollination between the pros and the semi-pros and amateurs?

Chuck Olsen: I’m not seeing a lot of collaboration yet. This is where traditional institutions that support mediamaking (IFP, for example) could play a role in bringing people together physically and get some cross-pollination going. However I think people who were previously video hobbyists might now get a chance for professional work.

A lot of videobloggers started out doing this for fun, or for creative expression, and have crossed over into being semi-pro or pro. It’s still tough to make a living at it, for me at least, but it’s definitely a good time to be making media.

7 Responses to “Chuck Olsen, Minnesota’s Video Ambassador”

  1. I tried to work in a reference to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ tenure in The Time, but I couldn’t bring myself to call you the new Morris Day. Oweeoweeo.

    And yes, hopefully I made it clear Gastronomical is a work in progress, but you and Lori are so damn cute and the concept of a Walleye fish taco intrigues me on many levels. Can’t wait to see more!

  2. I watched Chuck’s hour-long “Blogumentary” and found it creative, entertaining AND educational for anyone that wants to know the history of videoblogging before the gimmick of viral video showed up.

    ‘Might not know it now…
    baby… Chuck’s a…. STAR! :D

  3. Purple Rain? A man after my own heart! Thanks for the interview, Jackson. You found some deep links there.

    (btw, this Gastronomical video is only halfway done. The web site is super not done and should be avoided at all costs.)